Anja Kotar, international musical star, is featured in our streaming videos!

As most of you know, I love music!  It provided the backdrop and inspiration for my decision to become a dancer, and it remains one of the most important components of my fitness method today. 

When I first heard about Anja Kotar, I was initially really impressed by her song, “How to Be Cool.”  I was thrilled when she allowed us to use it for our videos, and I immediately added it to several of my class and private training playlists.  What made me even more impressed with her was her story.  As a Slovenian musician and songwriter, she pushed through all barriers to get her EP funded.  And when she premiered it abroad, she was named Best New Artist in Slovenia!  Her work is personal, and it makes some great statements about being authentic.  Check out the video for her single at the end of this post!

Anja is a determined, wise, and talented artist.  Please read more about her life and work below.  And be sure to check out our new on-demand videos featuring her music here that will be dropping November 1st.  (You’ll be hearing her in future videos, too!).  

Enjoy! We looking forward to sweating and jamming out to great music with you!

~Mahri

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Full name: Anja Kotar

Where were you born?  Ljubljana, Slovenia (Europe). 

Where did you grow up?  I lived in Europe until I was 14, then moved to San Jose, CA with my family in 2012. 

What’s your biggest passion?  Music. 

Tell me about your career. Have you changed directions? If so, why? And what brought you to music?
I consider myself very lucky as I’ve always been  naturally drawn to music and can’t remember a time when I would want to do anything else with my life. I would track the beginnings all the way back to when I was six when my parents noticed my passion for music and put me in music school for classical piano. While in Europe, that was my world – I played as a soloist and with a piano trio at festivals and venues such as the Slovenian National Opera House or The Philharmonic. Singing, however, was always my greatest passion but at the time, I just didn’t have an opportunity to really showcase it. It wasn’t until my family moved to the US in 2012 and I started to write my own music, perform in musicals and sing with a jazz band, that I was able to combine all of the musical skills I’ve acquired throughout the years. After I had enough songs written, I decided to put together a Kickstarter campaign for my EP and raised $20,000 to record it. I premiered it back in Europe at festivals and won Best New Artist in Slovenia in 2016. When I came back to the US, I decided to put together a full album NOMAD that came out in May along with opening my own online store that connects music and fashion. 

What has been your biggest hurdle as a musical artist?
I had a fairly unusual obstacle. When my family moved here, we found out that the Visa we were here on didn’t allow me or my brother to work in the US. At first, I was completely devastated because one of the main reasons we moved was to provide new opportunities for me and my brother and to help us pursue our dreams. However, I decided I wouldn’t let this dictate my music career so I started looking for other opportunities to grow, learn, and create. That’s how I decided on my Kickstarter and why I released my EP in Europe. I was able to pursue experiences that I otherwise probably wouldn’t had it not been for this obstacle. It allowed me to find my voice as an artist, so now that I have my Green Card, I can work in the music industry on my own terms and present myself the way I want to. 

I love “How to Be Cool.”  It has such a great beat, and the video uses some really interesting gestures (which of course caught my eye as a dancer!).  Can you tell me the back story of this song?  What inspired you? 
Thank you so much – that means a lot!! All credits for the dance moves go to one of my best friend from high school, Sophie, who is currently at Point Park University studying musical theatre :) 

It was one of the first songs that was complete for the album, both its writing and production. With it, I’m really defining the theme and sonics for the rest of the tracks. It was very much a summary of my experience as a teenager in the 21st century – constantly bombarded with idealization of reckless partying that is branded as “cool”. How to Be Cool is rebelling against those standards and asking whether such behavior is really worth it in the long run. That question is then further resolved and answered throughout the album. 

Before filming the video, Sophie and I had a long FaceTime session where we talked about the meaning of the lyrics and how we can match those up with the movements – she came back with what she called “Lorde meets Vogue” and it was absolutely perfect!

Have you had any interesting or surprising responses to this song?  
I think the responses themselves were very surprising when the album had just come out. In my head, the song was never truly a single – I always viewed it as experimentation with my sound. The fact that people were jamming out and singing along to it was both extremely surprising and gratifying. If anything, it gave me confirmation and motivation to continue to explore and pursue interesting ways to spice up pop music :)

I just have a few more things that make me curious…

What do you wish you knew when you were younger?  
That no moment or decision in life are final. When you’re younger, you get so caught up in and overwhelmed by small problems, viewing them as the single denominator of your future (and the rest of your life) :). As I grow older and experience more, I see that no one decision carries that much weight and that everything has potential of being solved. This, however, is of course no excuse to go around doing dumb things :)

What’s the best piece of musical/career advice you’ve ever gotten?  
This was initially counterintuitive to me but, that the more personal your writing is, the more people will be able to relate to it.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?  
Reading Sci-Fi/horror/crime books (I love Stephen King and Agatha Christie) and gummy candy! I’m like a little kid in that regard, I always have some candy before doing a show and it makes me hyper like nothing else :)

What quality do you really cherish about yourself?  
Probably my determination and stubbornness. These are both very tricky though – only if used properly, they can be greatly beneficial, and I’m constantly learning where that balance lies. 

What’s something most people don’t know about you (that’s maybe a little funny or weird)?   
I often start singing random lyrics and making up songs or musicals about whatever I’m doing at the time on the spot. I could be vacuuming the floor and you’d walk on me singing and dancing around with the vacuum cleaner!

ABOUT ANJA KOTAR
At only age five, Anja Kotar entered the music world by embarking on what would become 12 years of training in classical piano. After her first taste of the arts, Anja couldn’t get enough and began delving into jazz dance, ballet and acting. She soon became an unstoppable force in her home country of Slovenia, going on to perform at the Slovenian Philharmonic and National Opera House, win the World Show Dance Championship with her dance team, and act in the critically-acclaimed blockbuster film, Going Our Way. Anja continued to build on this momentum after moving to San Jose, California in 2012 where she became heavily involved in musical theater and jazz. While still in high school, she earned a Voice Certificate from Berklee College of Music and, upon graduating, attended the prestigious Broadway Artist Alliance in New York City. At 17, she completed her widely successful $20,000 Kickstarter project to fund the creation of her first EP.

 After the release of her EP, Anja was invited to perform at the Slovenian Song Festival (DSZG), the longest running festival and most viewed show in the country which features the country’s top talent. After performing her original “Čas je zdaj” (The Time Is Now) and “Too Cool” live, Anja was nominated by RTV for Best Performance, Best Song, and Best New Artist, walking away with 2016’s Best New Artist. She then was nominated for Best Pop Song at the 2016 American Songwriting Awards and was featured on the Slovenian X-Factor.

 Currently, Anja is working to complete her Bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music nearly two years early, promoting her brand new full-length album, NOMAD (produced by three–time Grammy nominated producer, Pascal Guyon), and launching her online store, Too Cool, which connects music and fashion.

Samara Goldberg was a former challenger, now a challenge partner!

My connection with Samara actually began with her mother, believe it or not!  Arden Greenspan is a well-known and deeply respected psychologist who partnered with and advised us a few times over the years.  Samara came to BoCo as a challenge participant, and she became one of our most active and hard-core clients.  Her energy is so incredibly positive, and I was excited to learn about her life coaching business since she is also such a great listener and thoughtful advisor.

I am excited to announce that Samara has joined us as one of our challenge partners. (She is offering each of our challengers a free coaching session!)  In this interview, I have asked her to describe her experiences in previous challenges and to tell you a little bit about herself and her coaching philosophy.

Enjoy — and see you (and Samara!) in the challenge!

~ Mahri

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Name: Samara Goldberg

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Manhattan, NY but I grew up in a smaller town called New City. I was lucky enough to come into the city many weekends as a child! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself! What do you do, and why did you choose this field?

I have many passions in life including musical theatre performance, teaching children, writing and traveling the world. These four things, along with my positive outlook on life led me to my career as a Life Coach. I was lucky enough to study in the Professional Coaching Program at New York University where I learned all about transformational coaching for sustainable change. My biggest passion involves connecting with people and guiding them to live at their highest potentials. I chose this field because it seamlessly fit into my life as a natural optimist and student of life. I am constantly learning, questioning and appreciating what each day has to offer. My personal belief is that everything in life is either a lesson or a blessing. The decisions and choices we make are all a part of the journey and lead us to our next beautiful beginning. 

You have done our challenges!! Which ones did you do, and what kind of results did you see?

Yes!!! I am a big fan and advocate for Body Conceptions and the challenges just bring that to a whole new level. My first experience at BoCo last summer was a challenge and it really motivated and inspired me. I made new friends and created bonds with the instructors who genuinely cared about my journey during and after the challenge. I have done two challenges and I am so excited to be a part of this summer challenge, as well! My confidence radiates and I always see such amazing physical results! 

What did you like about our challenges?

I mentioned this above, but my favorite part about these challenges are the instructors who really have your back. I feel so supported in every aspect by Mahri and her truly motivating and positive instructors. Everybody is so kind and there is a healthy competition amongst supportive and like-minded women. We all want the best for each other and we are all winners, even though there is always one winner who we are ALL impressed by! This will be my third challenge and I know I will be a part of many, many more as a challenger and as a partner! 

Getting through a challenge can definitely be difficult, especially half-way through. Did you go through any of that? And how did you handle your own obstacles?

Its funny you mention the difficulties considering everything I wrote above. You would never even know that any part of this is actually hard!! Well, physically this is absolutely an unbelievable transformation, and it does take a ton of effort and hard work! As hard as it can be, I’ve realized that the more committed I am to mindful eating and continuing the BoCo classes, the stronger and more toned I become. The classes become second nature and my healthy habits in life become a natural part of who I am and who I want to be. 

What would you tell people who might want to try one of our challenges but who might be scared to go for it?

Any person of any shape, size or gender is capable of doing this challenge. It isn’t easy, but you do become stronger and more confident throughout the process. If you like to dance or move, enjoy being around uplifting people and want to reminisce your partying days yet still get an amazing workout, DO THIS!  You sweat so much but have the most fun throughout the entire workout! 

What is your approach to life coaching? Do you have a philosophy you follow? What do you usually hope to accomplish with your coaching clients?

StayCurious with Samara is my personal life coaching business based in New York City. Coaching is a collaborative relationship between the coach and the client where the focus is to accelerate the positive change desired by the client. My hope is that my clients are people who are curious enough to question their own lives. My philosophy is that if you are motivated, solutions focussed and take your experiences in life and see them as growing and learning opportunities, success personally and professionally will naturally happen. 

Life Coaching is an evidence based practice involving neuroscience and the brain. Our thoughts are contained and expressed in patterns of connections called maps. The brain memorizes or hardwires everything we think and do repeatedly. Through coaching and positive reinforcement, the brain can create new maps that focus on the positive aspects of life. This is what I hope to accomplish with my clients; helping them to see where they can change their negative thoughts into positive ones and create a new mindset and way of viewing the world around them. 

How can people contact you if they want to try your coaching?

Please feel free to contact me for a free consultation at and check out my website for more information: www.staycuriouswithsamara.org 

Photos by KMO Studio

 

Kathleen O'Neill Photography

Meet Our #BoCoBesties Challenge Winner, Melanie!

Photos by Kathleen O’Neill

Intro by Mahri Relin

As we headed into our Valentine’s Challenge this time around, we decided to focus on friendship. We had seen groups of friend take our challenges together – and we also saw challengers meet each other and become friends during our challenges – but we had never incorporated friendship as the primary theme. We knew it would be a great thing to try, but we never imagined it would bring such great results.

Melanie came to Body Conceptions through her friend and former challenge winner, C. Lo. We saw right away that she poured herself into our classes and took the challenge very seriously. She also had such a lovely energy and fit really beautifully into the rhythm of our classes. In general, our results with the challenge this time around were stunning. For the second time in a row, we saw results across challengers that far surpassed previous challenges, and we saw that friends taking the challenge really motivated each other. Above everyone, however, Melanie achieved the best results by far!

Get to know Melanie below. She’s a superstar student pursuing her PhD in Psychology and Law. And she’s also the nicest person. Hopefully you’ll see her the next time you come to a BoCo class. And feel free to invite your own friends to come to BoCo classes with you. It (obviously) makes such a difference!!

~ Mahri

Kathleen O'Neill Photography

Tell us about yourself! 

 

I’m 29 and originally from the Boston area. I moved to NYC 10 years ago to go to college at Fordham, and (to my surprise) I never left!

 

Describe your career and how you originally got into the industry! 

 

I’m currently in my third year of a Ph.D. program in Psychology and Law at CUNY, where I do research on how implicit biases affect jury decision-making and police interrogations. I studied psychology as an undergraduate with the plan of pursuing a career in early childhood development, but then I took a Psych & Law class during my senior year and was hooked! It’s really gratifying to know that my work has the potential to effect real change.

Body Conceptions Challenge Winner

How did you find out about Body Conceptions’ challenge? 

 

My friend C. Lo was a challenge winner last summer, and after hearing so many great things about BoCo from her and her friends, I decided I had to try it for myself!

 

What kept you motivated throughout the 6 weeks?

 

The people! All the instructors are so motivating and do a great job creating a nonjudgmental environment. I always felt comfortable taking breaks if I needed to, and never felt like I was competing with anyone else. Julia (my team leader) and my challenge teammates were awesome too – everyone was always so enthusiastic and supportive.

How did it feel when you found out you won?

 

Excited, and surprised! I honestly couldn’t believe when I heard how much I lost. It’s easy not to notice gradual changes – for most of the challenge I felt like nothing was changing, and then suddenly I had lost over 20 inches!

Headshot NYC

What are you going to do now that the challenge is over? 

 

I definitely want to keep going to BoCo classes regularly. As a busy student, it’s easy to develop bad habits, like ordering take out and skipping workouts. This challenge has reminded me how important it is to invest in my health. Not only does my body feel stronger, but I’m also sleeping better and have more energy.

 

What do you do for fun when you’re not working or working out? 

 

I love to eat! My favorite thing about NYC is that there are always new and exciting restaurants to try. I also love traveling and take trips whenever I can – my next destination is Hawaii!

 

How does BoCo compare to other workouts you’ve tried? What makes it special? 

 

I love that the workout targets every part of your body and include both cardio and strength training – you really get everything from one class. The instructors are also great at being consistent while still incorporating new and fun exercises into the classes. A lot of exercises are repeated from class to class and all the instructors have signature moves, so I could get comfortable with the exercises and gauge my improvement over time. At the same time, there’s enough variation to keep it fun!

 Kathleen O'Neill Photo

What advice do you have for future challengers to succeed? 

 

Plan ahead and commit to classes! I know from experience that it’s so easy to come up with excuses not to exercises (drinks with friends always sounds like more fun!). At the beginning of the challenge, I went through my calendar and penciled in all the classes I wanted to take over the six weeks. Sometimes things would come up and I would have to rearrange my schedule, but having committed to it beforehand helped me stay on track and go to at least four classes a week.