Beto Perez used a love of Latin dancing, innate charisma, dreams of success after a hardscrabble background in Colombia and the persistence and vision of an entrepreneur to invent a new fitness phenomenon, which started in Miami but is now known worldwide as “Zumba.”
Zumba combines aerobics with dance, which seems obvious now, but when the Colombian-born Perez developed the concept, somewhat by accident, in Miami, Florida, people didn’t always associate dance with fitness, especially Latin dance. The core promise of Zumba is that it makes you feel like you’re not really working out, and it’s introduced legions of new fans to Latin dance.
Perez, 49, has made a fortune along the way (his net worth is estimated at around $30 million due to his fitness empire). Does Beto Perez have a wife or girlfriend to share it with? That part he keeps private, and his social media accounts largely showcase him dancing, traveling or at different Zumba events. Rather than married, he’s been listed as single. As for girlfriends, he’s been photographed engaging in some serious PDA on the beach with a fitness model, though, and he was once involved in a major Colombian sex scandal.
You can see his verified Facebook page here, where he has more than 720,000 likes. “In the ’80s, the fitness world and the dance world were separate,” says Perez to Men’s Journal. “I think I was a visionary, because now everything is dancing in the fitness world. You see hip-hop, belly dancing, Dancing with the Stars, all these things. I was in the fitness world, but it’s my job. The dance world is for fun, because I danced in the clubs and I would breakdance with my friends.”
As for the charisma part, think of him as a dancing Elvis. As for the dancing part? A Latin Richard Simmons.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Beto Perez Was Raised in Colombia by a Single Mother He Helped Support as a Teen & Once Called Himself a ‘Crazy Troublemaker’
Beto Perez calls himself a “son who migrated with a dream” from Cali, Colombia. In June 2019, he posted this quote on Facebook: “Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt and dance like no one is watching.”
Perez was raised by a single mom named María del Carmen Perez. At age 14, Alberto “Beto” Perez’s mother was “injured by a stray bullet. To help support them, he worked three jobs,” Reader’s Digest Reports. A television series in Colombia called Nadie me quita lo bailao was based on Perez’s success story.
Perez told El Tiempo that his mother never revealed his father’s identity. He had some tough times before he made it big, once sleeping in a Miami park. “I do not know my father, so I had to draw my own conclusions. My mom did not want to talk about it, it’s hard for her,” he told the site.
He described to El Tiempo how he doesn’t have siblings, aunts or uncles, so he’s especially close to his mom. “She is a hard-working woman, a fighter who gave me an education and my whole life is based around my mother, on getting her where she wants to be, on fulfilling her dreams. Although we are very different,” he told the site. “She is very decent, shy, calm. I am a crazy troublemaker.”
2. Beto Perez Ran His First Zumba Class for a Single Person But It Soon Took Off
Beto Perez was having a difficult time getting Miami to accept his dance classes. According to Reader’s Digest, that all changed when, in 1999, a fitness center manager said, “Teach me.” He started a class for just that one woman, but other people soon wandered in.
“After 20 minutes,” says Perez to Reader’s Digest, “I had about 15 people. They thought it was a new class and wanted to sign up.” The manager liked what she saw and asked Perez to run a class every week. That was the start of it.
“I was ten minutes late,” he told the magazine of his first class. “I didn’t know how to say ‘I’m sorry,’ but I played the music, and they loved it.” Here’s a picture of Beto holding a cassette from his first aerobics class:
How did he come up with the idea, though, to mix working out with merengue? By accident.
On his instructor’s page on the Zumba website, Beto explains, “One day, I arrived to teach a class and realized I left my regular aerobics music at home. I looked in my bag, took out some salsa and merengue tapes, popped them into the sound system, and taught the first–ever Zumba class.”
He continued: “After a career as a trainer and choreographer in Colombia, I decided to make the big move to the United States. With only my moves and my passion, I sold all my belongings and moved to Miami in search of the American Dream.”
3. Perez, Who Fell in Love With Dancing When He Saw the Movie ‘Grease,’ Created a Zumba Empire in 2001 With Two Investors
It was 2001, and Perez had an idea that was starting to take off. Enter investors Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion, who helped him fund what turned out to be a Zumba empire with fitness instructors, DVDs, and classes all over the United States and world, according to El Tiempo.
El Tiempo reports that their company Zumba Fitness LLC doesn’t release its earnings but says it believes some 15 million people take Zumba classes every week in 185 countries around the globe.
The origins of Perez’s love for dancing date to age 7, when he watched the movie, Grease. Soon, he was also emulating the dance moves of stars like Michael Jackson, according to CNBC.
Men’s Journal describes how, when growing up, Perez would breakdance to Grease in the streets of Colombia. He keeps in shape through workouts, Zumba (of course), and a diet of “lean meat, seafood, and vegetables, and loves chicken soup,” according to Men’s Journal.
In Colombia, he taught dancing at a club and then aerobics classes in Bogotá before moving to Miami, Florida. He would record music from the radio onto cassette tapes to play in his classes.
4. Perez Avoided Returning to Colombia for Years Because of a Sex Tape Scandal Involving a Girlfriend
Beto Perez told El Tiempo that he didn’t return to Colombia for 14 years because of “this mess that happened with an actress (Luly Bossa) that was my girlfriend. I was offended a bit because they accused me and condemned me (of leaking a sex video) without giving me the chance to defend myself.” He told the site he never leaked a sex tape.
Las2Orillas reported that Bossa claimed otherwise in a book. The site described a video that circulated “in the streets of all Colombia” that showed explicit scenes “where the choreographer and gym instructor Alberto Pérez, had relations with three different women in different places.”
Colombia.com reported that Perez and Luly Bossa were “protagonists of one of the most important sexual scandals in the country.” Bossa has given interviews lamenting that the scandal tarnished her professionally but alleging that Beto had tried to give her financial help.
Over the years, he’s been photographed at the side of some beautiful women, though, including fitness model Jennifer Nicole Lee. That was back in 2014, though, and there’s no evidence they confirmed a relationship (but the pictures of them at the beach show a lot of PDA.) Here are more Beto Perez-Jennifer Nicole Lee beach pictures. Jennifer Nicole Lee has been married, to Edward Lee, and has two children. There is no sign of Beto on her Instagram page.
5. On Social Media, He Chronicles His Frequent Travels
Beto Perez is a world traveler and, judging from his Facebook page, that’s true for work but also for fun. Numerous photos show him at Zumba events and conferences but also traveling some of the world’s most exotic destinations. In 2016, for example, he visited the Great Wall of China. He’s also posted videos showing him at major tourist destinations in Italy.
Other photos showed him in New Zealand. “His life is practically an endless dancing tour,” reports El Tiempo.
His social media accounts bear this out, filled as they are with selfies, pictures with fans, and gushing comments from female supporters.
READ NEXT: Breakdancer Goes Viral.