Fit and fab: Meet Atlanta drag fitness instructor Cookie D’Lite

Fitness can be a drag — and maybe that’s the best way to start your New Year.

It’s the beginning of a brand new year, and everyone is hitting gym fitness goals we set every January. But how do we actually sustain the big goals past, say, the first seven days? 

For answers, we looked to Darnell Kenney, Atlanta’s new Queen of Fitness, who performs as Cookie D’Lite. Cookie’s fitness journey began in New York City, where she performed in off-Broadway productions and became an instructor for dance cardio-centered 305 Fitness. In 2019, Cookie’s lease was up and she had three options: stay in New York, move to New Jersey or head to Atlanta. She chose the last option based on a prior visit to the city. 

“I’d visited Atlanta before, and I just loved the atmosphere. It felt like another New York City,” Cookie told us. The rest is history. Cookie’s high-energy pop-up classes are now a staple in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

But these aren’t your average fitness in the park workouts: Cookie loves leading her classes in drag. So what inspired her to fuse a passion for fitness and love of drag? “I’ve never seen it before!,” Cookie laughed. “Drag is much more mainstream today. I love fitness, and what better way to empower people to dance and move than with a drag queen leading them?” 

Cookie’s big vision is to create a community centered around radical acceptance and self-love. She’s doing that in more ways than one. Not only is she keeping Atlanta in shape, she’s also a huge advocate for  mental health awareness. For much of her adulthood, theater was Cookie’s main outlet following childhood therapy sessions until she took a self-development course.

“I took a class with Momentum Education around 2018, and the instructor asked me to share my story. That was the green light for me to be open about my mental health journey,” Cookie said. 

Cookie shared her journey on social media and learned, based on the overwhelming number of responses, that many people could relate to her. Today, her story continues inspiring every student that steps into her class, from those who reserve spots well in advance to those who drop in as they walk through the park. 

Cookie says the key to staying consistent this year, and every year, is to just keep moving. If you don’t have weights, you can walk or dance — just make an effort to move everyday and you’ll be on track.

Cookie also has a few words of advice for the youngest members of the LGBTQ+ community: “It’s okay to feel afraid, but it’s also okay to take up space. Be loud, be proud, and know that someone in the world is in need of your gift.”

If you’re ever in Atlanta and in need of a good, fun workout to boost your mood and your health, head over to Haus of Cookie and reserve your spot.

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