How to Be a Fitness Star


Their big toothy grins flash at you as you walk past them in big box stores.  Their hopelessly perfect bodies entice you to try their fitness workouts.  But what exactly goes into becoming a fitness star?  How do you break in to this competitive area of fitness? I’ve got the goods.

I’ve been fascinated with this whole thing for years and I’ve interviewed the super famous (Mari Winsor) and the up and coming (Jessica Smith) trying to figure out what goes into a DVD production.  It’s actually a pretty interesting business.

Step 1:  Find a Production Company

Most fitness DVDs are funneled through just a few companies in the US. They hire “talent” to be the stars of the videos but frequently the company already has a theme in mind.  They are always looking for new talent.  You can pitch them by sending them brief videos showing off your mad skills, but it helps a lot if you know somebody and can get an introduction.

“I got an introduction to the producer,” says Jessica Smith of 10 Minute Solution: Ultimate Bootcamp. “I did an audition tape and sent it over and didn’t think much of it and then got a call a couple of weeks later.”

That led to her first DVD with the 10 Minute Solution folks in 2005 and she’s done several since.  ”I had no previous professional experience doing fitness videos and learned as I went.  I sort of faked it ’til I made it,” laughs Smith.  She learned well, by the way; I’ve watched a few of her DVDs and I really like her cueing and style.  She teaches safe, challenging routines.

Step 2:  Look Great

If you are naturally slim this is a big advantage for you.  Smith admits to “watching her diet a little more closely” before a shoot but otherwise not doing too much.  Other fitness stars work harder to gain that perfect body.

It’s common for fitness stars to “diet down” for a shoot and then go back up to their normal weights.  So when you see that airbrushed picture of the workout video star on the box, often that person wishes they really looked like that too.

Step 3: Production

A production company will set up the shoot, wardrobe, camera and tech people, etc., or you can do it yourself.  No matter what, though, you’ll be in charge of the on-camera choreography.

“In a class setting, I don’t plan every single exercise before hand, but on a DVD we have it down to the minute and everything is planned from beginning to end,” says Smith.

The cueing is just as important as the moves.  ”There’s so much information you need to get out in a short amount of time,” says Smith. “There’s a balance though, to not give out too much information so [the viewers] are annoyed by the cues.”  After all, if they like the video they’ll be listening to it dozens of times.

If you decide to produce the DVD yourself, you’re in for a whole different experience.  Maria Leone of Bodyline LA has produced three successful videos and did it all on her own.

Leone acted as the producer for her first shoot, hiring the crew and scouting locations. She did the marketing and distribution on her own, learning the ropes as she went. Within months, she had a successful video and decided to produce two more, shot simultaneously. For these additional videos, she hired a professional producer to improve the overall quality.

Step 4:  Distribution

This is very tricky.  How exactly do you get into Walmart so every American can see your toothy grin?  It’s a lot harder than it looks.

The production companies have the inside track because they already have the relationships established with the buyers of the large chains and other distribution portals.  Even so, it’s a highly competitive marketplace and during a recession big box stores are very picky about what inventory they choose.

If you are developing your own DVD you need to solicit these stores and hope for the best.  Frequently you’ll get nowhere which will leave you with the internet for distribution.  Develop a spiffy website and get ready to go to health and fitness conventions to shop your DVD.  If you sell enough on your own you can go back to the other distribution channels to see if they might be interested.  Don’t forget to package yourself on Amazon too.

Step 5:  Getting Paid

If you are talent hired by a production company, you get paid a fee for your appearance.  It’s only a few thousand dollars, maybe the low five figures, maybe not even that high.  It is an excellent calling card and a great opportunity to get your name out there, so if you ever get the chance, take it.

If you develop the DVD by yourself you’ve got all the upfront costs of production and duplication, and the heavy-lifting job of sales, marketing and distribution.  You will invest a lot of time after the production making sure you make enough sales to cover your investment.  I have asked this question several times over the years and I can tell you production costs range from $10,000 up to literally $100,000.  (Yes, I know someone who spent this much money but he swore me to secrecy. To his credit, the series of DVDs is stunningly beautiful and popular.)

So there’s all you need to know to be a fitness star.  Still interested?