In 2001, a 14-year-old girl from San Diego, had a freak cheerleading accident. She was told she would never be able to walk again. Two years later, she ranked 23rd worldwide in the CrossFit Games. A couple of years after that she founded a business, created an app and has a combined social media presence of more than 15M followers.
This is the story of Demi Bagby.
Demi’s early life
Demi was born on January 10th, 2001 in San Diego, California. She grew up an active kid, and was constantly trying her hand at different sports-from track and field to soccer.
Her first love though was cheerleading.
At age 12, she decided to join a competitive cheerleading squad with her friends. There was only one problem, she had no experience. The squad required her to know advanced moves before they allowed her to join their ranks. Demi didn’t want to join a gym to learn the moves because everyone there seemed to know what they were doing. She felt she would be an imposter among them. So she did the next best thing and she started training at home. By putting cushions in her living room and training obsessively, her time in her dojo would prove fruitful.
From backflips, back walkovers to handsprings-Demi learnt it all. Within a few months, she did more than find a place in the squad. She had progressed to the highest level in it. It was a rate of improvement even her coaches had never seen before. They prophesied big things for her future.
But life had different plans.
One life-changing event
One day in early 2014, to cap off an intense practice session, Demi decided to work on a few extra basket tosses. In the middle of one toss, however, the unthinkable happened.
She was thrown into the air and was dropped on her way down.
The diagnosis was bleak as she had injured the upper part of her spinal cord which controlled movement in her legs. Several doctors told her she might spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. For a person who had been training for 9 hours a day, the diagnosis crushed her. From doing complex cheerleading motions at her gym, now she could barely sneeze without feeling pain. It’s the kind of tragedy that could have forever tainted the story of someone’s life.
But not Demi.
Healing and moving forward
While Demi spent her time in recovery learning the piano, she also started reading up about athletes and nutrition. One day she stumbled across a video of someone doing CrossFit and calisthenics. She was amazed by the movements of the athletes and immediately made a promise to herself. If ever she was able to walk again, she said to herself, she would live her life to her fullest potential. Not only that, but she would also inspire other people while she was at it.
So started a hard and slow process of healing.
It took her three months to simply get out of bed. A few months after that, she began slow-walking. By late 2015, to the wonder of her doctors, she had begun jogging. One year after her injury, Demi had recovered fully.
So did she go back to her old life as a student and cheerleader?
Of course not. There were promises to be kept and challenge debts to be paid. She joined a CrossFit gym. Shortly after, she entered herself into the teen competition at the CrossFit Open where she placed 517th in the United States. The year after that, she entered again and this time, she placed 23rd in the world.
She achieved all this in a mere two years after being told she would never walk again.
Demi had felt the high of conquering that which others deemed impossible. She moved on to other challenges:- Skating, Surfing, SkyDiving, Ninja Training and Parkour.
She found her skills from CrossFit transferred over and she quickly had a handle on these skills as well. Demi was learning new skills and pushing her boundaries. She felt she was making good on one-half of the promise she had made to herself 2 years ago. She then realized the second part of that promise – to inspire the world still remained unfulfilled.
Demi felt her story combined with her love for fitness could be motivational jet fuel. It was time to put herself out there. To fit-inspirate the world on Social Media.
But Demi is not one for half measures.
She knew that a career in social media and fitness would require a lot of her time and energy. So at 15, she walked up to her parents and asked to drop out of school. She knew homeschooling would give her more time to follow her passions. Most of her friends and family did not understand her decision as a career in content creation was not as mainstream then as it is now. Even her parents were not completely convinced. But seeing her determination, they eventually agreed.
Her Social media rise
In 2017, she began posting consistently on Instagram. YouTube would soon follow. She posted content about her journey, workout routines and daily fitness challenges. Her content immediately started to make waves albeit small at first but larger every day. As the followers started piling up on Instagram, so did opportunities. She started collaborating with other prominent fitness YouTubers.
She started collaborating with some big names like Chris Heria in Miami and she was featured in a Thenx video as the world’s toughest teen. She also shared her workouts with Influencer Sommer Ray and trained with the HypeHouse and with bodybuilder Steve Cook. Demi also started vlogging her everyday life around this time.
She hit the 1 million mark on Instagram in August 2018 and around that time she also began posting regularly on TikTok. She would blow up there as well, amassing close to 13 million fans over 3 years.
Why did she blow up the way she did?
Demi believes that apart from the usual hallmarks like consistency and content quality, she believes her genuine passion for exercise was another reason she succeeded. She recommends only making content about whatever gets you excited.
Where is she now?
Today, Demi has funnelled her social media success into other arenas. She launched Repwax, an alternative to gym chalk in 2020. In the same year she also launched the DemiBagby Fit, a home fitness workout app. She has an estimated net worth of over half a million dollars.
And she just turned 20, this year.
So what lies in the future for this teenage creator?
We don’t know but we will promise you this. There will be plenty of kicking ass (of challenges) and taking names (of new fans)!
What’s Demi been upto lately?
In the last few months, Demi has been upto her usual fitness challenges with some new racing challenges thrown in. She’s also been nominated for a Streamy in the Health and Wellness Category(2020).