Peloton’s Selena Samuela on Turning Tragedy Into Strength

Before becoming a powerhouse Peloton instructor, Selena Samuela was an Italian-American immigrant constantly trying to adjust to new environments and new versions of herself. Here, she discusses the tragedy of losing someone to addiction and finding strength in healing.

Peloton instructor Selena Samuela
After losing her partner to addiction, Samuela explored her own emotional and physical strength, eventually finding herself in the studios of Peloton.
(Image credit: Selena Samuela / Peloton)

The first thing you notice about Selena Samuela is her presence. She is a force on and off the Peloton screen. Long before thriving in the fitness world, though, she dreamt of becoming a star on the big screen. But in her 20s, she endured an unimaginable tragedy. In this episode of 'She Pivots,' Samuela details her experience of losing a loved one and how she turned healing into a catalyst for strength. 

Samuela immigrated to the United States from Italy when she was 11. Her family settled in New York, where Samuela faced adversity fitting in at school.

“I had to learn how to pivot and adjust at such an early age,” said Samuela. “I was essentially taken away from my home, my friends, my family, everything that I'd known, and plopped in a new world.”

Soon after, Samuela moved to Hawaii. However, even after finding lifelong friends and falling in love with surfing, Samuela could not shake off her desire to pursue acting. 

“And that's when I decided, you know what, I'm going to move [back] to New York. I'm going to study acting, and I'm going to write,” Samuela said. “I wanted to do all the things that were, really, just what I felt I wanted to do.”

While pursuing acting, Samuela fell in love with a man who had all the same passions as her: writing, acting, directing. Things couldn’t have been more perfect. Then, six months into the relationship, it became clear that her partner was struggling with addiction to drugs. 

“In my life, [I] had never experienced anything like that before… I didn't have any understanding of it,” said Samuela. Growing up, her parents didn’t drink much and no one in her family, to her knowledge, had dealt with substance abuse.

“I started either making excuses or coming up with ideas on how I was going to fix it,” said Samuela. “But, you know, in a case like this, it can be detrimental to someone's wellbeing and to my own wellbeing.” Her partner would go through addiction’s heaviest highs and lows, quitting drugs for months only to relapse. 

After four years together and many attempts to rehabilitate, he relapsed one final time and died in 2014.

“I'm not an outlier. This is a prominent issue in our country right now. There are a lot of people who are suffering,” said Samuela. According to the CDC, there were about 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States just last year, up 28.5 percent from 2020.

After a year of withdrawing from family and friends, Samuela reinvented herself to focus on joy. Over the next few years, Samuela explored her own emotional and physical strength, eventually finding herself in the studios of Peloton—a journey that embodies the real and difficult pivots in life. Listen to Samuela’s full story below.

Emily Tisch Sussman
Contributing Editor

Emily Tisch Sussman is the Founder and Host of “She Pivots,” the podcast in partnership with Marie Claire about women, their stories, and how their pivot became their success. She is a contributing editor to Maire Claire and the guest host of the Marie Claire Instagram Live series “Getting Down to Business.”