By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Cortne B. Miller doesn’t just chase her dreams, she lives them.
“You don’t let fear stop you,” she said. “You have to get out there because some opportunities only come once, and you either take the risk or lose the chance.”
The 27-year-old model, entrepreneur, and aspiring actress is owner of I Am Faith in Training (FIT), a women’s athleisure wear brand that promotes holistic fitness—whether physical, spiritual, or mental. Miller’s I Am FIT brand sells two-piece sets, leggings, sweatshirts, sports bras, and more.
Even though she launched her athleticwear line in 2017, it didn’t seem to take off until 2020—in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when most businesses were struggling.
“I know 2020 has been a whirlwind year for a lot of people, but that was the first year [my company] made the most money. April was my big month,” she said. “God has been good even through everything that has been going on. The business still is not where I want it to be, but [I’ve seen] the growth from where I started—with the first T-shirt or logo to now with the sets we offer. … [Looking back at] the vision I had back in 2017, … this is it.”
Miller believes there was a reason the business did well during the pandemic.
“Everyone was quarantined, so they weren’t having to get all dressed up. I think our FIT friends love that most,” she said. “Most importantly, our brand also gave people hope that, regardless of what was going on around us, God had our faith in training. No matter what—whether it was COVID, fear, uncertainty, unemployment—we could speak, and it could be moved. We just have to use those trials and obstacles as opportunities to train and strengthen our faith.”
From the start, Miller’s vision for I Am FIT was activewear for the gym, at work, for errands, “to give this feel of being comfortable,” she said.
“It was kind of hard because getting clothes manufactured can be very expensive and it can be tough to source the right vendors,” she said. “[The process] can be really hard, and it was for a while, but I researched everything.”
Miller considers herself a “Google guru.”
“If I don’t know something, I’ll Google it,” she said. “No one in my family is running a business, so it was different because I didn’t have people I could go to.
… It’s been great to get support from [other entrepreneurs, mentors, friends, church family, and my pastor at the Rock City Church].
“Starting off, it was hard, but I got in that groove of knowing that failure wasn’t an option. I had to get out there, find it, and make it work.”
A Girl from Bessemer
Miller grew up in Bessemer. When she was 11, her mother, Patrece, got married and moved the family to Birmingham.
“For the most part, my mom was a single parent until she met my stepdad; he helped raise me,” she said. “My mom would work long shifts, so I would spend a lot of time at my grandma’s house before and after school.”
Miller attended J. S. Abrams Elementary School in Bessemer and Ramsay High School in Birmingham. After graduating from high school in 2011, she enrolled at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (UA), where she studied health science.
“Undergrad was incredible. The college experience is unmatched,” she said. “I went to college for health science because my mom was in the health field. I thought, ‘OK, I already know this, and I’m familiar with it. I’ve seen this all my life, so I know I can do it.’ I didn’t realize at the time that I could also tap into different abilities.”
Those abilities included her love for media, which led to two paths: television and modeling. “Growing up, I would always hear, ‘You need to be on TV,’ and I started modeling while I was in college,” she said. “During my sophomore and junior years, I was always back and forth from Atlanta, [Georgia], doing different castings and videos.”
Miller got a chance to participate in New York Fashion Week (NYFW) after being contacted by designer Alexander Pezo.
“My first fashion week was in 2016,” she said. “People always told me, ‘You’re too short to do NYFW’ because I’m just five-feet-two-inches tall. To this day, I don’t know how [Pezo] found me, but he reached out to me and paid for my flight, lodging, and everything. … It was great. He’s incredible, and we still have a relationship now.
“I had never been to New York before, so being a girl from Bessemer getting to go to New York—and for free—was great,” she said. “It was really different. I enjoyed it. I was able to get out and meet different people, ride the subway on my own. … It was just a lot of fun.”
After graduating from UA in 2016, Miller continued to model and chase her other dreams. In March 2020, after meeting an actress from the Tyler Perry television program “The Oval,” she started taking acting classes.
“I reached out to [the actress] one day and told her … I had been wanting to switch from modeling to acting because they go hand in hand,” said Miller, who currently attends the attends McKinnon Acting Studio in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Though Miller has yet to book an acting job, she has had several auditions: “Just the fact that I’m in the room, is enough to let me know that I’m on the right track,” she said.
The “I Am” Brand
Before starting I Am FIT, in 2015 Miller founded I Am Mentoring and Ministry, through which she had the opportunity to mentor girls in the Birmingham and Bessemer City Schools systems.
“It is a women’s empowerment group through which I mentored eighth graders to high school seniors,” she said. “We would go around to different schools and just have girl talk about loving themselves and identifying their power, as well as helping them understand who and whose they are.”
Still, Miller wanted to find other ways to contribute, and the idea for the activewear line came as a result of her passion for working out.
“I love the work that’s put in to working out and exercising and seeing your body transform,” she said. “I love fitness, total fitness, whether it is spiritual or making sure your finances are together. … I remember talking to my mom about it one day and saying, ‘I want to start an activewear line.’ My mom gave me the name ‘Faith and Training,’ and I said, ‘That’s it! I Am FIT—Faith in Training.’
“I love being able to make people feel good. That same love I found that God gives me and that I see every day, I love to use it to help people and to spread that around. … I am able to do that with I Am FIT—not just by telling people and showing them, but through clothing, as well.”
To learn more about I Am Faith in Training (FIT), visit iamfaithintraining.com.