Locked Up, Wrongfully Accused

Dancing has always been an integral part of David Velez’s life. Born in Colombia, he built a career around modern dancing, personal training, and teaching fitness classes. When David discovered Zumba®, he felt an instant passion for the workout and knew that it would become an important part of his life.

After becoming a licensed Zumba® instructor and Zumba® Education Specialist (training others to become licensed in the Zumba® program), David wanted to spread the joy of the Zumba® program to all corners of the world. So, together with girlfriend Vicki Chew, he founded Vida Fitness, a Malaysian-based company that would introduce Zumba® classes to gyms around Southeast Asia through demonstrations and free classes. Little did he know, his passion would lead to one of the most terrifying experiences of his life.

“I had been in Malaysia for about a month and was in the middle of giving an awesome demonstration when immigration officers showed up to the studio,” explains David. “They had a schedule of our gym tours and had received complaints of illegal immigrants operating a business here.”

He insisted that he had the right to work and provided his approved paperwork to the immigration officers.

Nonetheless, he was handcuffed and taken to a Malaysian immigration jail facing deportation from the country, where he was underfed, mistreated, and forced to live in filthy conditions with 60 other inmates for 14 days.

“We took turns sleeping on the floor and breathing out of the one ventilation hole. We were lucky if we got enough water each day. We had no shower, no toothbrush, no soap.”  

Through the help of the Zumba® Home Office (contacted directly by David’s girlfriend, Vicki), former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana Arango and Malaysian businessman Vinod Sekhar, David was released from the immigration jail and was told he was again allowed to work in the country.

Suffering from some trauma and confusion after his terrible experience, David turned to his Zumba® community for support. Within a few weeks, he was back to teaching Zumba® fitness to people who had never taken the class before. The first class he taught was a scary experience, but proved to be helpful in the end.

“I realized that Zumba classes were therapeutic for me. They give me strength and they fuel my passion. The Zumba program reminds me why I’m here and why I’m doing this. It’s just what I love,” says David. With Vicki and the Zumba® Home Office supporting him, David regains more and more confidence each and every day.

David is currently an active International Presenter running workshops and Master classes in fitness conventions around the world in Spain, Mexico, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Colombia, US, Australia, China, Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Ecuador and England. He has been an instructor for more than a decade and is a role model within the Zumba community.