Brains, Beauty and a Bari Booty: Bari Founder, Alexandra Bonetti
Once we experienced Bari for ourselves, we had to meet the brains behind it. Who was this Venezuelan beauty who went to undergrad at Wharton, worked in merging and acquiring firms in oil post graduation, then up and created one of the most innovative, joyful, and effective workouts we have tried? We had to wait almost two months to find out, as she was traveling around South America with indigenous tribes studying the meditation and holistic healing practices past down from generation to generation. Are we dreaming? Alexandra Bonetti not only answered our burning questions of who, what, why, when and how Bari was created, but she reminded us about something so fundamental and so powerful: everything is connected. Your mind, body, soul, your movements and your meditations, your roots and your career. We'll let Alexandra do the talking, we just ask that you try and read the interview in your head with Alexandra's sexy Venezuelan accent and magnetic playfulness. Accents make everything better...
THE BIRTH OF BARI
I’m from Venezuela. Growing up, I never worked out. Whenever there was PE class, I would get an automatic ear infection and sit out. It wasn’t my thing. When I went to college here in the states, I was 17. I still didn’t work out. Then I graduated and started consulting in the oil industry. I was merging and acquiring firms in oil and traveling a ton. I would visit maybe two countries a week. I was always living in an airport. I had three suitcases — one in NY, one in London and one in the Netherlands. I had no apartment, and nowhere to do my laundry. It was not normal.
I was always eating in airports — just super unhealthy — not sleeping, working way too much. Eventually I was like, ‘I am going to end up in the hospital!’, so I started running. I started going for maybe five or ten minutes on the treadmill in hotels. I was like, ‘I sort of like this…’. I started running outside, and it really changed my life. I had more energy, I would wake up earlier, and I actually liked to work again. It changed my whole perspective. I was losing weight, but my legs started getting super bulky, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to start Pilates.’ I did that, and it made my abs great, but the rest of my body wasn’t so great. So I was like, ‘Okay, maybe weightlifting…’. I started weight lifting in the gym, but then my back was huge, so I was like, ‘Well this isn’t it…’
I started combining the stuff that I loved. I started combining some elements from pilates that I loved, from cardio that I loved, and some weight training. Four years into consulting, I was like, ‘I don't know if I love this anymore. I’m not excited about my life.’ I was telling my mom that I didn’t know what to do and she was like, ‘Why don’t you start something in fitness? You love working out!’ I was like, ‘Mom, please, do you want me to get fake tans too? That’s ridiculous.’ But that night, I couldn’t sleep with the idea. Six months later, I’d left my job, gotten a pilates certification and opened Bari in Tribeca. When I opened, the method was a lot more basic than it is now.
"I think the recipe for success in this lifestyle is finding your crowd. The more you can create that community of like-minded people, the more successful your tribe is going to be."
I was the only one cleaning, training, marketing, handing out fliers on the corner…it was kind of crazy. It was a really interesting time in my life. I started meeting a lot of famous trainers that were also training all these celebrities — they were telling me that I should do things differently because ‘that’s not how I train Madonna’ or whoever. And I was like, ‘Well, that’s actually interesting, because celebrities really are doing fun, different moves than the rest of us. Here I’ve been at the gym running and doing Pilates and models and celebrities are doing all these cool diagonal twists and turns and they’re not working out hours on end and suffering with joint pain the next day.’
I fell in love with this idea. So I hired a few celebrity trainers to help me really evolve the concept and method. It was a huge hit. We combined the theory behind these different angles that we work out in with a fun factor, because it should be fun with a challenge. Though it shouldn’t be easy, or you’ll get bored quickly. It should be something that you can build up to — it’s this idea of coordination. You’re present. You’re there. If you're thinking of your grocery shopping list, you’re getting lost. Bari really forces you to focus.
GROWING UP IN VENEZUELA
It was super home cooked 'meal-y' (laughs). You never ate out. I don’t know if that’s an American thing, or just a New York thing, but in Venezuela, you don’t buy pre-cooked anything. Everything is made from scratch, with fresh squeezed juice in the morning. We also eat a lot of cornmeal. Corn is very big there. Butter, sugar and carbs were part of the diet, but I feel like since I left Venezuela 13 years ago, people have become much more conscious about those kinds of things. I still prefer to eat at home than anywhere else. Name the best restaurant in New York, and I’d still rather eat a home cooked meal.
I love being with people, and I’m just a loud person in general. When my husband and I first got married, we lived in an apartment on East 11th, and the whole apartment was the size of my living room now, so we couldn’t really have people over. I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. We can move north of Queens and I’ll be happy. I just need space to entertain, because that’s definitely a big part of who I am'. I also feel like when I was working out, I tried so many different gyms and studios, and the ones that I liked were the ones where I had a personal relationship with either the people that went there, or the reception and management team. It made me want to come back.
I think the recipe for success in this lifestyle is finding your crowd. Find people that can support you because if you’re vegan and hanging out with people doing drugs and eating pizza, it’s not easy. It’s great to find a group of people that you can share similar interests with. I feel like the more you can create that community of like-minded people, the more successful your tribe is going to be.
THE MAGIC BEHIND BARI
I'm a strong believer in magic. Astrologers, readers, you name it, I've been several times this month. I recently met with this Indian guy from Ecuador — and I’m half Ecuadorian so it was such a coincidence —
and he was like, ‘Show me your method…’. So I showed him how we dance, and he was like, ‘That’s how Indians do everything. You know, you are doing indigenous meditation at Bari. I’m sure of it! Explain to me.'
Then I showed him how we trampoline, and he was like, ‘That’s how Indians run…you guys are going indigenous meditations.’
I just took this past January off and went to Ecuador and studied indigenous meditation for three weeks. I worked in an orphanage in the mornings, horseback rode before breakfast, and then we’d go to villages and ask, ‘Who here knows?’ That’s literally what we would say — ‘Who in the village knows?’ They’d be like, ‘Go down two blocks, take a right, there’ll be this big tree on the left, find this guy, he knows everything.’ I ended up interviewing 20 shamans, and it turns out, what we’re doing at Bari really is an indigenous meditation. I came back the happiest human being.
"Bari" is an indigenous tribe in Venezuela. But the thing is, I didn’t know that when I named it. It’s such a big coincidence. I can’t get over all the coincidences in my life lately, and that’s the biggest one. People use to ask me what it meant, and I’d be like, ‘Don’t ask me that question, it means nothing.’ But now, I have an amazing story.
"Society is telling us to do everything, but we can’t. We need to pick the things that we want to do that make us happy."
THE MAGIC BEHIND LIFE
While in South America this past January, I also interviewed some Indians in Venezuela. The first thing that 100% of the people said to me was ‘If you don't believe, I can’t help you. If you don’t believe, I can’t cure you.’ -- the same as in Ecuador. It was so interesting to see that across countries and different villages, the first thing they all wanted to make sure was that I believed in what they were doing. It was my favorite take away from the trip.
And really, that’s the basis of Bari’s brand — you have to believe in yourself. You have to quit thinking that you’re not coordinated enough, or strong enough, or fit enough, or skinny enough, or tall enough. Those are just the stories we tell ourselves. It’s so cool to see these people living such simples lives, and it all starts with believing! What do you believe in? If you believe in making a difference, you will. And you will feel it.
Everyone I met also had their own saying, which I loved. It wasn’t like, ‘This is THE WAY that you have to mediate, or think, or eat.’ It was all different, yet similar. I think in our industries of food and fitness, there are just so many different ways of doing things. Each family or mentor passes down their own shaman technique. That’s what they learn and what they practice throughout their lives. It was so cool to see that different things work, as long as you're open to it.
THE BARI TRIBE
We have a really strong teens program right now in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic. I discovered fitness in my mid-20s, but these girls that are starting at 14 and 15, it gives them this different kind of discipline, self-confidence, and belief in themselves. The way that they frame their success stories are so different than adults. These teens just radiate confidence. They’re so sure of themselves. I think that the more confidence women have, the more we start making decisions for ourselves.
Society is telling us to do everything, but we can’t. We need to pick the things that we want to do that make us happy, and forget what people think or say. And I feel like if I can grab a 15 year old now and empower them to feel that way, then they can make their own choices, and they’re going to lead a different life.
As I watch my clients grow, they love their bodies more. They walk into meetings taller. They love their presentations more. They get sexier with their partners. They feel more flirty because they feel prettier. They’re like, ‘No, you know what? I don’t want to be in this relationship, I don’t want this shitty job, because I can do better!’ You start to see these really huge changes after their body changes — these huge confidence boosters come. And as a girl, it makes you feel sexier, and you eat sexier food. It makes you want to take pictures of yourself and be flirty and do well. It gives you an inner power.
"I really want to empower women to make their own rules and write their own stories so they can create deliriously happy lives."
LESSONS FOR THE LADYBOSSES
I don’t know if this only pertains to women, but one of my favorite things I learned when I opened was when my mom told me, ‘Your business will always give you a second chance, but people won’t.’ If you’re going to take a risk, take a risk on your business, not on people. Always treat people well. Our team at Bari is the best possible team ever. We have the best people that work there. The people that come to Bari are the best people. I think that you attract great people by being great to people. I think that wold be my number one thing to stress to others. Never forget people, never get too comfortable, and learn about other industries. Learn about other companies. Read bios on people that are doing it well. Read branding books on marketing, or whatever you feel like you love and don’t know enough about. Just learn…always learn. It’s so important to do something that you really love — your passion. Don’t just search for your passion, or your whole life you’re going to be like, ‘What’s my passion?!’ It’s not easy, because not everybody knows theirs. But just go for something that you love!
RITUALS, ROUTINES, AND MANTRAS
First, I wash my face with this oil to get my makeup off, then I use an actual cleanser. Then I spray some rose thing. Then, Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair. Then, a cell brightening serum. Then, twice a week, I’ll mask. Then, it’s usually a hydrating cream. Lately, I’ve been wearing a lot of Korean water packs. And then an eye serum.
My husband’s like, ‘Can I please kiss you?’ And I’m like ‘Nope, my creams are on, sorry. You missed your chance half an hour ago.’ I spend half an hour every morning and every night.
I’m an affirmation all day, every day kind of girl — I’m like, ‘Life is great, I love New York, oh my God there’s a beautiful tree, my dog is so cute!’ Trees are definitely a thing for me. I’m such a lover of life. I love meditation, and it’s something that I struggled with for years, because it’s not comfortable for me to just sit down in silence. It’s not my personality. Some form of active meditation is my favorite. That’s what I get from Bari when I do it every day. I like to do the 1pm class. I like to break up the day with a workout. Coffee is definitely a morning ritual of mine. My husband makes me coffee every morning. Until I have it in my hand, I can’t say a word. I don’t even open my eyes fully.
LET'S TALK LEGACY
I really want to empower women to make their own rules and write their own stories so they can create deliriously happy lives — because even if one person a day at Bari feels like they’re more empowered to choose things that they love to do for themselves, then I’ve done my job.