Ernest Strickland 

50 / President/CEO of Black Business Association of Memphis and Manager of R&B Artist, Mille Manny 

Ashleigh Hayes 

30 / Deputy CAO for Memphis City Council and Founder of DRIP Co, an athletic apparel and yoga mat company ( 

Their Story 

Ernest remembers meeting Ashleigh twice before they started dating — first through a relative who happened to be Ashleigh’s best friend, then again at a work function. Ashleigh also remembers meeting Ernest at the same work function and recalls he reached out to her via social media. The couple has now been together for five years. 

Family Matters 

Ernest has older children, and Ashleigh is the mother of the ‘best puppy in the world,’ her doodle, Chai. In their free time together, Ernest and Ashleigh love dining at local restaurants like Moondance Grill, Mahogany, and McEwens and their Saturday morning routine of getting coffee and tea together after attending a Pilates class. 

How They Stay Fit 

Ashleigh is a student and instructor of Pilates and yoga and introduced Ernest to Pilates years ago. Now, Ernest and Ashleigh practice Pilates individually and as a couple as often as they can. 

Fitness As A Couple 

Besides battling it out in hour-long Hot Pilates classes together, Ernest and Ashleigh love walking Chai around Shelby Farms. Otherwise, they can often be found booking it through the airport to catch a flight. Once they reach their travel destination, Ernest and Ashleigh always try to incorporate exciting and active ventures during vacations. 

How They Inspire Each Other To Prioritize Wellness 

Ernest encourages Ashleigh to continue her Pilates and yoga journeys as a student and instructor. Ashleigh helps keep their nutrition on track by meal prepping their lunches to promote healthy habits by controlling cost and calories. Ashleigh also pushes Ernest to expand his physical limits during their travels with activities such as ziplining and hiking in Hawaii or jet skiing in Cabo. 

Proudest Fitness Accomplishments 

Ernest’s proudest accomplishment is his continued journey of sobriety, as he is going on 23 years without alcohol. He also takes pride in improving his annual physical exam results by removing meat from his diet, reducing sugars, and incorporating Hot Pilates classes. Ashleigh cites one of her proudest achievements as extending beyond any physical accomplishments and shifting into a more holistic model of fitness that includes mental and emotional wellness. In addition, she takes pride in being a role model for black women, breaking barriers as a Pilates instructor, and encouraging others to seek a similar path. 

Greatest Strengths 

Ernest finds Ashleigh’s greatest strengths to be her determination and drive. “Ashleigh is self-motivated and can laser focus when setting a goal. She knows how to overcome fear and pursue desires regardless of the difficulty,” Ernest says. Similarly, Ashleigh recognizes that Ernest possesses visionary leadership and is adept at turning innovative ideas into actionable plans. “He is Mr. Get it Done!” she says. 

Best Wellness Advice 

Like many other fitness community members, Ernest and Ashleigh have learned the power of consistency and continuing to show up for themselves and one another. Ashleigh suggests, “Take it day by day, and remember it’s never too late to start!” 

Fitness Goals 

Ernest’s goal is to continue with 3-4 days per week of Pilates training, and he also wants to add weekly meditation to his 2024 wellness routine. Ashleigh plans to continue growing as an instructor, becoming a better student of yoga, and amplifying her voice as an advocate for Pilates. 

By Zoe Harrison 

Photo by Tindall Stephens