July 8, 2011

elephant interviews: Seane Corn. What’s it like being a Celebriyogi?


Seane Corn has channeled the celebrity status characterized by top-selling yoga DVDs, Yoga Journal covers and numerous modeling gigs to support the work of Off The Mat and Into The World, an activist organization she co-founded.

In this interview leading up to Wanderlust, Vermont, we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of being a celebriyogi as well as what it means to skillfully adopt celebrity status as a yoga in itself.


Did you intend to become a celebrity?

Especially back in the mid-90’s, when I started teaching, its not like you sign up to be a celebrity yoga teacher. I wanted to just pay my rent and I remember saying to my dad when I wanted to teach yoga: “I’ll never make any money at this, but I’ll live every single day of my life happy.”

What are the challenges of being a celebrity?

When I started getting successful, that was a weird thing for me. I felt the pressure of it.  I didn’t have the skills at the time to be able to deflect the projection. A lot of my own insecurities came up.  People would get hurt when I didn’t meet their expectations and judgments.

Sometimes I feel misunderstood. I get metaphorical eggs thrown at me and I have to deal with blogs and people thinking they know my motivation and presuming what my intentions are.

How do you deal with the challenges of celebrity?

I’ve got a contract between me and Spirit and my job is to be this voice, to stay in integrity, to do my own work, to deal with stuff as it comes up, not to buy my hype, but also be grateful and celebrate my opportunities and as long as I keep that contract between me and God clean, then I’m really just happy and grateful for whatever is brought my way.

I realized that being a celebrity is a yoga in and of itself, and the challenge was going to be my attachment to any of it.  When I realized that my karma was going to be as a voice for yoga, I had to address parts of me that liked the attention, the parts of me that began to define myself by that attention, as worthy or lovable.

Within any kind of celebrity, there can be a responsibility and I chose to accept that responsibility to use the platform as well as I possibility could.

What keeps you from believing your own hype?

The more spiritual information I get, the better I am at conning myself using really good spiritual language, and I don’t even realize that until I have someone who is neutral, whose only interest is helping me to grow, who can reflect back to me the places where I might not be in full spiritual integrity.

Believing my hype is also just not the way I was raised.  I come from a strong hard-working East Coast family.  If I ever bought my own hype, someone in my family would smack me. Those times when I start to buy my own hype, I immediately start to feel that cosmic smack in the head.

What are the benefits of being a celebrity?

I’m grateful for all the perks that it has provided my life – that I don’t have to worry about paying my rent, that I get to create in a way that most people don’t.  I get to wake up in the morning and think “What do I want to do for the world and how can I rally my community around making that happen?”

If having to deal with the projection of celebrity means that I get a broader reach, then I’m ok with it.  One thing I hold in my heart is that I’ve really rallied the resources I have, including other teachers and the community to drive a vision that’s way bigger than me.  I recognize that I am a part of this vision so that’s why I say that I’m happy that I get to be in any way be in the spotlight. OTM in a few years has raised over $2 million.  And we’ve made great changes on a very practical level, both over seas and within the United States, and on a spiritual level, amongst a lot of people who are doing yoga, who don’t care if they can get their legs behind their head- they just want to go out in the world and make a difference.

There are 20 million people in the U.S. that are practicing yoga.  It is a community that is educated, that pay their taxes and that vote.  I’ve always dreamed what would happen if we could align ourselves to focus on one issue over another and really rally our resources

Does your celebrity status help finance your activism?

Engage Network, our parent organization, gives us seed money every year and we get some private funding from generous people who like what we do, but most of our funding comes from cause-related marketing.  Any time you see me in an ad, the money doesn’t go to me.  It goes to OTM and that is what pays for the administration and our bills. It’s the reason companies want to put their pants on me.  That’s fine as long as the money we raise from those pants goes to something that’s much more important than my butt.

Reflecting on the recent Wanderlust Festival, Chelsea Roff wondered whether the various yoga schools present resembled different high school cliques.  If that is the case, maybe Seane Corn is that really popular cheerleader who is also super-nice.  I certainly enjoyed my class with her and OTM at the event.

Image from Wanderlust Blog.

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