Fate has always played a major role in Zoe Shelley’s interesting life. Born in London thirty years ago, her loving Tiger Mom had high expectations for her to excel academically, as well as in sports and music, and always pushed her to practice the cello.
Later, as a young cellist in the National Youth Orchestra in London, she met Alexander Shelley who was the assistant conductor. They married when Zoe was 22. In 2015, he was hired to be the Music Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, in addition to being the Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
During this time, Zoe worked for IBM in sales and IT in London, after obtaining a joint honours BSc in Chemistry and Management. But she was miserable in her job and turned to fitness training to change her life. Due to the difficulties of married life with her husband’s all-consuming work and travel schedule, Zoe and Alexander separated for two years and she started her own personal training business.
In 2017, a trainer colleague encouraged Zoe to audition for a Hollywood movie and she was hired as an Amazon warrior in the billion-dollar blockbuster Wonder Woman. Fate intervened again with an injury that led to an even more amazing opportunity. Meanwhile, their separation ended with a happy reconciliation and in 2018 Zoe and Alexander welcomed baby Sasha to join their wonderful life in Ottawa.
Did you almost turn down auditioning for Wonder Woman? I was conflicted as I knew it would be a seven-month commitment. I had started building my personal training business and knew my clients relied on me. A friend encouraged me as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in a Hollywood movie.
When I was injured and could no longer be a warrior, I was fortunate to be re-cast as Gal Gadot’s body replica stand-in. The whole experience was an epic adventure and one of the best things I have ever done. When they started casting Wonder Woman 2, I was called in by the stunts team to audition but I was pregnant at the time. I am hopeful that if there is a Wonder Woman 3, they will contact me again and I would do it in a heartbeat.
Why choose being a personal trainer? I was unhappy in the corporate world and I needed to do something about it. Attending fitness classes I met trainers and lost weight, but this became less important the more I trained. It wasn’t about trying to achieve a certain look but getting stronger and pushing my body. For me cross-fit training is as much a mental exercise as physical. I find that the way people train is indicative of their personality outside the gym; many possess determination, discipline and self belief.
Why are you writing a training guide for pregnant women? Even though I was healthy I did not love being pregnant—my training did not prepare me for the hijacking of my body! I posted my exercise experiences online and was surprised at the negativity. I wanted to show that even though I was pregnant, I was training and healthy.
I realized there was not much accessible information about training during pregnancy, so I have decided to write a guide on what is and isn’t safe based on my first-hand experiences. Being active is beneficial for you, your baby, and helps you feel better post partum.
How is your new life here in Ottawa? It is constantly evolving, incredibly exciting and I wouldn’t change it for anything. We get to travel the world together as a family. I get to be hands-on with Sasha, and Alexander is a wonderful father. Motherhood is surreal and something you can never be prepared for until it happens to you—the chaos, the frustration, the joy. I increasingly want to be the best mother and person as I am living my life in the eyes of someone brand new.
What is next for you? I have never really been one to plan that far ahead as things just kind of happen. Doors open that I might not have expected, and some I take and some I don’t. Alex’s contract runs for another five years with the NAC Orchestra with a possible extension. We love living in Ottawa and cannot imagine not having a home here. Everyone has been so generous and welcoming, and we feel cared for and loved here.