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Inside the world of professional social media influencers: Stephanie Zitzer

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Social media influencers are increasingly changing the media landscape by virtue of their popularity, with many having the power to affect purchasing among their many followers. Among the Jewish social media influencers with substantial audiences are five St. Louisans, three of whom still call the city home. Today, meet one of the five, Stephanie Zitzer, founder of Stephz Cardio dance (stephzcardiodance.com), who has 30,000 followers on Facebook.


Stephanie Zitzer

Founder of StephZ Cardio Dance (stephzcardiodance.com)

30,000 followers on Facebook

Stephanie Zitzer was shopping at Whole Foods in St. Louis recently when a worker stopped her. She was wearing a face mask but was still recognizable.

“The worker came up to me said, ‘Are you StephZ? I could just tell it was you. You’re amazing!’ ” Zitzer said.

Such is the life of a cardio dance internet sensation. Tune in to Stephanie Zitzer’s YouTube channel or Instagram feed and you may get the urge to start dancing. Her StephZ Cardio Dance site provides thousands of her followers an opportunity to shimmy and shake off pounds.

“It’s tremendously satisfying,” said Zitzer, 40. “I hear from people that are so grateful that I started this, including one man who lost 90 pounds. It’s hugely rewarding. It’s a huge part of what I do. It’s definitely not just about money. I’m helping them physically, mentally and making them happy. I mean, you can’t not be happy when you dance, right?”

Zitzer started out in cardio dance as a personal goal to lose weight. It was 2003, and she had just moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis with her 2-year-old son. Zitzer was trying to shed stubborn baby weight.

“I was about 50 pounds overweight, and I knew I needed to make a change,” she said. “I went to a Zumba class, and I thought it was fun, and people started telling me, ‘You’re such a good dancer,’ and they asked if I wanted a job.”

Zitzer had no experience teaching but took it on. Eventually she found Zumba boring, so she struck out on her own. She established her own brand and persona – enter StephZ – and it quickly caught fire. Her classes attracted a large following when she caught another big break. A national exercise guru known as the Fitness Marshall saw her YouTube videos and asked her to open for him at a personal appearance.

That led to charity cardio dance events where Zitzer drew attention and contributions to a cause near and dear to her known as Athletes for Animals. The organization promotes responsible pet ownership and pet adoption. It was founded by Zitzer’s neighbor and friend, former Blues captain David Backes.

While her primary job is teaching cardio dance at Lifetime Fitness in Frontenac, Zitzer finds herself serving as self-promoter and online influencer. Her profile generates requests from brands that want to associate with her to enhance their image and sell products.

“Influencers really have a big draw over the public,” she said. “I stay true to what I believe in, and I’ve turned down many offers because it wasn’t for me even though there’s money involved. I only promote what I truly believe in and what I truly love.”