‘The best decision I’ve ever made’: Brooklyn woman pursues passion for pilates after BRCA1 diagnosis, opens second successful studio

'The best decision I've ever made': BK pilates studio continues to thrive
Marisa Fuller left her career in advertising to pursue her passion for pilates after an alarming health diagnosis inspired her to help others on their personal wellness journeys.
Photo courtesy of Studio Pilates

One small business owner is enjoying continued success after opening her second pilates studio in Brooklyn earlier this year, on the heels of a health scare that helped inspire her passion for physical and mental wellness.

Marisa Fuller worked in advertising for over 20 years, but after a series of personal challenges including a BRCA1 diagnosis, Fuller decided to make a drastic change in her life — and it all started with pilates.

Pilates is a form of mind-body exercise inspired by both yoga and balet, initially developed by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. Over the past decade, the exercise has boomed in popularity with studios popping up across New York City. But it wasn’t always so ubiquitous.

“I just found pilates maybe 20 years ago and there weren’t many fitness studios back then, especially pilates studios,” Fuller told Brooklyn Paper. “One day, one of my friends mentioned to me, ‘I really think you might like this’ and I fell in love with it then.”

Pilates, while certainly physically challenging, is considered a low-impact exercise, meaning that the movements are gentler on the joints and can be performed in a fluid manner. This relative ease means that people who may be restricted from other avenues of exercise are able to work out without a high risk of injury.

As Fuller explored pilates, she found that it became a constant form of enjoyment and wellness in her life. It also helped her form a sense of community in especially challenging times.

“I really loved the community that those types of fitness studios were building,” said Fuller. “I was like ‘one day I think I wanna open up my own’. After 20 years [in advertising], I said ‘this is the time that I’m finally gonna do something for me’ and I just went for it.”

Pilates studio
Fuller and her team carefully designed the new Cobble Hill studio, and classes are welcoming and inclusive to all students.Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

The motivation to actually pursue her passion for pilates came after a rather rude wake-up call. After a series of doctor’s visits, Fuller received a BRCA1 gene diagnosis, meaning that she has a very high predisposition to developing breast cancer at some point in her life.

“It was a punch in the stomach when I heard that I have the gene,” said Fuller, whose mother once had the disease. When doctors recommended preventative surgery, she said she “just went for it.” “I wanted to get this all done with and just move forward with it.”

After undergoing a double mastectomy to decrease her chances of getting breast cancer, Fuller said she became more motivated to pursue her passion for wellness, and for helping other people on their fitness journeys.

Her dreams became reality in 2019, when she signed a franchise agreement with Studio Pilates husband and wife duo Jade and Tanya Winter. Though her initial plans were eventually derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fuller soldiered on, opening her own South Slope location in 2021 to enormous success.

Less than three years after opening, her South Slope studio sees more than 700 clients each week.

This past June, Fuller successfully opened her second studio in Cobble Hill and, despite some technical difficulties and every day hiccups, the location is already a bustling hub for people looking to improve their physical and mental wellness.

“As a small business owner, there are challenges every day, like my toilet wasn’t working the other day and my music went out,” Fuller said. “But when I read the reviews and I hear my clients being like ‘Oh, I no longer have to go to my chiropractor, I no longer do my physical therapy’ and all these things, all that outweighs everything else. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.”

To learn more about pilates or to attend a class at one of Fuller’s studios, visit the Studio Pilates International website here.