Since starting ballet and various sports at the age of seven, Samira Howard hasn't slowed down. AAU basketball consumed most of the Prince George's County, Maryland native's free time as an adolescent as she traveled across the country to compete, but it wasn't until her college years that she began to realize the power of physical activity as a natural remedy for her severe depression. Currently, The 29-year-old balances her career as a fitness professional, model, and communications specialist. She also launched a youtube channel where she shares her beauty, health, and lifestyle tips!
How does she stay motivated to live up to her dreams? The fitness star let us in on a little secret that she lives life by the motto "I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it!" PREACH SISTER! Want to learn more about Samira? Keep reading and prepare to get motivated!
1. Tell us how your winning photo came about?
I absolutely love this photo! It was taken last year in the pouring rain after finishing the spring Girls on the Run 5k Race in Washington, D.C. Kassedi, the young lady in the photo, was one of the girls on my team. I bonded with her while volunteering as a team Adelaide for a KIPP school in Southeast D.C. Kass was such a superstar! We ran a race together previous to this one, and not only did she finish the race both times, but she was such a caring teammate during both races! She always made sure that she never left any of the girls on her team behind and that showed me that she possessed strong leadership skills. I saw a lot of myself in her! Since then I have kept in touch with her and her family just to check on her academic and extracurricular progress. This photo is such a beautiful memory for me.
2. Please briefly share your fitness journey with us.
My fitness journey began at a very young age. I grew up with parents who always stressed the importance of physical activity and extracurricular participation, so when I was about 7 years old, I split my time between ballet classes and every single sport you could think of (from soccer to softball), but I ended up choosing basketball as a focus. I started playing in competitive AAU leagues when I was 11, traveling across the country with my teammates, and sometimes even playing on 2 teams at a time. I played basketball all the way into my junior year of high school. Basketball was my entire life, and it played a critical role in shaping my relationship with physical fitness.
Entering my collegiate career I actually started off as a Journalism student looking to pursue Sports Journalism, but during my sophomore year I switched my major to a completely different field and study: Kinesiology (Exercise Science) under the University of Maryland's School of Public Health. Also during my time in college, I was diagnosed with severe depression. In an effort to naturally medicate myself, I started running and going to the gym more than I ever had in my life. Fitness helped me gain control of my emotions, it helped me stay focused, and it helped me maintain a more healthy and positive daily outlook on life. I always say that fitness saved me because it really did heal my mental state. I graduated in 2012 with my B.S. in Kinesiology, and promised myself that I would always use my education to enhance wellness practices of my surrounding communities.
In an effort to gain scholarship money for school I also started competing in beauty pageants in college! I competed in both the Miss America and Miss Universe Organizations for 7 years. As a beauty queen, my community service platforms were always aimed towards community health. In 2016 I started "Fitness is Fundamental", a community outreach mission dedicated to teaching women and young girls about the importance of fitness, healthy nutrition, and positive body image practices. Over the past three years I have partnered with groups such as Girls on the Run, Girls Inc., Envision Lead Grow, Precious Pearls, and several other groups/organizations that support and uplift girls. My workshops are always safe spaces for girls to be transparent, and ask questions. Using my education in Kinesiology to educate others has been such an honor! I started my fitness Instagram @SamiraImanFit as an extension of Fitness is Fundamental! On my fitness page I share fitness videos, photos, quotes, and tips in hopes of reaching a larger audience! Last year I became an AFAA certified Fitness Instructor, and now I teach classes from time to time outside of my full time, nine to five work schedule.
3. We believe fitness + friendship = FUN! What is your favorite group fitness workout?
My favorite group fitness workout is a classic, step aerobics! Step aerobics helps you have fun AND burn fat! I love how upbeat the classes are, and I never really feel like I'm working out while doing it. Many fitness professionals say that step aerobics is dying, but I think it will only die if we let it.
4. While working out is important, so is eating the right foods. What is your go-to pre-workout meal? How do you refuel after a workout?
There are so many great pre-workout snack options, but my favorite would have to be Honeycrisp apples with peanut butter. The best combo ever! After a workout I like to make a fruit smoothie! I usually make my smoothies with mixed berries, a banana, honey, chia seeds and almond milk.
5. What is one item that is always in your gym bag?
I ALWAYS carry my Under Armor dry fit headbands, because fitness is important, but so are these edges honey! I know that so many women of color avoid the gym because of their hair, but I have never let my hair get in the way of building a healthy and fit body!
6. What are your top 3 fitness Instagram accounts to follow?
- @hbfit by Hannah Bronfman. I met her a few years ago at Beautycon and she is so so sweet.
- @kettlebellchicks by Anabell Browne is one of my fitness mentors and she specializes in Kettlebells! I love taking her swing series classes and I think that women can learn so much from just one class with her. Anabell is located in D.C.
- @weareivypark by Beyoncé. Beyoncé is my greatest inspiration, and I love athleisure! I am a tomboy at heart, but the girly girl in me loves to be cute at the gym. You can really make fitness fashion statements with the pieces from her line.
7. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I have a YouTube Channel! I just started it last month and so far I've done a few makeup tutorials, a curly hair video and a fitness video. On my channel, I'll be chatting with viewers about topics relating to fitness, beauty, health, and lifestyle.
8. What are your top three goals you hope to accomplish in life?
- I'd love to influence the way that American school systems approach physical education. I'm not exactly sure how I am going to do this yet, but what I do know is that everything in America begins with legislation and policy! Growing up near the nation's capital has made me quite politically conscious, and I hope that my community work will lead to great changes in how we educate our children about physical activity.
- I would like to become a signed model one day and gain agency representation. Modeling is one of my passions, and my favorite kinds of modeling are swimsuit and fitness modeling. Fitness taught me to love my body, and this has helped me tremendously in front of cameras during shoots.
- I want to publish a Fitness and Beauty book, with all of my tips and tricks to help other women stay fit and fabulous!
9. What does PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT mean to you?
PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT represents GIRL POWER! I grew up in the Girl Power generation. I'm the oldest of three girls and you can still catch me listening to the Spice Girls from time to time because girls run the world. PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT is an empowering space for feminine physicality. I am so grateful for any and every group that celebrates women, especially women of color, and ESPECIALLY in fitness! We are living in a society where the government has literally declared war on the female body. PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT is another way for women to fight back and show the world that we DO have power over our bodies. We won't just hand over our physical freedoms because our health means so much to us!
10. Since PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT, what is your favorite deodorant?
I've been using Dove deodorant for years, it has always worked so well for me and it's gentle on my skin.
11. How can readers stay in touch with you on social media?
Do you want to enter our next photo contest, get featured on our homepage for a month, win prizes, and score an exclusive interview? Follow us on Instagram at @prettygirlssweat. On the 1st day of each month, we post our latest photo contest. Enter early by tagging us with your favorite active photo of yourself!