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'She wanted to be somebody': Ashlee Tessono, fitness influencer and entrepreneur, dies at 28

Ashlee Tessono had recently graduated from SUNY Old

Ashlee Tessono had recently graduated from SUNY Old Westbury with a degree in business administration, an accomplishment she celebrated with her grandmother, Iva Kirkland. Credit: Khadine Blackwood

There were two things Ashlee Tessono had no time for: negativity and distractions. The 28-year-old from Baldwin was dedicated to building her fitness brand, with dreams to one day make FitFreakActivewear a household name.

“She was very ambitious. She wanted to be somebody,” said her mother, Robin Smith-Blackwood. “She influenced a lot of people.”

Tessono died Dec. 13 after succumbing to injuries sustained when she lost control of the 2005 Scion she was driving home from work on the Southern State Parkway. Police say speeding was a factor and that she was not wearing a seat belt.

The accident cut short the dreams of an ambitious entrepreneur and fitness influencer, whose love for health came second only to her love for her family.

Tessono, also known as Achanty.T, began her foray into fitness in 2014, after she had gained significant weight while pregnant with her son. She began doing home workouts and meal preparation, dropping 70 pounds before signing up for a gym where she lost an additional 50 pounds.

“Working out made me happier,” Tessono shared in a Q&A on her YouTube channel in 2018. “I found myself through working out. It showed how strong I could be as a woman and a mom and that I was capable of things I never thought I would be capable of.”

Tessono became a regular at XSport Fitness in Garden City, working out every day for three hours. Seeing firsthand how transformative healthy eating could be, she created Fresh Fast Food in 2014, preparing and delivering nutritious meals to customers.

Three years later, she launched FitFreakActivewear, a line of gym apparel and waist trainers. Having gained valuable fashion experience as a student at the High School of Fashion Industries, in Manhattan, Tessono was responsible for every aspect of her company’s operations: from designing, to picking fabrics, to marketing and maintaining the website. Those responsibilities now fall to Tessono’s two sisters, who have taken over the business in her wake.

News of Tessono’s passing hit her 27,000 fans on Instagram hard, with many of them taking to the social media platform to express their condolences as well as their shock at the young motivator’s death.

Though they never met in person, Stephanie Boakye-Danquah credits Tessono’s encouraging posts and instructional videos as inspiring her to “be better and do better.”

“When I didn’t know how to work out properly, she was my guide. Her passion for fitness, daily motivation and drive for the best, healthy body motivated me more than anything.” said Boakye-Danquah, a 22-year-old from Virginia. “She wanted to help everyone achieve the dream body they wanted.”

In 2012, Tessono spent a year living with her aunt, Vonda De Sousa, in San Diego, where they would regularly swap exercise and nutrition tips.

“This girl was fit. The fitness thing worked for her, and she knew how to tell other people how to get their body in tune. She helped a lot of people,” De Sousa said.

When she wasn’t at the gym, Tessono could be found doting on her 6-year-old son, Ashton, cheering for him on the sidelines of soccer games or taking him to museums. She also was extremely close to her maternal grandmother and drove her from Queens to Long Island every Friday.

“She said family was first, we were always together as a family,” said Smith-Blackwood, who is now caring for Ashton. “She was always warm and affectionate. If you needed a shoulder to cry on, she was there. She was an easy person to talk to.”

When Tessono walked into a room, people noticed. It wasn’t just her bright smile and sense of style that turned heads, but her contagious positivity that invited others in.

“She was a ball of energy. If we went to a family event that was boring, she would bring the energy and dance and have everyone join in,” said Tessono’s cousin, Alicia James of Ocala, Florida. “She was fun-loving, and everywhere she went she touched people’s hearts.”

Tessono was vivacious from a young age, taking piano lessons and African dance classes as she grew up in Queens. At the age of 5, she entered the Princess of America New York pageant, making it to the finals of the statewide competition as a runner-up. After moving to Baldwin with her family in 2006, she explored becoming a fashion designer at the High School of Fashion Industries, where she graduated in 2009.

Though passionate about fitness, Tessono was continually looking to broaden her horizons. She earned a degree in business administration from SUNY Old Westbury in May 2019 and was in the process of registering for law school at Hofstra University, with the hopes of going into business law.

But her ultimate goal was to open a restaurant in Baldwin, where she would continue to pass on her love of healthy eating.

“Our family was so proud of her,” said James. “In the short life she lived, she had accomplished a whole lot. I’m so proud to have known her and to have loved her.”

In addition to her son and mother, Tessono is survived by her father, stepfather, stepmother, grandmother, two sisters and two brothers, as well as many extended family members.

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