Jackie Warner could have been down for the count. The tough-as-nails personal trainer, businesswoman, power lesbian, and reality star had burst onto the pop culture scene a few years ago on Bravo's Work Out. She quickly became a widely admired fitness guru, but by the time the show had ended its run in 2008, a combination of bad press and nasty bloggers turned many one-time fans against her.
Despite the drama, Warner hasn't given up. Earlier this year, she released her first book, the bestseller This Is Why You're Fat (and How to Get Thin Forever) and this October, she'll release a new workout DVD, Xtreme Time Saver Training. And, on Monday, September 6, her new Bravo show, Thintervention With Jackie Warner, debuts. Admittedly, the new show doesn't have as much of the drama involving of her personal life -- girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, angry employees -- that made Work Out such a wonderful train wreck, but Warner's steely yet lovable personality is still prominently featured.
We caught up with Warner to chat about the new show's decidedly uplifting message, how she became a self-made millionaire at the age of 21, why she's still embracing the sometimes-cruel spotlight, and painting dogs.
Out: Most people know you for being a tough, in-your-face personal trainer with an incredible set of abs. But you have a softer side, too. You're a painter?
Jackie Warner: I have an art studio in the back of my house. I still paint a few times a week, so it's still a very active part of my life. I used to sell paintings, actually pet portraits, believe it or not. I used to sell my work, but now I do it as a hobby, as a release for my creative side. And it's very therapeutic. I talk to clients about this all the time. Everyone needs a creative outlet, something they can just throw themselves into. Painting is my outlet and I love it.
And you weren't always a fitness guru. You got your start in the cell phone industry, right?
The reason I came to Los Angeles was because I was accepted to a fashion design school, so that's what I started out doing. But when I was 19 or 20, I started my own company. It was a cell phone company at a time when that was extremely lucrative. I can't even tell you how lucrative. It was the industry to be in. I made $1 million by the time I was 21. By 25, I sold my company and started doing other things.
For three seasons on Work Out, your romantic and business relationships were pretty much the focus of the show, although admittedly with fitness training as the backdrop. How did you deal with going from being relatively anonymous person into a reality star whose personal life was on display for all to see?
It's weird because things change. I didn't change, but people changed around me. It was an adjustment. Before, I had a personal life, where I could do whatever I wanted to do and say whatever I wanted to say. Then, all of a sudden, I became a personal figure, which requires a whole different set of responsibilities. And when you're on a reality show, viewers feel like they know you because they're watching your personal life. They also feel that you're 100% accessible to them. Whereas someone isn't going to go up to Cameron Diaz or someone like that when they're drunk. That happens to me all the time.
People are online chatting about you all the time as if they know you. Their feelings get hurt when you say something they don't like. They're happy when you're happy. Does that affect you?
It's fascinating. This is how I like to look at it: I have a lot of great, positive energy coming in my direction. People always come up to me and say they lost weight because of the show or they came out to their parents because of me. Just in terms of energy, I'm getting thousands and thousands of people with positive energy coming my way. I think it's a wonderful thing.
On your new show, Thintervention, you help eight people -- including former Real Housewives of Orange County star Jeana Keough -- lose weight. What are you trying to accomplish with this show, besides giving your personal life a break from the spotlight?
I'm executive producing the show, so I'm very involved in every creative aspect of it. What I want to do is a show that deals with the whole person, including the emotional struggles and what it's like to tackle this demon -- to lose weight -- in the real world. We're the only show that doesn't put you in a house or sequester you or put people in extreme situations. This is a show where we give people the tools they need and then we watch them struggle and get through childhood issues and other issues and, hopefully, come out on top. That's what the show is really about. I'm the teacher but they have to take the reins and make changes in their lives. It's relatable because that's what people have to do in the real world.
So, you set out to make an uplifting show?
I had a very definite idea of what I wanted when I mapped out each and every episode and the good feeling I wanted to get from the show. That's not to say things don't get rocky later in the season. They do. These people definitely show their claws. When you're forcing someone to change, or asking them to change, anger issues come out. When I was editing the show, I was surprised by how much anger and emotion is attached to weight loss. And how much they turned on each other! You see them being very angry, which I think is fascinating.
Is this the first time you're an executive producer?
It's the first time I've been an executive producer. I like to say Work Out happened to me and I made Thintervention happen, and that's the truth. It's fascinating and scary. From the moment of inception, I've been on board with every decision that goes on, including the editing process. Before, I'd watch a finished episode of Work Out, literally, maybe two weeks before everybody else saw it. And I couldn't change anything. What was there was there. Now, I am involved in every step of the process.
On the show, you work your clients pretty hard -- sometimes to the point that they vomit. Why do you work people so hard?
I believe it's not about "how long," but "how strong." There are three chemicals that are released into the brain that make you addicted to working out: endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. You have to release those chemicals in a fast and hard way in order to get people connected to their body and the workout process. I have a new DVD coming out that's called Xtreme Time Saver Training. All my DVDs are very, very successful. Why? Because I break it down into small workouts, but intense workouts. In 10 minutes, you'll sweat. In 10 minutes, you'll feel sore. So, it's about making a mind-body connection in a very fast, hard way. It's the same thing when I put someone on a diet program. They have to lose weight the first week. Why? They have to have an incentive. If they don't drop weight the first week, they won't work as hard the second week.
The eight people you chose to be on the show are really funny -- the kind of people you'd like to hang out with in West Hollywood. How'd you go about selecting the people on the show?
We want people who are passionate about changing their lives. We believed they were at the point where they really wanted to make a big change. You know, shooting a show is hard, hard work. It's a six-day-a-week process. The show comes before everything else for those two-and-a-half months. We were asking people to completely throw themselves into this project. So, we looked for that level of commitment. But also we looked at their personality -- a depth of personality that would make them interesting to watch.
The clients also go through group therapy. Is that only for the show or is that something you recommend for your clients?
I'm into metaphysics and one thing I love that Bravo allows me to do is talk about things like visualization tools and positive energy. You have to deal with emotional issues before you can make a major life change. Anyone can take weight off for six months. Anyone can do that. But can you take it off forever? That's the question.
So, group therapy is part of your approach to losing weight?
I don't think you can achieve long-term results without therapy -- I really don't -- whether it's anonymous therapy, group therapy, or one-on-one therapy. You have to have a sounding board, a person you can talk to about where these issues come from. You always find with people addicted to food that it stems from an experience in childhood. I've noticed this for years of group therapy with clients. It always stems from some issue in their childhood. Therapy is very, very important.
After Work Out ended, you were the subject of innumerable online posts. Many of them were not flattering and that had some of your fans thinking you'd ditch the high-profile life -- but you haven't. You released a book. You're releasing another workout DVD. You have your new Bravo show. How come you didn't quietly walk away and reclaim a private life?
First of all, I'm a fighter and always have been. When someone corners me, when I'm at my lowest point and have nothing to lose, that's when the fighter instinct in me comes out. That's when the best parts of me come out. It's a blessing in disguise. I may not have been as driven [if that didn't happen]. I may not have worked as hard. I have been quite busy since Work Out ended. The book took me a year to write. It was a passion project. Thintervention is based on the book. I have a lot going on. I have a great team around me. I have a lot of positive energy around me. My life has changed greatly. I love what I do. I am passionate about what I do. I want to help people, so if that's what drives you, you have to go for it.
Thintervention premieres September 6 on Bravo at 10 p.m. ET/PT. For more on Jackie Warner, visit her official website.