Family & Fitness

Kameelah Harris engineers new career through fitness

By KD Reep

Photo by Sara Reeves

Photo by Sara Reeves

By KD Reep

The road to success is not a straight line, and for Kameelah Harris, that road began
in chemical engineering and arrived at a gym.

A mother of two with one on the way, Kameelah enjoyed her career as a chemical
engineer, but it didn’t feed her passion. “I loved the opportunity of working and traveling as a chemical engineer, but one day I realized it didn’t fill me with passion or purpose,” she says. “Improving processes and production output had its amazing rewards, but nothing as fulfilling as seeing someone’s life change. My part-time personal training sessions helped me realize life
is more than a job; it’s about making a difference. The personal gratification I get from
teaching someone how to improve their health and level of fitness is over the top.”

What ultimately confirmed Kameelah’s decision to become a fitness professional
was a profound message from her pastor one Sunday morning. “He preached a sermon titled
“Don’t Wait for it to Make Sense” from John 2:1-10, meaning that sometimes you have to obey the Lord before you have all the details; so I took a leap of faith,” she says. “While things didn’t instantly happen, all of the right people and situations came into my life at the right time to make all of my dreams come true.”

Today, Kameelah owns and operates WOW Fitness in southwest Little Rock. What makes
her facility different from others is the focus on education, motivation and individual coaching to improve a person’s overall lifestyle. “WOW stands for War on Weight, and I have expanded that philosophy from the fitness center to a nonprofit foundation,” she says. “The WOW Foundation began in 2013 to create partnerships with schools and other nonprofits to provide health and fitness activities for the community.”

While it is clear that Kameelah is committed to her clients and community and
helping them achieve overall health, she takes issue with people who view fitness as
a trend. “The fitness industry is almost like a fad to many people,” she says. “Most are
not really about changing and improving their quality of life. The peak times in the
fitness industry are the first of the year when people make New Year’s resolutions
and in the spring as most people are preparing for beach trips or upcoming special
events like weddings or a class reunion. Most people want ‘microwave’ results, and
unfortunately, they get these unrealistic expectations from shows like the Biggest
Loser or advertisements from supplements or diets. My goal is to exemplify a
lifestyle. Even if you reach your weight loss goal, the journey continues.”

Kameelah’s long-haul approach is one she uses throughout all aspects of her life,
including being an entrepreneur, mother and wife. “There were mixed emotions from my family and friends,” she says. “WOW Fitness wasn’t an overnight decision, but it did come about suddenly. My life was literally turned inside out, and it wasn’t until a full year after leaving my engineering career that things flourished into what you see today. In 2013, I had a new baby,
and babies require all of your time and attention. I was able to successfully manage
being a mom and entrepreneur because I was able to set an optimal schedule. This benefit along with the relaxed nature of my daily activities at WOW made caring for a newborn a beautiful experience. I would literally wrap him up on my chest and workout, which is perfect for mom and baby.”

Balancing her occupations as business woman, wife to Jarrod and mom to Londyn, Jace Cruz
and her soon-to-be newborn isn’t always easy, but Kameelah notes that being an entrepreneur allows her to be her best at all roles. “I have time to be the mom I want to be, all while managing a business that makes me want to jump out of bed in the mornings,” she says. “I have early morning workouts when it is convenient for me before the kids wake up. Once the kids are up, I’m in mom mode, and it truly is the best of both worlds. I am from a big family—I’m the sixth of eight children—so family is very important, and spending quality time with my amazing parents, siblings and close friends make life worth living. These relationships also provide priceless support in raising my children.”

Kameelah notes, however, she could not have accomplished what she has without a life view grounded in faith. “God will truly give you the desires of your heart,” she says. “Not that following your passion is easy, but it certainly makes life worth living. One of my favorite quotes is by Frederick Douglass: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. I keep this inspirational thought in mind every day.”