The Journey to Pilates Style – Interview with Bambi and Matthew Abernathy

Tell us about your professional background, prior to Pilates Style.

Bambi: Growing up, my parents published newspapers for a few professional football teams. My brother and sister and I would work at the office during the summer, and I always looked forward to it. I joined the family business, McMillen Communications, which had diversified and expanded to subscription fulfillment and more, right out of college. The publishing business is in my blood, and it’s a job that I have always loved—it’s never boring.

Matthew: I have always been involved in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Shortly after college, my father and I opened a wholesale food company, delivering portion steaks and fine meats to hotels, restaurants and other establishments. After a 10-year run, I decided to leave the company and pursue a culinary degree. I spent the next several years working in kitchens around Houston. With the birth of my two children, I decided to go back into my first love, sales and marketing.

How did you two meet? Was it love at first sight?

Bambi: Well, that’s a funny story. We met a mutual friend’s party, and of course, I introduced myself and extended my hand. And Matthew said, “Bambi can’t be your real name, I’ll just call you Brandi.” So I said, “I’ll just call you Jackass”—and the rest is history.

Matthew: I was sold at Jackass!

How soon after you tied the knot did Matthew decide to join the ranks of McMillen Communications? Do you like working together?

Matthew: I was actually employed in the business prior to marriage and it evolved from there. We love working together. Bambi works in the office and I work from home, it’s perfect!

When did the company acquire Pilates Style? When and why did you branch out and become McAby Media?

Matthew: We acquired Pilates Style and became McAby Media in November 2010. The name McAby is derived from a combination of the McMillen name and the Abernathy name. We have even named our three Boston Terriers after the company. Mac is our oldest, and then we had our first girl, Abby. Lastly, since we couldn’t figure out a good name that sounded like media, we decided to name our baby girl, Elsie, which is derived from the LLC in the company name. Cute, huh?

Bambi: We knew it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. We actually attended our first PMA conference before we even had a signed agreement. We also bought a second magazine, Chile Pepper, at the same time. We have to keep up our Pilates practice with all the cooking and recipe development we do!

Before owning a Pilates magazine, did you know much about Pilates?

Matthew: Being a marketing and sales guy, I appreciated the marketing of Mari Winsor and her infomercials. I truly thought that Pilates was Winsor Pilates, and that Mari had invented a new modality of fitness. So, no…I knew nothing about the Pilates community prior to our introduction in 2010.


Was there a moment that you said to yourself, I’m ready to start to a regular practice?

Bambi: Yep, we had to start “walking the walk.” I have always felt very confident and comfortable in the publishing business. I knew the ins and outs, and rarely felt stumped or out of place, but our first introduction to the Pilates community was, well, let’s just say it was not as cut and dry. In the beginning, I dabbled a bit and tried a few classes, but then we found the right teacher and it just clicked. Now I can truly call myself a Pilates enthusiast. I’ve even contemplated getting a mat certification, but work is already so hectic that I just can’t find the time now. Maybe one day!

What was your first Pilates session like? How has your personal practice evolved?

Matthew: My first session was pretty clumsy and uncoordinated. My teacher, Wendy Ellis, really took the time to listen to my issues, and then she worked with me on easing my sciatica and some other arthritic issues that I have. I will always be grateful to Wendy for helping me discover things about my body and the smaller muscles that I didn’t even know I had. Especially the piriformis muscle…wow.

What inspires you most about the Pilates community?

Bambi: The people!

Matthew: The camaraderie that we have built with so many in the community, and the lifelong friendships that I know will exist for many years to come.

What’s the next step for Pilates Style?

Bambi: We know the way that people get their information is changing, and we are adapting. In addition to the print edition, we have our the app, which provides instant access. We have also recently upgraded and did a full redesign of our website. As a publishing professional, I know that “content is king,” so we are adding more unique content to our site just about every day. I think it would also be pretty fun to do a PS book—we’ve even tossed around the idea of a cookbook. And since we have great designers on staff, hopefully we’ll be offering more merchandise at the Pilates Style Shop in the future.

Matthew: What she said…

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