“I had no idea that this would happen but deep down, I knew I was supposed to do something that was good.’’
Those are the words of fitness queen, entrepreneur and recent inductee of the AFR Young Rich List, Emily Skye.
A quick glance at Skye’s social media activity and her Instagram account is populated with bikini-clad mirror selfies, workout videos and inspirational quotes about how to get up, get moving and get fit. In an era where where our social media feeds are saturated with inferences we’re doing life wrong – we’re not active enough, positive enough, fun enough – it would be easy to lump Skye in with a group of influencers who photoshop, preach and post their photos to social media with little thought about impact.
But for Skye, who today debuted on this year’s Financial Review Young Rich list with estimated wealth of $32 million, her success comes from her transparency: For dulling the shine that is social media’s propensity to focus on the glossy.
Bullied in her teens and 20s, Gold Coast-based Skye has been candid about her struggle with body image and depression.
At the end of last year, a single composite photo she posted – a before and after shot – found itself in headlines across the world for flipping the weight loss, fitspo narrative on its head.
“This is before I started strength training,” Skye wrote of her ‘before’ image on Instagram which dated back to 2008.
“I was only doing cardio and I was obsessed with being as skinny as I could be. I was starving myself and was really unhealthy and unhappy. I suffered depression and had terrible body image.”
In the ‘after’ photo, Skye said she weighed 13kg more.
“I lift heavy weights and do a little bit of HIIT. I don’t do ANY long cardio sessions and I eat more than I’ve ever eaten in my life. I no longer obsess over the way I look. I eat and train to feel my best, for overall ‘health’ and longevity. I love having muscle and I feel more confident than ever.”
The year before, the 32-year-old made headlines for revealing she has traditionally struggled to see herself, and find confidence, without makeup.
“This may seem silly, but it took until my mid 20’s to be able to let people see me completely makeup free! Years ago I was so incredibly insecure with myself that it would cause me anxiety just the thought of being seen without my “mask” on! It was a horrible way to live – I felt like I was in jail. I’m finally not afraid to show my bare face and my flaws…in fact I embrace them now,” she wrote on Instagram at the time.
They were – are – simple admissions reserved for first world insecurities, but ones that nonetheless struck a chord among young women who aren’t used to seeing flaws on their Instagram feeds.
In the years after launching her business in 2010, Skye has more than 200,000 subscribers on her self-titled F.I.T. Programs, 10 million followers on Facebook and over two million followers on Instagram. Earlier this year, she was named the third biggest and more influential Fitness Influencer by Forbes. Not a bad effort for a model-turned-fitness-trainer who has a deep-seated desire to ensure no woman, at whatever age, feels the sames kinds of insecurities she once did.
Her subscribers pay anywhere between from $63 to $154 for her four-week exercise plan, where Skye promises to “trim, tone and shape your entire body”.
“Over eight years ago, I’d had enough of being depressed and insecure. I wanted to create a life that I enjoyed and I wanted to experience what true happiness was. I used fitness and healthy eating as a component of achieving that and fell in love with how the lifestyle made me feel. I felt fit, strong, energetic, confident and happy. I felt like I was capable of doing anything I wanted in life,” Skye tells Mamamia of the seeds that started her business.
“I decided from that point on that I wanted to reach as many people as I could and help them find what I found – not just being healthy and fit but being happy and confident and being able to love themselves. That’s why I created health and fitness programs and a community of like-minded women so we could all work together towards becoming the best we could. It’s amazing what can be achieving when you believe you can, you commit yourself and you’re surrounded by positive, supportive likeminded people.”
In a realm where our digital space has sprinklings of copy-cat fitness entrepreneurs at every corner, and where wellness has become a commodity to make millions, she believes this at the crux of her success.
“I’ve always made it a priority to be honest and real with people,” she tells Mamamia.
“I think people really appreciate seeing imperfect photos and honest experiences. They’re able to relate and realise that nobody lives a perfect life and is happy all of the time. Nobody has the perfect body or is motivated 24/7. I always think, ‘What would I want to see’ and ‘When I was at my lowest point what may have helped me?'”
Though perfect bodies, shiny skin and gleaming pearly whites were in demand on social media once upon a time, Skye thinks the tide has turned.
“I think women are slowly getting over seeing people on social media posting only highlight reels, as it seems so unattainable to them. Women want to see something they feel is achievable for them and that’s why one of the biggest messages I push is to only ever aim to be the best you can and to not ever compare yourself to anyone else. We’re all different and are on our own journeys and that’s what we should focus on.”
In seven years, Emily Skye has not only transformed her life, but also the lives of the women she works for. In seven years, Skye has landed herself on the AFR Young Rich list after pursuing a lifestyle she needed, so badly, to heal her mind.
“It is pretty incredible. If I showed myself the list even a few years ago I wouldn’t have believed it.
“I’m all about acknowledging achievements so I can be grateful for them and I think this is a great achievement and something I am proud of. I was able to turn something that changed my life that I’m passionate about into a career and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do what I do.”