Their Story Matters: Onika Shabazz – She.Is.Beautiful & Heart Ping Life

Meet Onika, founder of Heat Athletic Clothing.

Onika: I am the best daughter/sister/auntie/partner/friend in the world. I am an athlete, social worker and entrepreneur. I love to bake – I started baking when I was 14 years old – it is something I teach and share with my nieces and nephews – I make a killer vegan chocolate cupcake.

SIB: What inspired you to start Heat Athletic?

ONIKA: Defying the narrative that athletic bodies could not be big bodies was a great motivator for me to start Heat Athletic. I am constantly inspired by the countless women I know who are strong, fit, healthy, have great stamina and endurance who have bodies bigger than “normal”. We show and prove that athletic ability is not defined by size, yet it is still difficult to find athletic clothing above size 10 that’s well made, stylish, and performs well – enter Heat Athletic. Heat Athletic is my way of showing love and support to women who have felt ignored by the athletic clothing industry, and have been left out of the conversation around sports/athletics in general.

SIB: We love your can-do-anything attitude. You launched this business in the beginning of 2020. There are obvious challenges due to the pandemic. What inspired you to keep going?

ONIKA: I was new to the design world when I decided to start Heat Athletic. I spent a few years learning about the fashion industry before launching the company. I had big plans for 2020. I had a prelaunch party in 2019 and was working on building buzz and excitement for my new year launch. When the pandemic started, and I realized things were not going to go as planned, I drew from all of my life experiences where things didn’t go as planned, but worked out nonetheless (oftentimes better than the original plan). These moments taught me to be patient, grateful and optimistic – realistic, but optimistic. I knew I had a great product. I knew the need was there. And, I had put in way too much time & effort to be deterred.

SIB: You currently sell 3 items. Do you plan to add more to the collection?

ONIKA: This is just the beginning – a capsule collection. I wanted to start with a few pieces I consider staples, items you can build your workout wardrobe around. I wanted to be able to source high quality fabrics, and make sure the manufacturing of the items was impeccable. To do so, I needed to start small. My goal is for Heat Athletic to work in partnership with our community. I want feedback. I want to know what workout items you wish you had, but could never find. I don’t want to make lots of clothes for the sake of trying to sell you something. I want to create items that are useful, meaningful and thoughtful. And yes, I am already in the process of creating new items.

SIB: What does being active mean to you?

ONIKA: There are so many things that you can do to be active, and so many benefits to various activities. I acknowledge and am grateful for all of the ways I can use my body.

From a purely athletic standpoint, being active for me means challenging my body and mind. I always want to see what I’m capable of – sometimes I’m awesome on the first try, sometimes I need lots of practice just to get the basics down. My goal is not to see how good I am, it’s to try my best.

From a lifestyle perspective, being active is a way for me to quiet my mind, relieve stress, and have fun.

We can’t wait to meet Onika in-person at on March 19th 2022 in Santa Cruz. She will be hosting a Heat Athletic booth in out post-race festival. Find her and say hi!

Find Heath Athletic’s Online shop here: