Tone It Up’s Karena Dawn Talks Lifestyle, Overcoming Challenges and Enjoying Life in Her Palm Springs Home
Written By: Andrea Gomez
Photographed By: Nick Isabella
Styled By: Karena Dawn
Style Assistant: Claudia Alvarado
Makeup By: Ashley Kucich
Karena Dawn’s eyes glow when she speaks, and her voice is steady and measured. She means every word. It’s easy to see how the Indiana native has built a fitness empire through female empowerment, motivation and exercise as a lifestyle celebrity and the co-founder of Tone It Up. She stands tall with shoulders back and carries a poised, but comfortable energy. This same welcoming presence has helped countless women move toward a more health-conscious lifestyle. Dawn’s life has taken many dips and turns, highs and lows, but one thing is certain, the best is yet to come.
Dawn’s fitness journey began as a child. Growing up, her mother always worked out to popular VHS tapes of Jane Fonda or Kathy Smith, women who were always moving and looked happy and free. For Dawn, it was like looking at a dream. “I wanted to do that,” she says. For a class assignment in the first grade, she decided to make her own workout tape, recording it in her living room and then performing it in front of her class. “I loved it,” she recalls. “Back then I either wanted to be an artist or be a personal trainer, and I lost my way, but then I found my roots, and I went back into it.
Throughout her life, fitness has helped her find her center, especially when going through difficult times. “It was fitness that helped me shift my mindset and set goals that I thought were attainable and I could reach,” Dawn says. “I’ve never really worked out for the physical benefits, it’s about how it makes you feel mentally.” She applied what she learned through fitness to other parts of her life, pushing herself to obtain goals, try new things and get out of her comfort zone, “like taking a chance, or taking a risk and doing something that makes you uncomfortable,” she adds.
For both Dawn and Katrina Scott, her Tone It Up co-founder and best friend, female empowerment and support was always one of the core elements of the company. “Katrina and I always push each other to follow our dreams and keep that path that we are on,” Dawn says. “We started with the vision of being able to create a community of women, because for both Katrina and I, fitness changed our lives in such a positive way. It became this breakthrough to overcome a lot of things.”
Dawn was in her 20s when Tone It Up started, but the community of support she built allowed her to grow and evolve as a person over the years. “Sharing our stories has helped me grow and have a voice, too. A lot of women were tired of living on the surface and just ready to talk, not only about happiness and success, but our personal struggles and how we are growing because of them.” Tone It Up, she explains, is a place where women can feel supported and empowered to make better lifestyle choices. “[We] provide women with the tools to have a lifestyle where they can live their happiest life.”
For Dawn, fitness was always part of the career plan. “I always envisioned it, even as a little girl,” she says. But it wasn’t easy. “I had a lot of family issues that left me feeling lost. I turned to drug abuse and suffered depression for 10 years,” she explains. “I lost my self-worth and I had self-doubts.” She said self-talks helped her persevere. “Whatever you say to yourself, you listen to it, so it’s about positive self-talk, telling yourself that you can achieve it—you can achieve anything—and then going after it.”
Now, in moments of stress or anxiety, Dawn focuses on her patterns. Skipping a workout or meditation for a day is ok, but two or more means she knows she needs to get back at it, reflect on everything she has already overcome and power through. “I now know that ‘You can overcome anything, you’ve already gone through everything, you can do it, it’s not that big of a deal. Just keep moving.’”
Part of maintaining her healthy lifestyle is knowing when to take a break—and a change of scenery never hurts! When Dawn needs a reprieve, her Palm Springs home is the perfect place to help her find her center. “Palm Springs is an oasis in the middle of the desert,” she says. “Life just slows down here.” Here, she can escape from the daily rise and grind from Los Angeles, where she is based, and breathe. “Palm Springs is my getaway, I love the mountains, the pool [and] the fresh air,” she explains. “There is an energy about the mountains that just reinvigorates you all over.”
Dawn and her husband, Bobby Goldstein, Real Estate Agent at The Agency, Palm Springs and Venice Beach, fell in love with the lifestyle. “We engulfed ourselves at places where the Rat Pack hung out,” she says. For the couple, as soon as they pull onto Highway 111, the Frank Sinatra tunes turn on and martinis by the pool become the norm.
Her new Palm Springs home radiates with this distinct personality. Dawn and Goldstein are both fans of midcentury-modern architecture and their home is replete with these details. “We became obsessed with it. Our house was built in 1959 and we remodeled it ourselves,” she notes.
“It was a bit of the ugly duckling in the neighborhood,” adds Goldstein. But the couple was attracted to the fact that the bones of the Mid Century Modern home were still there, even after a 1963 extension that added a casita. The layout allowed them to have their privacy, even when guests visit.
The casita’s interior design is bathed in saturated hues inspired by Verner Panton and 1970s Space Age design. Multicolored, psychedelic-patterned walls, vinyl discs of Fleetwood Mac and Frank Sinatra, rich garnet carpets and lush plants wrap around corners to decorate the space. “It’s half planning, half collecting to focus on what we truly wanted to do. Although it’s period-correct with the rest of the house’s interior, the casita explores a different design trend of the time,” Dawn explains.
“Each year we go to Modernism Week in Palm Springs, and usually buy one special piece,” Goldstein says as he points to a tall globe lamp on display by the sofa. In the main house, warm glam and metallic accents dominate the inside. “Although the house is midcentury modern, we chose the late ‘60s, early ‘70s interior design,” he adds. “It’s just a little more fun [and] comfortable than structured midcentury. We went period-correct on the outside but on the inside we want to have fun—we want to walk into a room and feel it.”
Their desert oasis allows them the perfect place to escape, relax and renew in style. “We just love to walk through the front door and instantly be impacted by the design. It’s an intentional choice that allows us to feel the space we live in,” Dawn says.
Native Knowledge: Dawn loves to eat at Jake’s for brunch (plus it’s dog-friendly!), Spencer’s for an old, historic vibe and when she’s craving calamari, Tropicale is her go-to along with Arrive’s pool for a few drinks.
Native Knowledge: Dawn likes to hike Tahquitz Canyon after it rains because of the waterfall. In 100-degree weather, hanging out under the waterfall is pure bliss!