Badass Women celebrates women who show up, speak up, and get things done.


This article was originally published Sept. 6, 2018.

To complete one Ironman Triathlon, an athlete must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a casual 26.2 miles, all with no breaks. That should give you a pretty good idea of what it means that Ashley Horner is gearing up to complete 50 Ironman Triathlons in 50 days to round out the summer. It’s all part of the mother, humanitarian, and entrepreneur’s mission to raise money for a Haitian orphanage.

“I used to think that being strong was just a physical attribute,” Horner, who stars in InStyle’s new Badass Women video series, in partnership with Reebok, says in the video at top. “Strength is something that happens internally as well.” Horner started out as a professional fitness model, but after finding success in her field, she realized she wanted to use her skills to help others. So she devised a new goal: to use her passion for sport and platform to uplift others. She now competes in fundraising physical competitions on the regular.

That led her to an ongoing, important passion project: In 2016, she founded the Unbroken Foundation, which supports women and children who’ve suffered from domestic violence. In addition to raising money for the cause, she opened American Brew, a restaurant/coffee shop/whisky bar in Virginia Beach, Va., that offers employment to beneficiaries of Unbroken Foundation. Watch the video at top to find out how she did it.

Finding purpose: “In the beginning of my fitness modeling career I was so afraid,” Horner admits, detailing what she thought of as personal shortcomings. “I always had this assumption that I had to just be skinny or, you know, I couldn’t have any tattoos. I wasn’t fitting inside this box of what society made me think I had to be.” So instead, she decided to focus on what made her happy, and, for her, happiness was strength. “A time came when I just started training to be strong.” Eventually, Horner opened up her own gym, where she now wants all her patrons to feel like they can conquer anything, no matter their starting skill level. “We all start somewhere.”

Alone time: When does a busy mom find time for herself? For Horner, it’s a 4 a.m. cup of coffee to start her day. She says, in the video above, that it’s her sole moment of quiet and self-reflection in her daily routine.

Chasing success: Searching for meaning in her life, Horner decided to harness her strengths — literally — to help others. In 2016, she ran 280 miles from Virginia Beach to North Carolina to raise money for victims of domestic violence. “That was truly fulfilling,” the athlete says. Now, she’s in the middle of completing 50 Ironmans, starting and ending in Haiti, to raise $100,000 for an orphanage in the Caribbean country.

Entrepreneurial drive: Horner hopes to expand her cafe American Brew to multiple locations across the country in the next 10 years. Opening her first spot was a challenge, but Horner’s not one to back down. “I truly believe that as a female, a badass lives within literally every single one of us and we are so afraid to unleash that.” Once she did, though, there was no turning back. Horner hopes that a core part of the operation, as it expands, will be creating opportunities for women who’ve survived domestic abuse. “I want to show my boys what a strong female is,” she says. “I want to leave them with the idea that they can do, and they can become anything that they want to become – as long as they’re passionate about it, everything else will fall into place.”