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“Identify your specialty, then build your brand around that.” Ming Zhao & Callie Gullickson

Identify your specialty, then build your brand around that. What it really boils down to is that followers just want to get to know you. Your content is what catches their eye, but your personality and charisma is what keeps them around. At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed […]

Identify your specialty, then build your brand around that. What it really boils down to is that followers just want to get to know you. Your content is what catches their eye, but your personality and charisma is what keeps them around.


At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep and preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving leaders and influencers who are practicing their own philosophies about how to maintain their wellbeing.

As a part of our series about “Social Media Influencers Share Their Top Self Care, Wellness, and Beauty Tips, I had the pleasure of interviewing Callie Gullickson.

Callie, originally from the sunshine state, grew up as a dancer which is what brought her to NYC. When she made the switch into the fitness space it was a seamless transition since movement had always been a vital part of her lifestyle. Callie is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor in NYC. You can now find her at Rumble teaching both their Boxing and Training (treadmill) concepts. Besides being a trainer, Callie works with brands such as Alo Moves, Puma, Adidas, Nike, Under Armour and Women’s Health. You can even spot her in last year’s VOGUE. Callie, who has been coined the nickname Killa Cal, has built a following through hersense of positivity that makes you want to show up for yourself!


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory of how you came upon this career path and to where you are today?

It’s so funny because if someone were to ask me to give them the definition of an influencer, I wouldn’t be able to. The meaning of the word is different for everyone. An influencer can be someone who you admire, who shares common interests or even someone with a big number next to their Instagram handles. I don’t think most, or at least I didn’t, really plan on becoming a social media “influencer” it just happened. I graduated from college in New York City with a BFA in Commercial Dance and from there it was a seamless transition into fitness. I researched certifications then was hired at two group fitness studios befogging joining Rumble. Rumble has also been an amazing platform for me to be able to share my passion on a large scale and it will continue to be for the foreseeable future. I got where I am today by staying true to myself and honestly sharing my experiences, my thoughts and my tips in the health and wellness industry, specifically fitness, that have led me to where I am in my fitness and health journey.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

As cliché as it may sound, my fiancé Chris. He came from a background in finance and now (years later) is on the business side of the health and wellness industry. When we first met, he had no idea what my side of the fitness industry was like, but regardless, whenever I had an idea of something I wanted to do he stood behind it. When I was hesitant, he encouraged me to go for it. There was a lot of trial and error when I first started out. He challenged me to approach things differently and always helped me navigate through foreign situations. He even came up with the name Killa Cal Cartel for my community of clients. I’m also grateful for all my friends who are in the industry. I believe surrounding yourself with people who are more knowledgeable than yourself pushes you to continue learning and growing. We all are on different paths and at different points in our lives, but at the end of the day we’re all supportive of each other, and when we encounter hiccups it’s nice to know you have people to lean on and learn from.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

Aside from being a trainer, I am also a model — actually, I started modeling before I broke into the fitness industry. As a model, your agent always emphasizes the importance of wearing nude undergarments to a casting. This is because you sometimes try on different colored clothing and don’t want any distractions that would take away from the colors, whether they be bold or light and sheer. Or, if it’s a swimwear casting, they oftentimes use your silhouette to determine what style swimsuits would work best if they don’t happen to have a sample on hand. So, I was at a swimwear casting and of course didn’t have nude undergarments but instead was wearing bright pink underwear from Victoria Secret’s Pink line that had writing that read, “I’m hot!” on the front of them…I was so embarrassed! To make matters worse, they had to take digitals to show the brand when choosing their models. I definitely learned my lesson that day! Always be prepared! Have everything you may need in your backpack!

As an influencer, you have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Infact, perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

I believe that to stand out in the social media world you need something unique to offer. What value do you add to your follower’s lives? If you’re not providing tips, guidance, stories, inspiration then you’ll just be one of the many. Identify your specialty, then build your brand around that. What it really boils down to is that followers just want to get to know you. Your content is what catches their eye, but your personality and charisma is what keeps them around. Don’t try to be someone else. Your goal shouldn’t be your follower count, your goal should be making a positive difference in your follower’s lives and using your voice to help others.

Can you share with our readers some of your strategies you’ve used to build an engaged, loyal, and large online community?

It’s important to engage with EVERYONE. I get comments, direct messages and emails from people I don’t know on the regular and I answer every single one. Don’t pick and choose who you want to engage with. Too often people starting out try to befriend influencer to influencer and while it may provide a quick fix (i.e., more followers) it won’t provide you with a true community. The individuals you take the time to engage with, ask about their lives, check-in regularly with and really get to know — those are the people who will stand behind you no matter what. I refer to the community I’ve built as The Killa Cal Cartel and I know they will always support me. Support really is number one; making it to the top isn’t fun if no one is there to celebrate with you.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive and care for oneself in three areas: body, mind, and heart.

You are a busy person with a demanding schedule, can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that help your body thrive? (Kindly share a story or an example for each.)

Sleep is number one for me. Most days I wake up between 4 AM-5 AM, so I need a decent amount of sleep the night before or you better believe I’ll find time to squeeze in a nap! One of the ways I’ve been able to ensure I get enough sleep is by putting my phone away at 8 PM every night. This allows my mind to disconnect and unwind, leaving time for me to connect with the ones I’m closest to.

Another something that I swear by is the blue light glasses I recently invested in from Warby Parker. I truly feel that these have helped a bunch! All-day I’m on my phone or computer, so when the time comes to settle down the light from all the devices keeps me stimulated but with these glasses, my exposure to UV light is reduced.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind or heart to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

It may come as a surprise to some, but I do tend to be more of an introvert at times. All-day I’m conversing with, supporting and encouraging clients, so when I’m done with work it’s important for me to find that alone time. Whether it’s watching an episode of Law and Order (my favorite), making a new plan and playlist for a class, going to Trader Joe’s (I’m obsessed) or even just relaxing and enjoying my own company.

As far as my heart thriving well, that’s easy, catching up with my family via FaceTime. I am one of six kids; five girls and one boy. We are a very close family, so close that my sisters and I all have matching tattoos! On rare occasions are we all in the same place — I think the last time everyone was together was about two years ago. With us all living in different states and three of them having kids, our schedules never align. So, when the time comes to catch up with my nephews and nieces, I always take full advantage.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Wear an outfit that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Growing up as a dancer, I was ALWAYS in front of a mirror and I never realized what an impact it had on my perception of how I looked. I always remember looking in the mirror and if something wasn’t fitting correctly, I automatically felt bad about myself the moment I saw my reflection. It is crazy how something so unimportant such as your clothing can flip your entire mood. The saying is true, “Feel good look good,” which leads to my next recommendation on how to help yourself feel beautiful — boxing. Boxing has been such a powerful force in my life. It makes me feel strong, capable and gives me confidence. And when you have confidence you don’t care if you fit that typical standard of looking beautiful, you feel it.

Is there a particular resource, a practitioner, expert, book, or podcast that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

I wouldn’t say there is one specific resource or person whom I can give some credit to for my success or my drive, but rather groups of people. My family is the reason for a lot of my work ethic and drive. My dad was a professional baseball player, one of my sisters won the US Open for mixed doubles, another won the NCAA college tennis championship and my other siblings went to college on full scholarships for their sports. Instead of putting pressure on myself to follow in their footsteps, I found myself inspired. I saw first-hand the sacrifices they made; I mean my mother raised six kids! And, being the second youngest in the family it was pretty inspiring being surrounded by siblings who didn’t settle for anything less than their fullest potential.

Do you have a story about the strangest, most bizarre or funniest wellness treatment that you’ve ever experienced?

There are so many crazy wellness treatments out there that branching out too much makes me a bit nervous! I do, however, love going to this new spa in Williamsburg called Bath House. The first time I went I thought it would be quiet and serene, but to my surprise, it was more of a social club. It initially threw me off, but the more I hung around the more it drew me in. As I mentioned earlier, I can be quite an introvert socially, but this place was totally my scene. It has a cold tub, steam rooms, saunas, and multiple pools. It’s a great place to meet new people and socialize with friends while also getting the treatments I need in order to feel good and continue to perform at my best.

As an influencer, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to elevate the standard of health by inspiring everyone around me to prioritize it in their lives, both mentally and physically. There are too many individuals who are stripped of the everyday fortunes such as walking, running or even standing that some of us take for granted. So, realizing that fortune that we have and using it to create healthy routines around exercise, eating and wellness is so important to me and I strive to inspire everyone else to do the same. Engaging in not only physical health but mental health comes as part of this. I have seen clients use working out to combat depression, anxiety, stress, etc. Personally, I’ve relied on fitness to get me through daily challenges that we as humans are confronted with. If I could inspire everyone to encourage their brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, and friends to be proactive in creating a routine around healthy living, eating and wellness I’d feel like I’ve done my job.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

Honestly, my family! They’re my support system and bring me the most joy. While I don’t get to see them much, as I previously mentioned, no matter how crazy things get in life I always try to remind myself what’s most important and the answer to that is my loved ones.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I am very active on my Instagram account @calliegullickson. I also post events, live streams, questions about training with me on my website www.killa-cal.com.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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