SmartyPants recently sat down with Jera Foster-Fell, aka Jera Bean. She is a New York City native, SoulCycle instructor, and proud human of a dog named Thatcher, aka Spicy Grandpa. In her spare time, she blogs about all things wellness and fitness and has built a social media following the size of some small countries. Somehow, Jera has perfected the art of looking effortlessly chic yet totally relatable on her Instagram. We talked about everything from the evolution of her name to what’s in her Netflix queue.
SmartyPants (SP): You recently changed your Instagram handle from @workoutbean to @jera.bean. What inspired the change?
Jera Bean (JB): When I first made my Instagram account, it was just a tool to hold myself accountable while I started Kayla’s Bikini Body Guide. (Kayla Itsines is a fitness educator, personal trainer, and author of The Bikini Body 28-Day Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide.) I’d been following her for about a year, and then I decided to start that program.
I didn’t really think about the name when I created the account. Bean is something my mom has always called me and it’s a nickname of mine. So ‘workoutbean’ just came to me in two seconds. For a while, my account was mostly fitness. I posted about my work out every day and what foods I ate, but that was about it.
Now I’m 2.5 years in and I feel that my account has evolved beyond just fitness. I felt that ‘workoutbean’ was so specific. I think that my account is more about my life now. I toyed around with other names, but I knew I wanted to keep ‘bean’. ‘Jera.bean’ just felt right because it was just me.
SP: Definitely. The names parallel the evolution of your account and your life. So, we all know you as a NASM-Certified Trainer, SoulCycle Instructor, Adidas Ambassador…overall badass…but who was Jera before all this?
JB: I feel that I’ve lived so many lives and been so many different versions of Jera. I grew up in New York City and I went to school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I graduated with a Fine Arts major and a concentration in Graphic Design. Once I graduated, I moved to Boston with my boyfriend at the time and worked as a graphic designer for about 5 years.
It’s funny, I look back at that time in my life, and it wasn’t like terrible, but it was sort of a dark time…being really unhappy with my job, suffering from social anxiety, and being so naïve with what I should accept professionally that I just let my job completely consume me. It took such a toll on me that I was losing hair and should have been hospitalized for exhaustion. I was really unhappy.
Then my relationship of four years ended. I had been following Kayla for about a year by then, and I just decided, ‘Hey, why not do this? Why not start working out seriously and tracking my changes?’ So I started following the BBG and made my Instagram account that same day.
SP: What happened once you joined Instagram?
JB: What followed was this 180-degree shift the following year. I was working out every day and staying true to the program, holding myself accountable, and I just started to feel really good about myself for finally sticking to something. It felt good to just be moving again. I could feel a change happening to my body and my mind.
With Instagram specifically, I started connecting with other women who were doing the same program I was doing – even down to the same day or same week – and I started to talk to them daily. With that, I finally felt like I had this female friend group that I had always been missing because of my job.
Over the course of that year, I became really passionate about fitness and social media. That led me to going freelance with graphic design, and then ultimately leaving graphic design entirely and transforming my career to fitness and social media. I became a SoulCycle instructor about 10 months ago, starting December of 2016.
SP: Wow. That’s incredible. Trusting your intuition and taking that leap of faith takes a lot of courage. What was the most surprising lesson you learned along the way?
JB: One of the most profound lessons I learned during my long and dramatic process of becoming a SoulCycle instructor was something another instructor said to me.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” I think that’s such a beautiful yet loaded quote because it normalizes fear. When you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you’re going to be scared. I think, for a lot of people, the initial fear holds them back for actually going for what they want. With “feel the fear and do it anyway” you have to accept that fear and use it to motivate you.
The saying really stuck with me as I was going through the SoulCycle training program; it got me through.
SP: You’ve touched a bit on your social anxiety before. Could you talk a little about your experience with it?
JB: Totally! When I was younger, I loved being the center of attention. But, as I got older, I would get really nervous at social events or being in front of others.
After college, that anxiety transformed into a bigger issue. I remember being at work and having to hide in the bathroom to regroup at social gathers. My boyfriend at that time was at Harvard and I remember dreading going to any event with him and his friends. I would also buy these super strong antiperspirant wipes; whenever I had to speak in public, I would leave them on my face the night before, but it would burn my skin.
It really took a toll on my life. It was a band aid for a real problem.
Finally, when I was back home in NY visiting, I broke down and, for the first time, realized that this was a really big problem that was weighing heavily on me. My mom just said to me, “OK, let’s get you help. Let’s find you a therapist and let’s take action.”
I ended up finding a psychiatrist in Boston and saw him for about a year. It completely changed my life. While anxiety never goes away, it can be managed. My psychiatrist gave me the tools to move forward with me life.
SP: Nowadays, so many people live their lives through social media and compared themselves to what they see online. For some, this can lead to feelings of inadequacy, envy, or dissatisfaction. What advice do you have for people who struggle with this?
JB: You always have to remember to take everything you see on social media with a grain of salt. Instagram is the highlight reel. We post the pictures where your body looks the best, where the landscape looks unreal, with the best filers and angels. It’s a highly-curated medium. You have to remember that, for most people, it took time, effort, and multiple tries to get that shot.
But I think there’s a really wonderful shift happening on Instagram right now. More and more people are pulling back the curtains to give people a behind the scenes tour of their real life. I love Instagram stories as a tool to show my life, un-curated, as it’s happening. I care about my feed’s aesthetics, so I don’t necessarily post the in-between moments there, but on Instagram Stories, I feel free to do so. I love being able to show both sides of the coin.
SP: How have you adapted to becoming such a fitness guru to the fitspo community? Have you found the transition to be easy or the hardest thing ever?
JB: To even hear fitness guru…I literally do not think of myself like that at all, hahaha. I have to say that I feel like the transition to whatever it is that I am now has been relatively easy. Certainly, there have been challenges, but I feel like it has progressed in an organic way. In that sense, it’s been easy.
I think the challenging thing is realizing that I have a platform in which people look up to me. The fact that people rely on me and look to me for inspiration and support… It’s been everything from “thank your post today, it made me laugh” or “it made me get out of bed that day and work out” to much more serious scenarios. I’ve had girls reach out to me with anxiety issues, eating disorders, and who are suicidal. It can get really heavy sometimes.
There is a gravity to my platform that I try to remind myself of, and that’s probably the most challenging things for me. It’s a role I want to be in because I want to inspire people and make them laugh, but it’s also crazy for me to think about.
SP: I’ve always been a fan of the word dope. How did TRUST YOUR DOPENESS come about?
JB: I used to repost more quotes on my Instagram. One of those quotes I reposted was TRUST YOUR DOPENESS. Not long after that, a photographer named Mickey made this graphic image of me with that phrase interwoven with my body. I really loved it, so I sort of adopted it as my mantra. It’s just a matter of realizing you are enough; whatever you need it is within yourself. Whatever you want to do, whoever you want to be, it’ll all in there. It’s just a matter of unlocking it.
SP: As an influencer, what do you look for in a brand that wants to collaborate with you?
JB: First, whatever their product is, I have to like it. It has to be something that I’m already using or something that, once I try it, it’s something that I like. It also has to fit in with my “brand” – anything that’s fitness, wellness, food, or athletic related. Second, it has to be something that I think my followers would be interested in knowing more about. Finally, I hope that, on a larger scale, the philosophy and ideals of the brand align with my own.
SP: What attracted you to SmartyPants?
JB: Oh my goodness. Well, first of all, your products are so delicious. I seriously look forward to taking them every day. I usually eat a savory breakfast and I’ll always want something sweet after. Then I’ll remember my SmartyPants!
I’ve tried my whole life to be good at taking my vitamins every day, but I’ve never been able to do it consistently. I’ll fall off the bandwagon. Since I started working with you guys in March, I’ve been able to stay on track and take them every day. That’s an amazing thing, so I love SmartyPants for that.
Plus, all the different nutrients and ingredients all in one is just awesome. Anything that can simplify my life is a major A+ in my book. You guys are also all about premium ingredients; you don’t put any of that junk in there. All your stuff is so well thought out and scientifically backed. And then you guys give back to charities which is a really cool thing.
Great ingredients and giving back.
SP: What’s currently in your Netflix cue?
JB: Great. Question. I just finished Stranger Things in the matter of a few days, already looking forward to season three! And I can always put on Parks and Rec or The Office.
Posted on August 30, 2016