Name: Beto Perez
Claim to Fame: Creator and co-founder of Zumba Fitness. As a young aerobics instructor in Cali, Colombia, Beto arrived in class one day to discover he’d forgotten his music. So he threw on a tape of salsa music he had in his bag and improvised routines for an hour—and his class loved it. In 1999, Beto moved to Miami, where the nontraditional, Latin-inspired aerobics classes he taught at a local health club became incredibly popular. In 2001, one of the class regulars told her son, a local entrepreneur, about Beto, and he and a partner approached the teacher about turning his beloved classes into a fitness business. “In the beginning, we were just thinking we would sell DVDs,” Beto says. “But people came to us and wanted to be instructors.” One decade later, Zumba Fitness is an international phenomenon, with 12 million people taking classes weekly in 125 countries. Zumba DVDs starring Beto, including the latest, Exhilarate™ Body Shaping System, have sold 10 million copies. The workout has also spawned a series of video games that have sold more than 7 million copies, including the recently released Zumba Fitness Core.
Health Philosophy: “If you are doing something positive, your body’s reaction will be positive.” What’s not his philosophy? No pain, no gain. “That doesn’t exist in Zumba,” he says.
Favorite Workout: Teaching Zumba classes 1-2x a week, either at his current home in Miami or to instructors around the world. He also loves taking Zumba classes in other countries. “I like to sneak in and wear a hat,” he says, laughing. “And sometimes I pretend I’m really having trouble with the moves!”
RELATED: Zumba Glossary
Vitamins/Supplements: Multivitamin, calcium, protein shakes
Motivational Tricks: Fitness should be fun. “That’s the most important thing,” Beto says. “If it’s boring to do abdominal crunches, do something else that works your core. It doesn’t have to be Zumba—it just needs to be something you enjoy, and that doesn’t make you feel like you’re working out. Then, losing weight is just the consequence.”
Favorite Healthy Dish: Beto always starts his morning with a chontadoro, a Columbian fruit similar to a peach, often followed by scrambled egg whites and turkey.
Secret to Zumba’s Success: Making it accessible for all fitness levels. “We made Zumba for regular people, like my mom, not professional dancers,” he says. “I think about her when I’m creating routines—I want her to be able to follow along.”
What’s Next: A new video game highlighting dance styles and music from around the world, an anti-hunger initiative and possibly a program focused on men.
Are you Zumba-curious? Check out our Zumba First-Timer’s Guide here.