Written and witnessed by Brandi Ortiz (daughter of Michele Park, owner of the SOUL brands) and self proclaimed NON exerciser!
Last year, SOUL Fitness Brands attended its first-ever IDEA World convention, and when we were invited back for 2023, the team was ecstatic! I may prefer Comic-Con over IDEA, but even I could see what a massive opportunity this was for Mom’s business, and I was thrilled to be joining them on this journey.
By Wednesday afternoon, we were packed and ready to go. Mom had filled the car to the brim, filing everything like a giant puzzle set. I was partially amazed we could drive with all that added weight, but we did fine last year, and the drive was three hours longer than this time around. This time, the IDEA World convention was set in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. If memory serves correctly, the last time I was in L.A. was for L.A. Comic-Con in early December last year. Since we lived relatively close, I grew up going to L.A. to go shopping with my mom all the time when I was little, so I was excited to return to this massive city. I could never live in L.A., but I enjoy the occasional visit. The drive was only an hour, but we were ready to unload, reach our room, and RELAX at the hotel.
On Thursday, we checked in, got our badges, and began setting up for the main event. Luckily, the walk from the hotel to the convention center lasted less than ten minutes. Much to my relief, the convention center was near the hotel. We had a lot of stuff to carry, after all. We had everything from shirts, stickers, and other merch. We also had to carry the TV set to play the infomercial I made for Mom. Unfortunately, the TV must have gotten bumped somewhere during transit because you could see a slight digital crack along the right side of the screen. Thankfully, the TV still worked, and it played the infomercial with no problem. I’m not sure I’ll ever dabble in motion graphics again, but I was proud to see my work being put to good use.
By Friday, we were ready for action. We arrived early to put the finishing touches to our booth and took time to peek at the surrounding booths. Eventually, it was time for Mom’s first class at the convention. She was set to teach SOULfusion, and the turnout was about forty to fifty. The staff said this was a successful turnout because fewer people had signed up to attend IDEA than last year. Admittedly, I was nervous. I worried I would make a fool of myself, trip over my feet, or fail to follow her instructions. Despite not being as coordinated as my mom, I followed along with the class as best as possible and worked up a good sweat. I hate to sweat, but seeing my mom smile on stage was worth it.
Once the class was over, we headed back to the booth to greet passersby. Eventually, it was my time to tour the convention, and I was excited to see what kind of stuff was in store for me. For the past few months, I have tried to take my health more seriously by eating right, exercising, and taking vitamins. But I understand there’s much more to learn, and I was looking forward to being educated. I still have a lot of insecurities regarding my weight, and Mom has been helping me through them, but it helps to have other opinions in play (to explain the science behind weight gain and loss).
I initially explored the convention by myself but then bumped into Mom. To my surprise, there were fewer food-based booths than last year, so there was less to sample. But luckily, what was there was delicious. Wonderful Pistachios were giving out free samples and had a basketball booth game where you could play to win an Oura Ring. The game was simple: You had forty seconds to play. The person with the highest score won the Oura Ring. I played a few rounds but had no real chance of beating the high score. I asked the staff, and the high score was 46 somehow. I may not have won, but I had fun playing.
Then, we came across the Ultima Replenisher booth. Mom is a big fan of their product and was excited to taste-test anything new. The staff was super lovely and ecstatic to see Mom was a fan, and they gave us a variety of sample packs and two water bottles.
The next booth that caught Mom’s eye was Odyssey Snacks. We sampled some of their probiotic protein bars; Mom bought two variety boxes and then chatted with the founder. Next on the list was Real Good Foods, which produced high-protein chicken and more. Mom and I love stocking up on their chicken and frying it with the Air Fryer. It comes out crispy and delicious. Last year, the RGF booth was next door to True Made Foods, which produced veggie-based, sugar-free condiments. It was a beautiful combination that was sorely missed. The booths were both present but in separate aisles of the convention.
Eventually, we returned to the booth until it was time to close shop for the day. I missed Mom’s SOULstrength class on Saturday, but my sister, Lex, attended in my stead and said it kicked her butt (much to my amusement). Afterward, I met them at the hotel buffet for breakfast, which was delightful. Two things I love most about hotels include the buffet and the showers. Whenever we go to a hotel, my first two questions include, “Where’s the buffet?” and “How’s the shower?”
I walked back to the convention center with Lex. When we arrived, a class was being taught by American fitness personality Billy Blanks. The SOULsquad joined his class from the sidelines, and for a brief moment, it was like a dance party. I may not know Billy Blanks, but I enjoyed the energy he brought to the table.
At some point, I was given a Celsius energy drink. Safe to say, I was nervous. I’m twenty-six and have never had an energy drink before. I don’t drink coffee either, so I have no real clue how I survived college and life afterward. I was scared I would get jittery or anxious, so I avoided typical sources of caffeine. I cautiously took a sip of their Peach Vibe, which was delicious, to my delight. But I did drink with caution and finished the can within two hours. The running joke in the family is that I’m always tired, but after drinking it, I didn’t feel one bit tired. It was a huge relief. Celsius may become my primary source of caffeine from now on. Not an everyday occurrence, but something nice to drink when I’m feeling extra tired mid-morning.
With my newfound energy, I manned the booth some more, then went for another convention tour with Lex and her boyfriend, Nico. They both work in the medical field, so they were excited to see what kind of health science was being presented. We stopped by the Optimal Health Systems booth. As someone who needs a fair share of vitamins, I was really intrigued by their presentation, and so were Lex and Nico. They used store-bought pudding to present how their vitamins break down processed foods. Within two minutes, the pudding was reduced to this
watery substance. After the presentation, we spun their giveaway wheel, and Nico and I both won free gift cards to their website. When I asked what would be best for things like stress and anxiety, they recommended Optimal Calm, and I was eager to check out their site and purchase. I may not have much money to spare, but I loved how precise and persuasive their presentation was. Unlike my sister, I don’t know much about the human body, but I was happy to be educated. Plus, that experiment with the pudding was neat. I remember how much I loved pudding as a kid, but nowadays, I don’t really eat it anymore. Watching it disintegrate was oddly incredible.
Next, we checked out the Om Mushrooms booth, and I made Last of Us jokes with the staff. As a super fan of the series, I loved how my brain went from mushrooms to zombies. It made me think back to when Last of Us was announced as a TV series. I knew I had to watch it with Mom because our go-to comfort film is World War Z. You read that right.
We also bought a few things, including their last batch of Master Blend mushrooms. According to their pamphlet, the Master Blend is well suited for stress relief, energy, and immunity, and it sounded perfect to me. I wanted to buy some of their hot chocolate mixes, but they ran out before we reached the booth. It was a bummer, but I plan to check out their website later.
When we returned to the booth, it was almost time to close up. We sold a handful of shirts and got good attention, so this weekend was a success. It was the last half hour of the convention, and it was my favorite part. It was when everyone was giving away their last samples. After passing through the convention center for the last time, we each left with three to four bags of goodies, including energy drinks, protein bars, and refresher samples. It was always a delight to get free stuff, hehe!
After IDEA officially ended, it was time for our end-of-IDEA celebration! Once we finished cleaning and setting up the room with decorations and food, Mom invited the attending Master Trainers to our hotel suite, and the party commenced. Mom & Joie wanted a theme, and the ladies settled on a Pajama Party. Everyone arrived wearing fun pajamas, and Mom provided cute sleep masks and slippers. Since Mom was a fan of pink, I settled on my pink waffle onesie. Occasionally, I had to take the elevator down, and the stares I got were oddly hilarious.
Overall, it was fun seeing Mom work her magic and get a rise from her crowded classes, and it was great seeing her flourish amongst her friends and coworkers. Yes, she told some embarrassing stories about how I used to bite people during my daycare days (yes, I bit people), but it was great seeing her smile and laugh. I may not be a big fitness fan like her, but I love watching her work and doing what she does best.