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Identity

We Asked Bad Bitches Up in Equinox if They're Freaks or Not

Because when Kanye West—or your editor—asks, you answer.

by Gabby Bess
Apr 14 2016, 7:00pm

Photo by Studio Firma via Stocksy

I was sitting at my desk when my editor ran up to me and said, "We have an assignment for you." I remember the moment like a vague nightmare. The expression on his face was gleeful, in a slightly sinister way, and I intuitively sensed that I was doomed. Unfortunately, that instinct was immediately confirmed: "We need you to stand outside of Equinox and ask people if they're freaks."

I nodded solemnly, knowing that I was chosen for this task in part because I understood why it needed to be done without further explanation. Still, I dreaded it. Prone to anxiety and avoidance of situations that require me to interact with strangers, my heart was averse to the prospect of going to an upscale gym—that some people pay over $25,000 to sweat in—to conduct a survey based on a lyric from "Highlights," a track from Kanye West's latest album, The Life of Pablo. But I am a loyal content soldier, and a Kanye fan despite his shortcomings. I knew I would just have to suck it up and ask the bad bitches up in Equinox if they're freaks or not.

When the day finally came I awoke in a panic. I sat in bed, half dressed, trying to get the courage to get my ass to the gym. After a few solid minutes of ruminating, I realized I just had to start making progress; I decided to start with research. To get more of an idea of what to expect, I texted my boyfriend, who boasts being an erstwhile member of the expensive fitness club that has flagships around the US. From him, I had previously learned that the gym stocked their immaculate showers with a range of Kiehl's products and had an impressive steam room. I texted him for more info: "When you went to Equinox did you notice any bad bitches?"

"I mean most people were beautiful," he responded. "Rich beautiful people."

"OK, but were they bad bitches, would you say?"

"I don't think so. But I'm unclear... on the definition of 'bad bitches.'"

My source proving to be unhelpful, I tried a different method. I grabbed my laptop, opened up Spotify, and pressed play on "Highlights." I continued the slow death march that was getting ready and restarted the song each time it ended. Eventually, I just put it on repeat. The-Dream sang the track's incessant outro at me on loop: Every bad bitch up in Equinox / I need to know right now if you a freak or not.

This was working. Soon I was out the door and listening to the song on my iPhone through headphones.

Screenshot from "The New Workout Plan"

As I got off the train, ever closer to the Equinox-cum-Juice Generation in Soho, still listening to "Highlights" like my life depended on it, I started to think of the song as a form of brainwashing that was necessary to reprogram myself to be a person that could ask unsuspecting gym-goers if they are freaks. With each play, however, my musical behavioral therapy soon loosened me from reality's grip. It got to the point where hearing Young Thug sing the track's first line—"Tell my baby I'm back in town"—would scare me; I would forget, every time, that the song was going to start over again. The walk from the subway station to Equinox was supposed to take four minutes, according to Google Maps. It took me 30. Turning the street corner—finally—where the gym was located, I'm 90 percent sure I saw Taylor Swift, but that's a different song.

Outside Equinox, I took out my headphones; they had served their purpose. Emboldened, I intersected a well-groomed, seemingly 20-something blonde woman as she tried to open the door to the gym. "Would you consider yourself a bad bitch?" I asked. Sure, she said without hesitation. Follow-up question: "Are you freak or not?"

"Umm... perhaps?"

The tepid response didn't seem to answer the question. Fueled by too many listens of the song in question, I pressed further. Kanye's call to action is urgent, specific, and binary. He inquires: If, and only if, you consider yourself a bad bitch, are you a freak, yes or no? He needs to know as soon as possible. I had to follow these guidelines. She finally admitted to being a freak.

Would you consider yourself a bad bitch?

At one point, two French women who were sitting on the steps outside the gym entrance called me over and asked if I could take their picture. I did, and then I asked them if they would be interested in being interviewed. They said yes, but first I had to vet them: Did they work out here? No, they said, they were students at a yoga teacher training session across the street, and they were on their lunch break. I told them had to rescind my offer. Maybe they were bad bitches, and even freaks, but they were not technically up in Equinox. Similarly, when I asked a guy if he was a bad bitch, and he said "not necessarily," I had to dismiss him.

Most of the women at Equinox, however, were quick to cop to being both bad bitches and freaks, even if they didn't get the reference. The well-groomed blonde woman hadn't heard "Highlights," or any other song on The Life of Pablo. Nor did the next few. Regardless, they liked the idea that Kanye had name-dropped their exclusive gym and was under the impression that plenty of bad bitches went there. He wasn't wrong. When I asked one woman who had actually listened to the album if she was a bad bitch, she immediately responded, "Oh, hell yeah" and added that she was "a low-key freak."

It's not surprising that I was stopped short every time I tried to ask a man if he was freak. "Highlights" is at once about sex tapes, ambition, Kanye himself, and, of course, fitness. Above all, however, the track is about women—and the rapper's access to them as proof and accessory to his life of highlights. But the women of Equinox don't seem to mind it. Of the song and its subject, one freak said, "It gave me an ego boost."

As I left the gym, putting in my headphones and reflexively pressing play on the track once more, I couldn't disagree. I had the feeling, though, that after this I would never be able to tolerate this goddamned song ever again.