Instead Portnick, today a certified aerobics teacher, filed a discrimination complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. She made her case—resoundingly. On May 6 Jazzercise announced it would stop looking for a "fit appearance" in applicants. "This is a wake-up call to the fitness industry," says Portnick, a size 16 to 18. "People should feel welcome and accepted in the fitness environment."
The South Carolina-born Portnick weighed 60 lbs. by age 6 and underwent years of yo-yo dieting. High-impact aerobics helped her get fit enough to impress a Jazzercise teacher, who suggested she become an instructor herself. But the company turned her down. Its insistence on a fit appearance "was just one criterion among many," Kathy Misselt, a Jazzercise vice president, says now. "It made sense to take it out."
Portnick, 38. who is married to music-store manager Jim Portnick, 45, will teach her own five weekly classes in two locations rather than reapply with Jazzercise. The real payoff, she says, was proving that hefty and healthy can go together. "This is the body I was meant to have," she says. "The challenge is to be fit and happy no matter what your size."
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