Catching Up With Jackie Warner
By Kevin Downey
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.