Over the course of her on-again-off-again tenure as a trainer on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” Jillian Michaels has earned a reputation as someone who talks tough and tells it like it is.
So it should surprise no one that when discussing the reality-competition series responsible for her stardom, she pulls no punches.
“ ‘Biggest Loser’ has become entertainment. It’s a shell of what actually goes on, none of which the audience really sees,” Michaels says. “The reality is, an episode takes 10 days. People are seeing a one-hour show, which is 45 minutes of actual show (with commercials); and of that 45 minutes, I would say 40 of it is ‘challenge, temptation, weigh-in, big last-chance workout.’
“You don’t actually see the work they’re doing on how the contestant ended up here, and how they’re turning these things around. ... Because the producers just don’t think it’s entertaining – which, of course, is my biggest disagreement. But what are you gonna do? I’m not a producer on the show.”
Michaels is, however, in charge of the “Maximize Your Life” tour, which comes to Knight Theater on Sunday afternoon. And her intent with these performances is to highlight all those issues that get glossed over in prime-time television.
The show is built around a traditional motivational speech, but she has integrated healthy doses of multimedia content and an extensive Q&A session. Michaels promises spontaneity and unscripted conversations; the audience, she says, will contribute to the dynamic and the energy of the show.
“We ask the tough questions,” she says. “ ‘Where is the origin of our self-defeating behaviors? Why did they start? Where did they start?’ Then subsequently I give them the tools to turn those things around.”
The 27-city tour is just one of many extensions of Michaels’ goliath of a brand, which includes more than a dozen fitness DVDs with titles such as “Killer Buns and Thighs”; a popular weekly podcast; self-help books; interactive video games; and various other training, wellness and life-coaching ventures.
She’s like what Jane Fonda was in the 1980s, what Kathy Smith was in the 1990s, what Denise Austin was in the 2000s. And yes, Michaels has just as hard a time appealing to men as they did. Even though “The Biggest Loser” features a roughly equal number of male and female contestants, the audiences for her live shows are lopsided.
“It’s mostly women,” she says. “It is like 90 percent women and 10 percent good husbands that got dragged. The reality is, I think, people like to see themselves in the person they’re taking advice from. I’ve been (a trainer) since I was 17 years old. I just turned 40. I have transformed the bodies of hundreds if not thousands of men. Yet still men are like, ‘My wife makes me do your exercise DVD.’ They do it because their wife makes them do it, but they would never think to buy it. Yet they would buy a man’s DVD because it’s a man.
“And so I don’t judge that. I don’t care. People seek motivation wherever they want to, wherever it works for them, and I respect that. But all men are welcome, and it is a show for everybody.”