Fitness Influencer Tae-Leon Opens Up About How Her Childhood Cancer Battle Inspired Her To Make Healthy Living a Priority

Category: 

Watching other women break a sweat can be an instant spark of inspiration to hit the gym! If you’re like us, you keep an Instagram feed full of workout videos from the most motivating, health-conscious sweat sisters on social media.

One influencer you may have seen pop up while scrolling through the explore page or sifting through workout related hashtags is Tae-León. The 21-year-old fitness enthusiast and self-proclaimed “Booty Builda” has begun to grow her own brand as a wellness professional and has cultivated a following of 25K followers and counting. Recently, Tae-León went viral on Instagram because of an emotional post that shared her story about how her fight with a rare blood cancer at just nine years old inspired her to reclaim her body and live her healthiest life today.

The Los Angeles native and Stanford University student spoke candidly with PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT about her battle with cancer as a child, regaining her health and becoming captivated with fitness, and more. Read on to check out what Tae-León had to say.

1. You bravely opened up on Instagram about battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia as a child. How did going through that experience shift your perspective on life?

Having cancer was tough, but I am truly so grateful for the experience. While I don’t let my experience define me, it has shaped the way I view and live my life every single day. I now approach almost every life situation without the fear of failure because I believe there is no obstacle that will even come close to the struggles I overcame when fighting cancer. There is no experience that could be more painful, draining, or exhausting. Whether it’s a hard workout I’m having trouble completing or a tough biology exam I’m struggling to study for, I know that I have made it through way worse.

My cancer experience has also caused me to seek control over my health and my body, which has manifested through fitness. While I was sick, I had absolutely no say when it came to how my body looked or felt; I lost all of my hair, poisonous chemotherapy was pumped into my veins, and often times I could barely sit up in bed. I felt helpless and trapped. Now being cancer-free, I finally have the opportunity to reclaim my health and my body. I get to control how I look, how I feel, and how I perform. This mindset applies to many other aspects of my life as well. Being in control of my own destiny and future is so important to me. I view each day as an opportunity to try something new and achieve something great. I don’t ever give up because I know that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to. It’s definitely a cliche, but I really do view waking up every day healthy as a blessing and I try to do more of the things that make me happy since life is so short. I prioritize laughter, relationships, and passion and I don’t sweat the small stuff.


 

2. You also mentioned that your childhood cancer battle inspired you to make fitness a priority in your life. When you first started working out consistently what challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?

When I first starting my fitness journey, my biggest challenge was finding authentic information about fitness, health, and nutrition. The internet is filled with so many fake products and services, making it exceptionally difficult to sift through it all to find what’s true. Honestly, I fell victim to a lot of the fitness internet scams, mainly through Instagram. I invested in the fit detox teas and the waist trainers and the enhancement creams. Not necessarily because I felt that they would work, but because I was always skeptical of the information out there and the only way for me to verify anything was to try it myself. After seeing that almost everything out there was not effective in helping me achieve my fitness goals, I started doing REAL research. I ignored anything advertising a “quick fix” and focused on the science behind exercise, muscle growth, and fat loss. I read up on the biological processes, the different training styles, and different nutritional variations. I then did what I always do and tried it all for myself. Having this reservoir of information to help guide me was super helpful while I was on my journey. It allowed me to know how to monitor any changes in my body and to understand how to alter my regimen based on those changes. It was a lot of trial and error, but ultimately I’ve found what works for me (and almost anyone!): consistency, a clean diet, and hard work in the gym.

3. Currently, you are a human biology student at Stanford. How do you balance being a student, regularly working out, running a fitness-based business, and having the time to have a social life?

This is a super common question I get via Instagram DMs! Stanford is definitely a challenging school. Couple that with being a biology major, pre-med, and working part-time in a lab and it can seem almost impossible to fit anything else into my schedule! School always comes first for me. Being a physician is my DREAM, so I refuse to let anything get in the way of it. That being said, fitness is also a huge part of who I am and it plays a large role in my happiness and overall wellbeing. For me, missing a workout is almost as bad as not sleeping! I literally view working out in the same way as I view sleeping or eating: it’s an essential part of my day that I can’t miss. The main way I stay consistent with the gym while in school is by going first thing in the morning. I’m not a morning person at all, but heading to the gym as soon as I wake up makes it impossible for me to make any excuses later in the day. It eliminates the potential for me to say “oh I have too much homework” or “I can’t go I need to study” because I’ve already knocked it out! I absolutely love starting my day with a workout because it makes me feel super energized and ready to conquer the rest of the day!

It’s so crazy to me that I’m being asked how I balance a fitness-based business haha! I started this page 8 months ago for the sole purpose of helping provide authentic information to people on their fitness journeys. Never in a million years did I think I would have such a large following! My mom actually always asks me how I have time to do all of the Instagram stuff with school going on. But in reality, posting on Instagram doesn’t take too much extra time out of my day. The main difference in my routine is that I bring a camera with me to film my workouts (which also doesn’t take much extra time now that I know how to properly capture all of the angles) and I take a few pictures prior to working out. The entire process is actually super fun for me! It’s like my own mini gym routine and I always look forward to it.

Overall though, I think it’s important for me to note that I do spend a majority of my time studying. If I’m not studying, then I’m in the gym working out or I’m sleeping. You will rarely find me at a party on the weekend; instead, I’m in my room or my dorm’s study space doing a problem set or studying for my next exam. This lifestyle does require a few sacrifices, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! Having a study night-in with friends is much more appealing to me than going out until 2 am, and lucky for me, it also makes it much easier to keep up with my school work and my fitness grind!

4. In your Instagram bio, you say you're a "Booty Builda." Can you share some of your tips/go-to workout moves for building a better booty?

My main tips for building a better booty are to EAT and to lift HEAVY! Most people, women, in particular, are afraid of both of these things, but in reality, they are so so helpful for building up the glutes. In order for any of your muscles to grow, they need to be slightly broken down from exercise and have enough fuel/energy to rebuild themselves after that breakdown. The breakdown usually comes in the form of lifting heavy weights and the fuel/energy comes from the foods you eat. So my best advice is not to shy away from (clean) eating or heavy weights!

My favorite booty exercises are by far hip thrusts, glute bridges, and frog pumps! These exercises target the glutes almost exclusively because they don’t allow any other larger muscle groups to take over the movement (like what often happens in squats). They’re just all booty burn which is why I include some variation of these in every single one of my booty workouts!

5. If we were to take a look through your gym bag, what items would we find in there?

My gym bag literally has everything. The main things you would find are:
    • My weightlifting belt - I use this for when I do heavy squats or deadlifts to make sure I keep proper form and avoid injury
    • Weightlifting gloves - It is such a struggle for me to grip any barbell or dumbbell with my bare hands, so I always keep these on hand in case I need some extra grip support
    • Workout log book + pencil - SUPER important!! I write down every single one of my workouts, the number of sets/reps, and the weight I used in a notebook. I actually carry it around the gym with me as well. This allows me to look back and remember how much weight I used for a particular exercise to make sure I’m increasing my weights over time
    • Supplements - I keep all of my supplements in my gym bag! I currently take 3: all from Fate Supplements. I use a pre-workout to increase blood flow to my muscles and to help with energy during my workout. I drink BCAAs during my workout because I workout in a fasted state, so it prevents my muscles from being broken down and used as energy. And then I drink a post-workout supplement to help provide fuel to my muscles to rebuild and repair.
    • Camera - Of course you’ll find my camera in my bag! I use it to film all of my workouts!
    • Hair Ties, Bobby Pins, Headbands, Lip Balm, Face Wash - Any and all hair accessories in case my hair decides to go crazy in the gym lol and any quick toiletry items in case I need to run to class or lab right after!
    • 2 Blender Bottles - to blend up all the supplements!

    6. A workout isn't complete without the right music. What songs are currently on your sweat session playlist?

    SO TRUE! Okay, I’m kind of lame and only listen to 4-5 songs at any given time. I’ve tried to make longer playlists but I always just end up skipping to my favorite songs anyway so I just keep a short playlist up to date with my favorite bops.

    Currently, I’m bopping to:

    • Top Off - DJ Khaled, Jay Z, Beyoncé
    • APESH*T - The Carters
    • Booty Remix - Blac Youngsta, Chris Brown
    • Look Alive - BlocBoy JB, Drake
    • Walk It Talk It - Migos, Drake
    • Sorry Not Sorry - Demi Lovato 

    But, there are definitely some workout CLASSICS that have to be on every workout playlist!

    • Fight Night - Migos
    • Let’s Go - Trick Daddy
    • Plain Jane - A$AP Ferg
    • Beast (Southpaw Remix) - Rob Bailey

    Listen to her go-to workout playlist on Spotify HERE.

    7. You've made it a point to eat clean throughout your fitness journey. Where do you grocery shop and what foods/snacks do you always stock up on during grocery trips?

    Great question! I eat a majority of my meals from my school’s dining hall since I don’t have my own kitchen. However, I definitely stock up on healthy snacks for late study sessions or long class days. I almost exclusively shop at Trader Joe’s or Safeway, since those are the two closest (and cheapest!) stores near my campus. My favorite snacks are: oven roasted turkey breast, air popped popcorn, plain Cheerios, almond butter, multigrain crackers, fruit, almond milk, oatmeal, and protein bars!

    8. Can you share some of your favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals?

    I rarely eat breakfast, usually because by the time I wake up and finish my workout it’s already lunchtime! For lunch, I really enjoy grilled steak teriyaki bowls or a good turkey and avocado sandwich! For dinner, I absolutely LOVE tacos! I post all of my meals on my Instagram story, and tacos pop up on there quite a bit! I also love pasta with meat sauce, steak or chicken with potatoes, and almost any soup!

    9. Is there a quote that inspires you to push through tough workouts and hard times in life?

    I have four quotes that inspire me most:
    Successful people do what they have to do, whether they feel like it or not.
    Your body won’t go where your mind doesn’t push it.
    You can. You will. End of story.
    Remember your why.

    Those quotes have gotten me through a lot of workouts and have helped me push through some crazy long study sessions. Remembering why I do what I do and what I’m working toward instantly motivates me to keep going and never give up.

    10. In the coming months, what do you hope to accomplish? How do you plan to expand your fitness brand?

    In these next few months, I’m honestly hoping to continue helping as many people as I can on their fitness journeys. I get a ton of DMs daily asking about exercises for building a booty or how to eat to build muscle, so I just released my first workout program to help as many people as possible build up their glutes. In the future, I plan to create more programs geared toward the full body or fat loss to continue to provide consolidated and authentic information to people striving to reach their fitness goals. I never thought I would be in a position to be able to reach out and help people directly, but I am so thankful for the opportunity and I’m really hoping I can continue to inspire others. For me, it’s not about the followers or the perfectly cultivated brand. It’s about being myself, sharing my passion for fitness with those around me, and connecting with and helping others along their own personal journeys.

    11. What does PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT mean to you?

    PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT is an incredible movement! I absolutely love the positive and inspiring message behind the brand. To me, PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT signifies a removal of the stigma surrounding women and exercise, especially in sports and weightlifting. These activities are commonly associated with men, so I really appreciate and support the message that girls and women can and do work out, train, and sweat! The self-love, strength, and health that gets cultivated through fitness should be celebrated for women, and that is exactly what PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT does! I feel so blessed to be a part of this movement and I can’t wait to inspire some other young girls and women to get their sweat on!

    SWEATLEBRITY REPORTER | Olivia Hancock is is currently a sophomore at Georgia State University. The 18-year-old has loved writing ever since she can remember and her passion for it has allowed her to hold the title of PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT Teen Reporter for five consecutive terms. In addition, Olivia has had the opportunity to work with Her Campus, Aeropostale and Nordstrom as an ambassador. Her writing has been published on xoNecole, 21 Ninety, Her Campus, One MusicFest, and The Life Currency. In the future, Olivia plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and pursue a professional career as a writer at a lifestyle publication.