Work It Out
GO talks up a sweat with Jackie Warner, owner of Beverly Hills' elite Sky Sport & Spa Gym and star of Bravo's new reality series Work Out
It's early in L.A., and Jackie Warner, the star of Work Out, is on her way to spin class. I, on the other hand, am in an office in New York. Sitting at my desk, I suddenly notice the calories around me: half-empty cups of coffee, remnants of this morning’s bagel and lox, a bulk-supply of Hello Kitty gummy snacks. I think: I should be more like Jackie.
There are some things Jackie has inspired me to change in my life. Turning off the TV is not one of them. For the next few weeks, I, along with every other fan of this driven but down-to-earth woman of steel, will be glued to the glowing box, watching something unprecedented on national television—a female entrepreneur at the top of her game who just happens to be a lesbian. In the meantime, I decided to get to know our new, favorite power dyke a little better. And do some crunches, too.
GO NYC: Jackie, how did you get here, to become the owner of one of the most successful gyms in L.A.?
JACKIE WARNER: I started in fitness professionally at age 30, almost eight years ago now. I had so much passion for it, that it quickly grew. I started hiring my own trainers, in about four months or so, and I started my first gym within a year of being a certified trainer. That was my first gym in Beverly Hills, and out of that came Sky Sport.
So it’s a process. But one thing I do, is when I take on something, a new profession, which I’ve done many times, is I really try to get to the top. If I don’t think I can achieve the very best, get to the top in my job, I have no problem leaving something.
You weren’t always a fitness trainer. How did you get into the biz?
I was working in the television industry as a script coordinator for Warner Bros., and I decided that I didn’t really enjoy it, and at 30 I got out. I’d always been able to train pretty heavily myself, and all my friends constantly were asking me to train them anyway. I got certified and I said, while I’m figuring things out, let me delve into this a little bit, and I just loved it.
How did you land this TV gig? Was it because of connections formed when you worked at Warner Bros.? Oh wait, Bravo and WB aren’t related…
Believe it or not, not everybody knows everybody in L.A.! What happened is, one of the producers from Mentorn, the production company, approached me and said, “Look we love your gym, we saw you on your website, and I’d like to sit down and talk with you. We’re doing a workout show, and we’re really looking for beautiful faces.” I don’t think their concept was fully formed, but after sitting down with me, they saw the kind of person I was, and what I had to offer as a self-made businesswoman, a strong woman, with this beautiful space and these gorgeous trainers who were at the top of the field. It didn’t hurt that I was a lesbian, because Bravo is a very gay- and lesbian-friendly network. I think it came into fruition there.
In regards to the trainer, Rebecca, who is always flirting and showing a lot of skin, you said that you have a problem with women who play the sex card. If you consider her behavior un-sexy, what do you consider sexy?
I never said I have a problem with women that play the sex card. I said I had a problem with women that only play the sex card. I love sexy women, and of course I love flirtatious women who are fun, unafraid to express their sexuality. So do my girlfriend and the trainers that I hire. My friends are very sexy, fun people, but I want to see more from a woman. I want to see brains and intelligence. I want to see a well-rounded person, not just someone who quickly goes to that sex card and only knows how to play it up to feel attractive.
Isn't fitness training a sexual work environment? Do you have a policy about dating at your gym?
Yeah, you cannot date a client. It's totally unprofessional. I would never allow that; it's a fire-able offense immediately. I don't care if you're the hottest actress or model once I train you, because we’re in a teacher/student role and it's completely inappropriate. And a lot of transference goes off between a trainer and a client, and just like if you went to a therapist, you certainly wouldn't want that therapist to be sexually attracted to you or have that complication. We have to be very careful about that. Trainers [dating] trainers, on the other hand, that’s their business. It does happen quite frequently, and I don't get involved in that.
L.A. has such an image-conscious culture, perfect breeding ground for large elite gyms. Would a business like yours exist in New York?
Wow, that is a great question, because going to New York…the highest-end gym, what a difference! There definitely is a whole shift. First of all, New Yorkers are not as obsessed with looks. L.A. is the most superficial, looks-obsessed place in the world. You walk into one of the higher-end gyms in New York and you see the women [and men] training, and their bodies aren’t anywhere near the men and women here. They just don’t put as much time into that. And the trainers’ bodies are not anywhere close to what we have here. In L.A. you have beautiful gyms. We put so much time and effort and money, [so that] when you walk into a gym, you have a wow factor. In New York you don’t have that so much. It’s very much geared towards functionality.
Some people define themselves by their work, others by other things, such as their sexuality. How do you define yourself?
I define myself first as a woman, and I’ve always said that before anything. Being a woman and seeing what women go through in this world is something I’m very involved in. I’ve been giving to causes around the world. I fight for women’s rights, more than being a gay person or anything else. It is who I am. Secondly, definitely career. I think of myself as a business-owner; the training is incorporated into that. And lesbianism is such a part of me. It’s such a natural thing that I don’t even label myself like that. It’s just so integral, it’s a non-issue for me.
What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage. Are you involved in the fight?
I’m getting more involved. I’ve always been a supporter of gay marriage, which in the third episode is discussed pretty heavily with my mother and my girlfriend and my friends. I think we should have the same financial rights and the same rights as are given to heterosexual couples. I think until society and the federal government start supporting our community, we are always going to have a feeling of being a lesser people. If gay marriage is put into place now, I think in 50 years we would have a whole different feeling and vibe in the gay and lesbian community, and not so much self-loathing. And that’s important.
In the third episode, you and your mother disagree about your personal life. What was it like coming out?
I came out when I was 21, when I had my first substantial girlfriend, and I felt it was necessary. Not to share that part of my life with my mother was getting increasingly difficult because we lived together. I always knew on some level that I was gay or that something was very different about me, but when I was 14 I definitely knew.
[My mother] is very religious, and that’s always driven a wedge between us. I was raised in a very religious family, so I was always forced to go to church and embrace their ideas. And the ideas didn’t work for me personally, although I am a very spiritual person and I still believe in God. So that has always driven a wedge between my mother and [me], because she could never embrace my girlfriends or long-term relationships. I’ve had very long-term relationships; I’m sort of a serial monogamist.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? You are an artist, right?
I am an artist. In fact, I met Mimi [her girlfriend of more than four years] in art class years ago when I was with another girlfriend. She was such a young kid, I wasn’t even looking at her, and she’d had a crush on me. It’s a cute story we love telling to people. She had a crush on me and I had no idea.
So, I am a painter and artist. I’ve sold my works and I’ve shown. But I decided I could not make the kind of living that I wanted to make for myself, and now it’s a hobby instead of a career.
Where can we see your art?
It’s going to come online soon. I’m going to feature and sell it on my website. [skysportspa.com]
Do you frequent any lesbian bars or clubs in L.A.?
I go to mixed clubs. I don’t really care for lesbian clubs. [Both Mimi and I] feel that way. I prefer actually straight places. I don’t know why, but I just do. Maybe it’s my background, how I grew up. But I always end up having more fun, maybe because the pressure isn’t there so much for us.
GO NYC knows how lesbians love their pets. So we want to know all about the family. I see some dogs on the show. Are those yours?
Yes! They’re my babies. They’re my two little Chihuahuas. Pichu, the first one, is 6-and-a-half years old. He’s my absolute love. And then Lima is a new addition, and she is still a puppy and just a handful. I’ll tell you something: no matter how you feel—your ups, your downs, your sadness, your depression—it’s never nearly as bad when you get a pet that you really bond with and love, because you have something else to take care of, and you just can’t get too depressed when you have this beautiful little puppy face looking up at you constantly. I love my two dogs. I take them everywhere. They come to work with me every day.
Yeah! They are completely a part of Sky Sport & Spa. If you don’t like the two Chihuahuas, then you should try somewhere else!
What’s your daily fitness regimen?
I do my cardio. But most importantly I love to weight lift. So I lift weights about five times a week. I take two days off. And when I miss a day I do miss it. I miss that chemical high that comes from intense lifting. And also it allows me to do fun things like eat ice cream on the weekend, and pizza.
Do you have a power song or album? What music gets you pumped to work out?
I love electronica, because I come from the ‘80s. I love Fischerspooner, Ladytron, Electrolane, Goldfrapp—huge fan.
What do you think the impact of the show will be, on the gay community and on viewers in general?
I think the gay community, just from what I’ve [heard] in my local area here, is embracing the show. I think they are happy whenever they see representation on screen, as I was when I was younger. And so any time that occurs, the gay community is going to rally around it. Those are not the people that I think I’m going to have to win over. The people I’m going to have to win over are the people that are from where I’m from. The men and women in the middle part of the country. Hopefully they’ll admire the business. Hopefully they’ll admire that I’ve done something unique with my life.
Have a good spin, Jackie!