Remembering Mari
Pilates Style|July - August 2020
She was known to millions as the Pilates instructor to the stars, but to her friends, Mari Winsor was not only an inspired teacher, but a sister, a force of nature and “a celebrator of life who invited everyone to the party.”
Anne Marie O'Connor

THE HUMAN DYNAMO KNOWN AS MARI WINSOR WAS BORN IN MARSHAL, MICHIGAN IN 1950. A passion for movement led her to study modern dance at Michigan State University. After graduation, she headed to New York after she was awarded a scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center.

During her long career as a professional dancer, she appeared in music videos for Michael Jackson and Huey Lewis, among others, and was also a successful choreographer and teacher. After being introduced to Pilates by Sarita Allen, her close friend whom she’d met while at Alvin Ailey, she studied with Romana Kryzanowska, That launched a new career, one that enabled her to transform millions of lives

Stars, including Emma Stone, Drew Barrymore, Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Maria Shriver, Sharon Stone and Miley Cyrus, flocked to her three Los Angeles-area studios. She introduced Pilates to a much wider audience through her videos, which sold more than 50 million units, her infomericals and books.

But it was after she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), in 2013 that Winsor’s true strength was revealed. She took on a new role as an extraordinary activist and advocate to raise awareness and money to find a cure for the disease; she also taught Pilates to other ALS patients.

Mari Winsor died on April 28 of complications from ALS. She was 70.

Here, some of her closest friends share their favorite memories of her.

SARITA ALLEN

dancer, choreographer, master Pilates teacher and Alvin Ailey ambassador

Mari Winsor was my best friend for 45 years. We both had an all-consuming passion for dance. The universe brought us together at the Alvin Ailey School in New York City where we became instant soul sisters. After a day of grand jetés and working on our pirouettes in ballet class; isolating our rib cage, pelvis and every known body part in jazz class; doing flat backs and laterals in Horton and then contractions in the Graham Technique, we hobbled back home to our enchanting (at least we thought so) sixth-floor walk-up overlooking the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge with the bathtub in the kitchen and the loo down the hall. We were happy as clams and we would share all of our deepest secrets well into the night. We continued to share our most private thoughts throughout our lives.

Our second passion was fashion, and NYC inspired us and allowed us to express ourselves freely. We loved playing “Twinsies” and one day our curiosity led us to the Army-Navy Surplus Store, where we purchased matching flights suits. You couldn’t tell us we weren’t the most fashionable kids on the planet.

Mari was my biggest cheerleader through thick and thin. She supported me through some of the most challenging times of my life, and for that I shall be forever grateful. Teaching Pilates was her passion and she reveled in improving the lives of others. I once asked her what was the secret to her success, and she answered “I make it fun…and I always want them to leave feeling better than when they came in.” As she prospered in life and her fortune and influence increased, I used to joke with her about receiving a finder’s fee since I was the one who introduced her to Pilates.

For many years, she and I taught at the Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Summer Intensive Program and she loved sharing her invaluable tools with the future stars of the ballet world.

Her capacity to multitask was legendary; at one point, she was running three studios, promoting her videos on television, teaching at Pilates conferences, teaching her A-list clients, shopping at Barneys and still making time for her friends and family.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM PILATES STYLEView All

Finding New Momentum

Overcoming obstacles caused by the pandemic, the virtual version of this popular festival still achieved its goals.

3 mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

Carola Trier's Extraordinary Journey

In his authoritative biography of the first woman to open a studio, Reiner Grootenhuis delved into her personal papers to tell the harrowing story of her time in a prison camp during World War II.

10+ mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

Racism in the Pilates Industry

Incidents of police brutality and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests have shed a bright light on systemic racism in the U.S., including in the Pilates industry. Here, Black instructors share their experiences.

10 mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

For Self-defense

Moves of the Month

8 mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

Comfort Food Made Healthy

This fall, cozy up to tantalizing comfort food that’s also healthy. A new cookbook from Kristin Cavallari shows you how.

9 mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

Pilates Postcard

A Pilates teacher shares how the method is making waves abroad.

2 mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

The Ultimate Gift

One year ago, Kahley Schiller’s life was completely upended by an extreme health crisis. But thanks to her 20-year Pilates practice, the 40-year-old was able to recover quickly.

9 mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

Revelations

For Sarita Allen, a star of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and a protégée of Kathleen Stanford Grant, Pilates was key to her decades-long career.

10+ mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

Meaning WITHIN THE Movement

The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine help you go deeper into your practice, promising plenty of play along the way.

10+ mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020

PILATES IN THE HOOD

Though she’s trained many top stars, Kim Carruthers says she’s most proud of her work as the founder and director of a nonprofit bringing the method to underserved communities.

3 mins read
Pilates Style
September - October 2020
RELATED STORIES

DIVER DOWN

5 GREAT AMERICAN SNORKELING SPOTS

6 mins read
American Outdoor Guide
May 2022

Air Drying Your Hair

Letting your hair dry naturally always sounds like a good idea...until it ends up looking flat and frizzy. We promise there is a secret to getting it right.

2 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
June/July 2022

MARILYN MONROE'S TELLS ALL

Legendary beauty's body was total wreck

3 mins read
Globe
May 23, 2022

Carbone Copy

The Our Lady of Rocco clothing line offers throwback appeal.

5 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2022

Apocalypse Now

This season, designers answered the question, What happens when maximalism meets Mad Max?

2 mins read
ELLE
May 2022

Four Must-See Crime Dramas

ANNIKA | UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN | SHINING GIRLS | SIGNORA VOLPE

1 min read
TV Guide Magazine
April 25 - May 08, 2022

'Fasting and Using Food as My Medicine Changed My Life'

For Marilyn Beuster, what started as a quest to lose weight has resulted in her not only losing 60 kg but also using the knowledge she gained to start a business and a line of keto foods.

6 mins read
Lose It!
Volume 42

PARIS When It SIZZLES

The lights are BACK ON, and the French capital shines BRIGHTER than EVER, with a revived ARTS and CULINARY scene

2 mins read
Harper's BAZAAR - US
May 2022

The Great Makeup Update

A growing audience-on Gen Z's beloved TikTok, of all places-is demanding that makeup be more age-inclusive

4 mins read
Harper's BAZAAR - US
May 2022

Artist Marilyn Minter and Creative Polymath Michèle Lamy on Sex, Aging, and the Power of Nonconformity

Through their respective creative practices, artist Marilyn Minter and designer, performer, and curator Michèle Lamy have each challenged and redefined traditional notions of beauty.

7 mins read
Harper's BAZAAR - US
May 2022