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Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor

Losing Her Job After Maternity Leave Was the Best Thing to Happen to This Mom

“I would’ve never thought of doing what I do as a business, but God had other plans for me.”

The Bump presents #MomBoss, a series dedicated to showing off all-star moms. We catch up with mompreneurs behind products we love, influencers who get real about motherhood and SAHMs who can multitask in their sleep.

Nearly six years years ago, Akinah Rahmaan had a very different life. She had just welcomed her son into the world, and was returning from maternity leave to her position as VP of marketing at Def Jams Records. Three months later, she was laid off. Faced with a daunting dilemma, the new mom channeled her R&B and hip-hop background and turned it into a kick-butt exercise brand. Just a few years later—and a few viral dance routines along the way!— Banana Skirt Productions has made its mark on the fitness world.

Hindsight is 20/20, and little did Rahmaan know that losing her job would help spark an entire fitness dance movement. Read on to our chat below for the full story on the empowering mom.

What inspired you to start Banana Skirt Productions?

In October of 2013, I had my first and only child, Jase. At the time, I was VP of marketing at Def Jam Records. In January, I returned to work from maternity leave, and three months later I was laid off...With a 6-month-old! I was just thinking about things I could do to keep busy and also to "snap back” into it. I was looking for a fitness program that interested me, and created what I thought would be fun for some of my friends and fellow new moms. The end result was a dance fitness format relying heavily on R&B and hip-hop music, which was what I'd been living and loving personally and professionally for my entire life.

Photo: Banana Skirt Productions

What was going through your mind after the layoff?

Thank God I signed that contract. But also, oh no—it ends in four months!

Did you think you’d start a company right after becoming a mom?

I didn’t. Necessity is truly the mother of invention! I needed a job and a fitness outfit that would keep me engaged.

What advice do you have for others making career shifts?

I strongly believe that when you’re shifted by God or the universe—shift! I think a lot of times we fight change. I find that when I flow with whatever the changes are, I am better because of it. Sometimes even rewarded. I would’ve never thought of doing what I do as a business, but God had other plans for me.

What role did fitness play in your postpartum recovery?

Honestly, not a big one. I had complications, so it took me a bit to fully get back to myself. However, I danced at home, took a few yoga classes and tried Zumba, which was the biggest reason I started Banana Skirt.

What’s something you learned about yourself after becoming a mom?

Wow, so much. Mom-ing is the best thing I’ve ever done or will do. I guess the biggest thing that I learned is that I can love someone in a way I never knew possible. I always think of the Stephanie Mills song titled "Never Knew Love Like This Before." It holds so true for motherhood.

Photo: Akinah Rahmaan

Name one thing that kept you sane on maternity leave.

Netflix.

What’s your best parenting hack?

Utilizing my village. It’s hard for me to do, but it's key for us moms.

What about a guilty pleasure?

A margarita, for sure. Also, a spa day at SoJo Spa Club in Edgewater, NJ.

Banana Skirt is known for its Beyoncé-inspired routines. What are other classes?

We offer a variety of high-energy, low-pressure dance fitness formats inspired by favorite pop, hip-hop and R&B stars.

  • Starpop: learn the exact choreography from iconic music videos
  • Ratchet Fitness: twerk it out under club lights and a booming sound system
  • BeyoncerCise: crank up the intensity with a dance-focused, calisthenic workout

Do the classes cater to moms?

Absolutely! We have quite a few moms in our classes. It’s a great way to let loose and be free, even if it’s only for one hour.

Does Banana Skirt offer classes via video subscriptions?

We’re actually launching that on a Video On Demand platform called NeoU. We’re super-excited to bring our fitness party to more people.

Published April 2019

Plus, more from The Bump:

10 Postpartum Workout Moves for New Moms

10-Minute Workouts to do While Baby Naps

10 Exercises to Do With Baby

PHOTO: Akinah Rahmaan