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Living in alignment

With tenacity and a healthy dose of balance, Maria Scafide Barr turns vision into reality

Photography by Brandi Stage Portraiture

As a high school junior and aspiring cheerleader, Maria Scafide Barr dreamed of doing back handsprings across the gym and wowing the whole school. 

“Little did I know that those back handsprings would turn into group fitness classes, and that my reach would go way past the school gym and into the lives of those all over the world,” says Barr, a fitness instructor, educator and entrepreneur. “It just started with a vision — a vision followed up with work, consistency and belief.” 


Each day, the Ocean Springs resident wakes up excited about her mission — helping others improve their health and wellness. She’s worn many hats in her adult life, working at restaurants, gyms, a college, a hospital and even furniture stores, and she once considered fitness her “side hustle.” 

“I noticed a love for movement around 11th grade,” Barr recalls, “but I was totally scared to go for it.” She mustered the courage to try out for cheer her senior year and succeeded in making the team. 

Realizing that she had a talent for choreography, Barr went on to dance with the Southern Misses at the University of Southern Mississippi and even tried out to perform professionally with the Saintsations, the New Orleans Saints dance team. 

“Mentors told me I had no chance, but guess what — I made it to the final 50; they pick around 32,” she says. “I was able to compete in an arena with so many talented people from all others thought was impossible.” 

Although she didn’t make the team, Barr was so encouraged by her showing that she tried out another four times. From this experience, she learned what her tenacity could accomplish. 

“I wasn’t going to let a ‘no’ from a dance team be my ultimate ‘no’ in becoming a professional in other areas of my life,” she says, “fitness especially.” 

Shortly after graduating from USM, Barr took the next step by attending her first group fitness certification. She became a Turbo Kick instructor and has gone on to teach or receive certifications in water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, boxing, cycle, barre, HIIT, bootcamps and more. Her first “side hustle” fitness gig was instructing at e-Fitness & Wellness in Biloxi, and today, she serves as a brand manager and master trainer with Barre Intensity. 

“I get to work with people all over the world in barre fitness education; I get to travel all over the country and teach people how to become a barre instructor,” she says. “It’s so cool and so much fun! Getting to see people make that decision for themselves, as I did almost 16 years ago, is very humbling and rewarding.” 

Outside of her 9-to-5 job, Barr recently has been teaching reformer Pilates, barre, boxing and cycle classes in the mornings and evenings. 

Some hats she’s worn have fit better than others, but group fitness has proven to be her “true outlet and calling.” 

“I strive to make it an experience and learn from all the places I’ve had the privilege to serve others,” Barr says. “The opportunity to really serve others through movement and fitness has been the backbone to developing into the person I am today.”


At this point in her life, Barr is most proud of her healthy mindset. 

“I’ve overcome a lot; some things I endured, and some things I inflicted, but all of it taught me a lesson to apply to the next part of my journey,” she says. “I still have lots to learn, but I love the learning process.” 

Although a certain amount of pressure to stay fit and healthy are ingrained into her industry, Barr notes that everyone defines these terms differently. Some may see a certain size as ideal, she says, “but I just don’t believe that.” 

“Staying fit and healthy starts with balance,” she adds, “being balanced in the way you think of yourself, your body image and the way you fuel that body.” 

Barr has her own holistic health company and tries to eat a consistent amount of nourishing, energizing wholefoods each day. She steers clear of foods that don’t make her feel her best – although she allows herself the occasional indulgence. 

On a typical morning, she’s up at 4:30 a.m., kicking off the day by listening to a podcast or playlist on her way to a 45-minute workout. After helping get her kids, 2-year-old Leo and 5-year-old Mia, ready and before sitting down to work, she makes sure she has the day’s food plan squared away. 

“I look at a good exercise and nutrition plan as a non-negotiable each day, and I thrive doing it early in the morning,” she says. “I credit my discipline in getting up early, before kids and work, each day to my success in staying committed. 

“It’s just consistency; doing the same mundane things that most won’t do each day make the difference in staying fit or just getting fit for an occasion.” 

Barr aims to get seven hours of sleep each night, and before going to bed, she reads a chapter of a good book and writes three things she is thankful for in her gratitude journal. 


Such routines keep the fitness expert grounded mentally, physically and spiritually, and she encourages others to make their health and wellness a priority. 

“You can’t pour from an empty cup; you have to fill yours,” she says. “We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s what we do with them that makes us different.” 

As the new year begins, she adds, it’s a perfect time to dig deep and remove the barriers that keep you from reaching your fullest potential. Fresh from winning a nationwide competition for group instructors, presented by the HOTWORX fitness studio franchise, Barr is working on opening her own space “for others to come flourish.” 

“2022 is going to be the year that my personal growth, development and past goals come together for an epic new journey!” she says. “I have never felt stronger or surer about what I was put on this earth to do; that is to serve others.”


How would you describe yourself? 

“Others would say I’m blunt, determined and funny. I would agree. I’m a really extroverted introvert who loves to turn it on for a group but needs the down time to regroup. I shoot it straight. I think I’m pretty witty, and I won’t give up when I set my mind to something. I’m Type A all day but intentional with my time and relationships.” 

What is something about you that would surprise people to know? 

Less than a decade ago, I started learning and trying out spear fishing. I love the Gulf Coast and the ocean. I shot my first big fish underwater about 30-40 feet deep off the Louisiana coast It was a cobia, aka lemon fish, about as long as me and probably weighed close to 70 pounds.” 

What is your favorite thing about being a fitness instructor? 

“My favorite thing about instructing is watching those with me light up and seeing that ‘ah-ha, I can do this!’ moment happen. I tell my own kids that we don’t say ‘I can’t.’ We say ‘I’ll try’ all the time. It’s inspiring to see people just try and light up when they realize that try turned into a little triumph.” 

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