You’ve seen her on “The Biggest Loser” and on just about every fitness-related magazine cover on the shelves. Since cementing her status as a go-to fitness personality several years ago, Jillian Michaels’ star continues to shine, and her empire continues to grow. Now with her own customizable fitness app (available at Jillianmichaels.com), Jillian chatted with Paste about her career, using the media to her advantage, and where we’ll find the next Jillian Michaels.
Did you always want to be successful as a “brand” and expand beyond simply being a trainer, etc?
Jillian Michaels: Not always, but certainly for a long time. I’d say that around 27 I began to look at how I could expand the reach of my message through a variety of platforms to build a business that provided people en masse with an affordable, accessible, effective path to their best life.
What are some ways that you proactively expanded your name value early in your career?
Michaels: I have strategically exploited all available mediums from digital, to radio, to print, to broadcast TV in order to cater to all audiences in the ways the choose to ingest their information. I made sure that the content I put out in the world was authentic, honest, and delivered results. I built a team of people around me who were strong where I was not and had skill sets that I didn’t have.
Do you think it will be easier or harder for the next Jillian Michaels to break out of the pack and capture people’s attention and imagination?
Michaels: This is a loaded question. I think there will be more opportunities as the “gate keepers” of the old days like network executives and retail store buyers become more and more irrelevant. Now, anyone can start their own platform via social media channels, blogs, and podcasts. We can self-publish books via Amazon, and the list goes on. So, it’s anyone’s game, and the playing field has been leveled. That said, there is far more competition in the space because of this, so standing out without buying inauthentic followers, reviews or views is more challenging.
How important is social media in today’s health/entertainment industry?
Michaels: I believe that digital platforms, social media and the like are the new frontier. It allows the consumer to curate, cultivate, and literally program what media they ingest anyhow they ingest it. A brand like mine that was born in traditional media has only had such longevity because we have embraced new media via my new app, podcast, social channels and so on.
In your experience, how important of a currency was your social media following in allowing you to break into radio, video games, and other uncharted territory?
Michaels: Critical. Social media allows you to have a direct connection with your audience and that converts into all mediums like gaming and radio if done correctly.
Is it tougher to be effective as a health and fitness professional with the added scrutiny that comes with being a celebrity?
Michaels: Yes, but it’s par for the course. You definitely have a target on your back. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard things about how I’m not a real trainer or how I don’t write any of my books or workouts. None of this is true, of course, but envy is a troublesome thing. That said, celebrity opens many doors so you must take the good with the bad.
With so much content and information out there, is there also an undercurrent of inaccurate health and fitness information that you find yourself fighting against?
Michaels: Constantly. That is one of the challenges of a world without gate keepers… no one is vetting the information. I have seen ridiculous statements from fitness “experts” about how sweating detoxes the body, or how heated workouts burn more calories. The promotion of dangerous diets, or conversely, the false notion that one doesn’t have to watch calories when trying to lose weight. And the list goes on. That said, I believe the cream always rises. The personalities that I have seen resonate for a substantial period of time deliver results, not empty promises.
You’ve conquered every medium in existence during your career, from TV to DVD’s to video games and beyond. What’s the next big way that people will allow you to lead them to a healthier lifestyle?
Michaels: For me at this stage in my career, it’s about collaboration… not competition. We have started an on-demand digital platform called FitFusion that allows you to stream top workouts of all kinds from top trainers anyplace, anytime, anywhere, on nearly every device. So you can do HIIT training with Zuzka Light, Yoga with Tara Stiles or Dashama, Bootcamp with me. You can even do some toning up with the Tone It Up Girls. There is no platform that offers this quality of workout from this quality of trainers. If you are just a fan of my stuff and you want the experience of having me as your coach and personal trainer, you can download my app for hundreds of different workouts and meal plans customized just for you.