Speak by Tunde Oyeneyin is a memoir about discovering body positivity and navigating a purposeful journey that’s vividly told by the popular Peloton instructor.
Growing up in Katy, Texas, Tunde is the only daughter out of three children of her Nigerian parents. At a young age, she’s considered overweight, and the shady comments she would hear about her prettiness being dimmed by her size marks her upbringing. A hard worker, she takes on multiple jobs in college, including one behind a department store makeup counter. This leads her to gaining clients who take note of her makeup application skills. She eventually moves to Los Angeles for a chance to groom her budding career until tragedy strikes.
She loses her younger brother, and a few years later, her mother, then her father. The back-to-back deaths of her immediate family send her into a depression. But opportunities keep coming her away that pull her out of the abyss and bring new urgency to live her life with purpose.
As she focuses on her mental and physical health, she develops a passion for cycling after taking a class. The inspirational shouting to keep moving forward sends her on a new career path. After trying out for Peloton more than once, she finally nabs a spot and quickly rises to the top of being one of most popular cycling instructors on the fitness platform. She takes the moment to inspire others, such as the time she decided to shave her head and the time she made an impromptu speech on why Black Lives Matter amid the 2020 racial justice movement.
The book’s title comes from her acronym S.P.E.A.K., which stands for Surrender, Power, Empathy, Authenticity, and Knowledge. The subtitle is Find Your Voice, Trust Your Gut, and Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. The lessons Tunde learns from her life, especially around being comfortable within her own body, weave together nicely as she narrates her story via audiobook. Her voice is melodious in expressing the emotion she felt at different moments.
There is an examination of her luck. She has been given a lot of opportunities, but some are inextricably tied to the tragedies she has endured. She wins a prize, for example, but the prize contributes to her brother’s death. The blame sits heavy on her soul, but she realizes that her only option is to live her life to the fullest.
Overall, her memoir doesn’t necessarily give action steps on how to take control of your life as the title may entail, but it’s more of how she took those action steps that undoubtedly resonates with a wide audience beyond the Peloton cycle seat.