Lindsay Coke, 32
Trainer/Motivator/Amateur Boxer/Pilates Instructor
Lindsay Coke is the embodiment of female strength. Known as the “boxing blonde,” Coke is also a certified pilates instructor and Lululemon ambassador with a mission to empower women. Although she initially faced criticism about her career path, she responded by doing what she does best - fighting back. “Self accepting and esteem are the most valuable tools any person could ever possess,” says Coke. “This is your life.”
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I don’t know that I chose this career path as much as it chose me. I have always been an active human and some may say, kind of bossy. I've played sports and been on teams for a majority of my life. I see now that it was only natural for me to find a career path that incorporated my love for movement, my leadership skills, and a work uniform made mostly of elastic. I come from an extremely small family, and I truly believe that I have made it a mission to create that family energy and tribe mentality through my work. I am blessed to not only get to be a teacher for a living but also a student for life.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
Girls aren’t tough enough to be in the boxing world. Ha! We have been fighters since birth!!! Every single person in this world is a fighter of some kind, either for something, against something, or for survival. Now that boxing is becoming more and more popular there are people out there trying regulate who’s in or out. That is probably why I am so partial to the sport, because it’s primal. It’s not about making the team or not, it’s about knowing how to tap into your instincts and use yourself accordingly in any situation. To me…if you’re breathing, you’re fighting.
"Every single person in this world is a fighter of some kind, either for something, against something, or for survival."
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
I have always been the shortest person on the team, the kid in the front row of the school pictures, and the easiest arm rest for those over 5’9. I am big person in a little person’s body. I was told I wasn’t a strong runner because I didn’t have a “runners body”. I was treated as a slow pack mule doing manual labor, only ever getting to admire those that were considered the race horses.
4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
I let swaaying BE my narrative. Tell me I won’t or I can’t and it's like putting jet fuel in my tank. I thrive off swaying haters and naysayers. "Running just isn’t in your DNA”, I was told. Well not only do I have short little “non runner” legs, but they are pretty deviant. They had no problem carrying me 26.2 miles in 4 hours and 20 minutes for the 2016 LA marathon. I have discovered that the ones that want to see you fall are usually the ones that are at the bottom of the stairs afraid to take the first step.
After I finished the race, I could see that the doubt and judgment that was once pointed in my direction is truly just a personal reflection of the way they feel about themselves. Self accepting and esteem are the most valuable tools any person could ever possess.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Be your #1 fan. Don’t hold that space for someone else. We are not defined by how others experience us.
This is your life, live it out loud, unapologetically. I will leave you with one of my all time favorite quotes: “A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at him or her."
"I have discovered that the ones that want to see you fall are usually the ones that are at the bottom of the stairs afraid to take the first step."
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.