SoulCycle paid for a Mercedes-Benz for one instructor to drive around the Hamptons when she taught there in the summer.
Business Insider spoke with more than 30 SoulCycle insiders — including current and former riders, studio staff, instructors, and corporate employees — many of whom accused the trendy fitness company of turning a blind eye to egregious behavior because the instructors were too valuable to let go of.
Several sources said that SoulCycle fostered an environment where its instructors were treated like A-listers and it was everyone’s duty to keep them happy and protected.
“The instructors are our product,” one SoulCycle insider said. “Without them it doesn’t exist. And they are very demanding, and it’s a talent business, and as with any Hollywood business, the talent knows that they are valuable.”
Riders can spend up to $90 a class for priority access to their favorite instructors’ Hamptons classes through the Super Soul package. Assuming 30% of bikes in an 80-bike class were Super Soul, the total bike sales for the class would come out to nearly $5,000.
Top instructors could take home as much as $1,500 a class, a former SoulCycle executive told Business Insider. In a typical week in the summer of 2019, it was not uncommon for top instructors to teach 15 to 20 classes, according to SoulCycle’s online class calendar.
In 2018 SoulCycle and its parent company, Equinox, went so far as to launch their own talent-management agency to represent their prized instructors, with the Hollywood agency WME, which represents Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron, among others, in an advisory role.
The instructors’ demands were Tinseltown-worthy.
Stacey Griffith, one of the earliest instructors whose classes were beloved by Kelly Ripa and Brooke Shields, demanded private office space in the basement at the East 83rd Street studio in Manhattan, three people said. SoulCycle granted Griffith her request despite the studio lacking sufficient storage space, two people said.
“She had a shoe collection in there,” the former high-ranking employee said of Griffith’s office. “She would meditate in there. She would bring her friends in there. I’m not really sure why she needed an office. She wasn’t doing any admin work for the company.”
Read more: SoulCycle poster child Soeuraya Wilson quit on Instagram, saying she’s tired of being ‘used’ by a company that supports activism only ‘when it is convenient for their bottom line’ — we spoke with 2 Black instructors who agree
While new instructors would get a $25 gift card for their birthday, top-tier instructors would be given thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts, like expensive jewelry or a leather Rag & Bone backpack. As recently as 2019, SoulCycle was paying for instructor Laurie Cole’s membership to Soho House, the members-only club where an annual membership costs upwards of $2,400, according to one former high-ranking employee.
SoulCycle paid for a Mercedes-Benz for Cole to drive around the Hamptons when she taught there in the summer, two people said. In 2019 the company paid for part of the wedding of two instructors, former CEO Melanie Whelan told Business Insider last month.
The longtime New York instructor said SoulCycle was unique in the way it treated its instructors.
“We’re taken care of in a way that a lot of other fitness companies actually can’t afford to or haven’t found a way to,” this instructor said. “But there’s an ego that comes with it.
“When you’re treated a certain way by staff and you’re treated a certain way by riders and you’re on this pedestal, literally and figuratively, that changes your expectations.”