This trendy fitness group got slammed for using Maasai tribesmen as 'props' in posts from a retreat in Kenya

Business Insider US

  • A trendy fitness group came under fire Friday for Instagram posts from a fitness retreat that social media users said appeared to use local tribespeople as "props."
  • Russell's Skinny B---- Collective, which bills itself as the "most exclusive fitness class on the planet," held the retreat in Kenya for approximately 10 women who were captured in the videos.
  • In an apology posted online Saturday afternoon, the fitness group said it realized the images from the trip had reinforced "colonial-era depictions of people of colour."

A trendy fitness group came under fire on social media Friday for a series of video posts from its retreat in Kenya that depicted local tribesmen as what one account described as "props."

Russell's Skinny B---- Collective, which serves celebrity clients including Suki Waterhouse and Ellie Goulding, and bills itself as the "most exclusive fitness class on the planet," was called out over posts from a fitness retreat in Kenya that featured Maasai tribesmen standing nearby or in between women who were working out.

The story first caught flame when @diet_prada, an Instagram account dedicated to fashion industry commentary, re-posted the fitness account's videos of the retreat, which it said featured "a gang of seemingly cloned, pony-tailed white women."

"Ummm...happy International Women's Day?" the account wrote.

"Among the sisterhood-fostering activities like hot air balloon rides, chef-prepared organic meals (that chia berry jam!), and dancing 'round a tree of life, they also managed to use the local Maasai people not only as a backdrop, but as literal props in their fitness routines," the account wrote.

A comment on the post from Instagram user @tracy_njeri hit back at the videos, which she said "ridiculed" the tribesmen as they were "relegated to play in the background."

"As an African woman I am tired of seeing my people relegated to play in the background," the user wrote. "As a Kenyan woman it enrages me to see my people being used as PROPS, being ridiculed in his posts, being used to be their personal "cheerleaders" asking them to perform their traditional jump/dance to add to the "atmosphere" of their workouts."

An apology posted to the fitness collective's Instagram account Saturday afternoon said the retreat was meant to promote "cross-cultural exchange," but the group realized it had reinforced "colonial-era depictions of people of colour."

"It has been rightly pointed out that far from promoting a positive meeting of opposing cultures, we may have instead unintentionally played into a racial history of 'othering,'" the apology added.

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