FWB man served six years in prison. Now, he has a fitness brand and trains celebrities.

Savannah Evanoff
Northwest Florida Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH — Kipp Luster remembers being a teenager, likening what was formerly called the Okaloosa Youth Development Center to prison.

Having now spent six years in federal prison, Luster, 32, can tell you the now-Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Crestview is nothing like it.

Facing state and federal charges for possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) with intent to distribute was never Luster’s plan, but he hardly sees it as a coincidence. Growing up in a house on Ajax Drive in the thick of a then crime infested Sylvania Heights area, he felt like the odds were not only stacked against him, but also every other kid in his neighborhood.

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But after spending a chunk of his life behind bars, Luster started betting on himself — discovering and following his passion for fitness — and, for once, the odds came out in his favor. Now he wants to change the game for others.

Kipp Luster grew up in Sylvania Heights and eventually went to prison. After his release he started Streetz2Fitness, a fitness business and foundation under the same name. He provides workout plans for youths in juvenile detention and people in prison.

In 2019, Luster locked in on the name Streetz2Fitness, starting an exercise brand for his personal training business and a foundation to help at-risk youths. Luster not only trains clients, provides workout plans and sells merchandise, but also donates workout plans, inspirational planners and one-on-one motivational Zoom conferencing with youths in juvenile detention centers nationwide. He also collaborates with other youth organizations to continue expanding the foundation’s efforts.

He has also trained on some big names, such as rappers Lil Pump and Lil TeRrio.This past week, Luster visited his hometown Fort Walton Beach for the first time since he moved to Boca Raton in April and one of the few times since his upbringing. And while it holds many bad memories, it’s also a visual representation of how far he’s come.

Luster sees now what it took to get him from the first half of his business name to the second.

‘Young and reckless’

Luster came from little.

Lucy Connor, a Georgetown University alumna, poses with her son Kipp Luster wearing a Georgetown bib.

His mother, Lucy Connor, died when he was 1. And while it was declared a suicide, Luster finds it “mysterious.” His father, Dwight Luster, has been in prison since 1990 in Virginia. He visited only a few times as a child.

Dwight Luster holds his baby son, Kipp.

The closest people Luster had to parents were his great aunt, Mary Reed, and her husband, Charles, who raised him since he was a baby. Mary had her own vices, though, and she struggled to provide for him.

Kipp Luster said his great aunt, Mary Reed, raised him like a mother.
A baby Kipp Luster eats dinner with his great uncle Charles Reed, great aunt Mary Reed and cousin Terrell.

“When I was going from eighth grade to ninth grade, from Pryor to Choctaw, it was time for us to buy me school clothes and her credit card was denied,” Luster said. “I just turned to the streets and I started selling drugs. I didn't care; I had to provide for myself to buy myself clothes and shoes. That’s when I gave up on sports. It became a bad habit that was hard to break.”

Kipp Luster loved sports as a child, but gave them up after he started selling drugs.
Kipp Luster played basketball his freshman year at Choctawhatchee High School, but quit all sports when he started selling drugs, he said.

Luster grew up in unincorporated Sylvania Heights, a large chunk of the Lovejoy community between Hurlburt Field and Mary Esther Cut-Off. Becoming a product of his environment, well, that was easy, he said.

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“I'd seen what was going on in my neighborhood and I saw it was a quick way to make money for myself. I had an aunt and an uncle (who) my great aunt allowed to come live with us and they were crackheads, so I was exposed to people that were selling drugs and the people who were doing drugs.

Mary died when Luster was 20 as she was holding his hand, he said.

Luster rattles off the rest of the timeline. At age 12, he started selling crack cocaine. At 14, he started getting into trouble for it. At 16, he was kicked out of Choctawhatchee High School.

Kipp Luster holds a Certificate of Achievement he received at the former Okaloosa Youth Development Center in Crestview.

He was in an out of juvenile facilities for four years, serving five months before turning 18 in a juvenile program after they found marijuana in his house, he said. By then, he had no fear of being incarcerated.

A teenage Kipp Luster poses with a certificate at the former Okaloosa Youth Development Center in Crestview.

Cortez Bell, now the superintendent at Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center, remembers meeting Luster, “a troubled kid,” when he worked at Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

“He was a handsome, smart kid that thought he could outsmart everyone,” Bell said. “He was doing pretty good in selling drugs, making a pretty good amount of money for his age."

He was vain, too, Bell said with a laugh. He remembers Luster telling him he would pay double the price for a haircut so he could skip the customer ahead of him.

Luster had a lawyer on retainer who they called “Al Capone” because he was untouchable, Bell said. Luster was often released ahead of time.

“I was one of the ones who stayed in his face and always told him, ‘You keep living this path, you’re living good right now, but it’s only for a season,'” Bell said. "Of course, he wasn’t trying to hear any of that at that particular time. Very young, very cocky.”

Kipp Luster poses next to a lifted car after he was released from the former Okaloosa Youth Development Center in Crestview.

The stage was set for what would be the next six years of his life.

‘Swim at your own risk’

Media reports say Luster was traveling at speeds exceeding 100 mph and weaving between cars on Interstate 10 heading east through Texas when a Jefferson County sheriff's officer tried to pull him over in March 2013.

Luster eventually lost control of his vehicle and slammed into a concrete column under an overpass. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $60,000 fine after a Jefferson County jury found him guilty of possessing cocaine that was found in the front floorboard of his wrecked vehicle.

Luster began serving hard time in 2013, starting off in a federal holding facility in Mobile, Alabama, until he was taken to a Federal Correctional Institute Memphis in Tennessee. Then he was transferred to FCI Miami, then FCI Williamsburg in South Carolina.

Kipp Luster poses with a car three months before he was arrested and ultimately put in federal prison.

He served time in eight states with jail and prison time combined.

Prison differs little from its savage film depiction. It has its own politics, Luster said.

“There's people from all over the United States, so people roll in crews. I was from Florida, so I had homeboys that were from Florida, so we stuck together. It was like family. There's a lot of different crews working out to stay mentally and physically fit.”

And there’s rules, some of which Luster had already learned from the streets.

“You can't just sit down in certain chairs; this spot belongs to this person,” Luster said. “You can't just touch the weights. You gotta be working out with somebody that has authority over the weights. The inmates, they run the prison. There was a lot of violence, people getting stabbed and stuff like that. It was a big reality check. It made me realize I took my freedom for granted.”

Kipp Luster grew up in the Lovejoy neighborhood, going to prison for many years and then starting Streetz2Fitness, a fitness business and foundation under the same name. He provides workout plans for youths in juvenile detention and people in prison.

Luster can’t frame it any clearer though: Prison is not like juvenile detention center.

“That's why I'm so passionate about helping these kids get their lives on the right track, because they don't know what they're facing,” he said. “They think that if they can do time in a juvenile detention center, they can do time in prison. It's not the same. It's night and day. Like in the juvenile center, for example, the officers protect you to save you from anything happening to you. In federal prison, it’s not like that. You’re on your own. Swim at your own risk.”

Fitspo

Luster has his own fitness journey, although it’s unlikely to resemble those of his fitness influencer counterparts.

He collected his 103,000 Instagram followers with a résumé of prison workouts.

At FCI Memphis, he did circuit training with smith machines. At FCI Miami, he had free weights for bodybuilding workouts. At FCI Williamsburg, he had no weights, so he did calisthenics and high-intensity interval training, such as sprints, jump roping and burpees.

Kipp Luster grew up in the Lovejoy neighborhood, going to prison for many years and then starting Streetz2Fitness, a fitness business and foundation under the same name. He provides workout plans for youths in juvenile detention and people in prison.

Luster’s focus was staying sane, committing to a workout crew at every prison.

“It changed my way of thinking. It increased my self-confidence. It helped me develop this discipline, determination to keep going no matter how hard things get. When I was in prison, there was guys that were negative, there were guys that were positive. I gravitated to positive people while I was in there, people that talked about how they're gonna change their life and put a plan together. There’s people from all walks of life, all different countries, that go to prison.”

While Luster was in Miami, he started training an older man serving time for fraud charges.

“I told him, ‘Look, I'll train you; you teach me business structure and teach me about life as well,’ and we became good friends,” Luster said. “He's like, ‘So, when you were 18 years old in the juvenile program, you didn't put together a plan before you got out?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘If you don't put together a plan this time when you get out, you're gonna go back to the same old ways.’”

That’s when Luster decided to become a certified personal trainer.

He found another unlikely mentor in a man serving a life sentence, which was later overturned.

“He planted the seed to persevere no matter how hard it gets,” Luster said. “Working out, you know how you get to that last two reps? It might be that 18th rep and you want to give up on the last two reps. He planted the seed: ‘Keep going.’”

Kipp Luster received his personal trainer certification from the National Federation of Professional Trainers while in prison in Williamsburg, South Carolina.

Prior to that, Luster had no guidance.

“We were all comrades in prison,” Luster said. “That doesn't make you a bad person because you commit a crime, make a mistake. While I was in prison, I just became physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually stronger than I was prior to going. That helped me stay grounded when I was out.”

Luster became a certified personal trainer at FCI North Carolina.

‘A high-profile case’

Luster was released to the State of Texas in June of 2018. After six years behind bars, he had just enough money to catch a cab, half an hour to make it to his halfway house to check in and two months to find a job in Texas, where he had faced state charges.

In an instant, everything had changed. It was a shock, he said.

“Everything was so different. It took me a while to become accustomed to like talking to people, law abiding citizens. It’s a huge transition. It’s very overwhelming. I was so used to talking to inmates. When I came in an environment like this (his interview was at Main Brew in Fort Walton Beach) I just felt weird and I felt like people could tell that I was kind of weird … to see people just drink what they want, eat what they want, it was like, ‘Oh my God, you’ve got so many free choices.’”

He was released from the halfway house in May 2019.

Kipp Luster grew up in the Lovejoy neighborhood, going to prison for many years and then starting Streetz2Fitness, a fitness business and foundation under the same name. He provides workout plans for youths in juvenile detention and people in prison.

Luster went all over Southeast Texas looking for a job. He had his certifications; he met all the requirements, he said.

“Nobody gave me an opportunity. I had a high-profile case in Southeast Texas. I was on the front of the newspaper. My (parole officer), she discouraged me, like, ‘I don't think anyone's going to hire you at a gym, considering you had a high-profile case. However, while I was incarcerated, I had lot of great mentors, and they told me ‘Kipp, it’s not about how many people say no; someone will tell you yes.’”

Luster got his first post-prison job as a server at Golden Corral, but he hadn’t given up on being a personal trainer. 

Kipp Luster runs his brand and foundation, Streetz2Fitness, with the help of his fiancée, Jasmine Minniefield.

He signed up at Exygon Health and Fitness Club in Beaumont, Texas. There, he started training his fiancée, Jasmine Minniefield, who stayed with him through his time in prison.

While training her one day in June 2019, Luster noticed a man watching them. It was the owner, Travis Dugger.

“I said, babe, ‘Let's do a (social media) post,’” Luster said. “We sat down in the lobby area to drink coffee in the front of the gym. I'm sitting there, and this guy calls — it’s the same guy who was watching me train her — and he said, ‘Hey, Kipp, could you come talk to me for a minute?’”

Luster had put in an application at the gym two months ago. Nobody contacted him.

“He says, ‘Kipp, you know you're breaking my rules. You're training in my gym,’” Luster said. “I said, ‘I'm so sorry.’ He told me, ‘Look, I'm looking for trainers, however, I don't need trainers at this location. I need trainers at my mid-county location.’ I just agreed. I said, ‘Yeah,’ and I told him my story. I told him how I changed my life and if he gave me an opportunity, he wouldn’t regret it. He gave me the job.”

Luster didn’t know just how far mid-county would be via bicycle: 50 torturous minutes along U.S. Highway 347.

“I'm like, ‘I didn’t do all this time in prison to get hit by a car on a highway,’” Luster said. “As a trainer, if you don't have any clients, you only get floor time for picking up weights. There was 11,000 members there, so I had to step out of my comfort zone, be friendly and talk to people. But I was used to that in prison. It was like a community. Everybody that worked out, we knew each other, so we talked. I treated it the same way, and it worked for me.”

The first two weeks were discouraging. His Uber rides cost more than his earnings.

He started grinding.

“Everybody saw my work ethic over there in Texas. I became familiar with a lot of members. One guy gave me an opportunity to train his wife. He introduced me to his wife and she started getting results. Word of mouth started spreading. Every new member that came in, they got four free sessions, so I said, ‘Send me all four sessions,’ and I started converting free sessions.”

Five months later, Luster became a fitness director. Then, Forbes reached out to him for an interview in February 2020.

No regrets

Today, Luster trains primarily fat-loss clients.

He enjoys watching people transform mentally and physically. Among his client list are also rappers Lil Pump and Lil TeRrio.

Luster said what separates him from other trainers is his background. His clients not only get a workout, but also a mindset, he said.

“They hear my story, the problems that they're dealing with are nothing compared to the adversity I faced, I'll tell them short stories while we're training and it motivates them to keep pushing, go harder.”

Luster said he pushes people beyond their limits.

“Some people get mental blocks, they think, ‘I can never do that exercise.’ So when we start out, I can tell when a client gets discouraged when I give them an exercise to do and they can't do it. I find alternative exercises they can do. A week or two later, I'll bring them back to that same exercise they couldn't do and they see the progression and their self-confidence increases.”

His own transformation is his biggest advertisement.

“I'm passionate about fitness because it helped me discover who I am,” Luster said. “It helped me discover my ‘why,’ my purpose. Before, when I was running around Fort Walton Beach committing crimes, I didn't feel like I had a purpose in life. I didn't care about the consequences. … Basically I had to walk away from the old me and my past. I'm not gonna say regrets, because I was born into that situation. It was inevitable. I couldn’t help it. I don't point the finger at nobody. I just keep moving forward. I try to stay positive.”

Kipp Luster, the founder of Streetz2Fitness, created daily planners with motivational quotes to donate to youths in juvenile detention centers.

Luster wrote a 21-day exercise program, but it wasn’t a fat loss gimmick.

“The vast majority, when they get in trouble as a juvenile, they get sentenced to 21 days, then they get out,” he said. “That's time to work on that physical and mental pillar. I also created a 365 daily planner with inspirational quotes from athletes, icons and hip-hop artists. Every day it has a quote.”

Luster donates his 21-day workout program, planners, jump ropes and does weekly Zoom workout sessions with many juvenile detention centers. Thursdays, he talks to youths at Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center and Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

“I tell them my story and I work out with them, jump rope with them and just basically encourage them to follow their dreams,” Luster said. “Write down your dreams, your goals, your vision. Get out and execute.”

Kipp Luster, the founder of Streetz2Fitness, created daily planners with motivational quotes to donate to youths in juvenile detention centers.

Luster approached Bell about collaborating just after the pandemic. It was their first time talking since Luster was a teenager.

“I said, ‘Look, God put it on my heart to help these young kids. They're traveling down the road I once traveled, and I know my story will inspire them, will resonate with them because I grew up the same way the vast majority of them are growing up,’” Luster said. “They'll respect me as a speaker that's coming in front of them. It's not like a pastor that’s never been in trouble coming in and trying to tell them to change their lives. I can identify with them.”

Kipp Luster reunites with Cortez Bell, a former employee at Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center and now superintendent at Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center, for the first time after meeting him as a teenager.

Bell was honored when Luster reached out via Facebook.

“Sometimes doing this job, you don’t know if your work is in vain; if the kid is even hearing you,” he said. “He actually told me he didn’t hear anything until he got locked up, then some of the stuff I said came back to him and he pondered on that while he was doing his six years.”

COVID-19 made it difficult to collaborate because Luster couldn’t enter the facility during quarantine, Bell said. Luster donated a 55-inch TV to use as a “big mobile Zoom station,” he added.

It’s working.

“I’m 48 years old, all this new hip-hop language, I don’t understand, but Kipp can speak their language and he tells a story that is relatable,” Bell said. “He gives them hope.”

Tito Lopez, 17, met Luster through the workout classes at Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Luster offered to mentor anyone interested, and Lopez texted him as soon as he was released.

“I’m in college now, and I wasn’t going to go to college,” Lopez said. “The first thing he asked me was if I had a plan.”

Lopez is now a University of South Carolina freshman. Luster regularly checks on Lopez.

“I’m not gonna lie, I’m stubborn; I’m hard-headed; I want to do everything my way,” Lopez said. “But I guess you could say, I stopped doing everything my way. I take advantage of opportunities now.”

Learn more about Luster at streetz2fitness.com or follow him on Instagram @streetz2fitness.