Jillian Michaels might just change some minds and hearts in Trump’s America.
Besides Ellen DeGeneres or maybe Neil Patrick Harris, there isn’t another household name that is not only both out and successful, but that has a fanbase built partly of Republicans and conservatives in overwhelmingly red states. People are paying attention to what Jillian has to say, because her unabashed and sometimes cruel honesty is part of why they became fans in the first place.
A personal trainer with the ability to both infuriate and inspire her clients, Jillian is an unforgettable personality—a cheerleader you both love and loathe. Outside of her popularity on The Biggest Loser, she maintained that persona in instructional video games, best selling self-help books, advertising her own merchandise and product lines and other television appearances, including E!’s Just Jillian, a docs-series that went inside Jillian’s life at home with her partner, Heidi, and their two children, Lukensia (six) and Phoenix (four). At series end, Heidi and Jillian got engaged, celebrating with family and friends.
In her new book Yeah BABY!, a “modern mama’s guide to mastering pregnancy,” both Jillian and Heidi share from their own experiences and bring in experts to confront misconceptions and common myths. It might just be the most inclusive celebrity-born book about early motherhood that’s ever been published—one that readers of all identities will be able to enjoy and undoubtedly learn from. There is, of course, a large focus on the health, wellness and nutritional aspects of pre and post-pregnancy (meal plans included), but some of the best sections of the book come from Jillian’s own life—excerpts where she explains her fertility issues and shares her love of Heidi’s pregnancy boobs and how it relates to heartburn. The personal touch will thrill readers who feel like they already know Jillian, and also give same-sex couples an inclusive guide that isn’t dry or overly-scientific.
The continued success of Jillian’s brand ultimately depends on her own likability, and unfortunately, her identity as not only an out lesbian, but one who adopted a black daughter and coparents a half-Latino son birthed by her partner, could count against her. But anyone who adores the fitness and nutrition guru knows that she really doesn’t give a shit what you think, unless its affecting her directly, something that’s more apparent now than ever.
We spoke with Jillian about the election, what she learned writing Yeah BABY! and her sudden wedding plans.
GO Magazine: How have you been feeling this week after the election?
Jillian Michaels: Oh my god. I mean, furious? You know, I’m trying to find a place where I’m like, “Alright, what is the silver lining here?” And here’s what I’ve come up with: You’re starting to see all of these minority groups that I think have existed within their own communities really crossing these boundaries and coming together. It’s like Black Lives Matter, LGBT rights community, women’s rights and feminism—I mean it’s just fucking insane and I think that’s really special, and I’m excited to see that.
But I just feel like everyone’s temporarily lost their minds. I don’t understand. It’s like, “Let’s see what he’s gonna do.” What do you mean? “He could be successful.” With what? That’s what we’re excited about? Ripping everybody’s civil liberties away? Woo hoo! Jailing political opponents? Yeah, that’ll be a great fucking idea. Limiting the freedom of press? Cannot wait.
And you have to respect the office—respect is earned; respect is not given. This man has disrespected the majority of minorities. I don’t understand why we owe him anything. It makes me sick. I don’t respect him. He’s motivated myself and many other people to be more involved, and I just don’t understand. When Hitler was elected, “Yeah, he’s batshit, but let’s see what he’s gonna do!” I can’t. I’m not there. I just cannot. I’m like, “Bullshit—no way.”
GO: And you’ve had to go out and promote a new book—how has that been for you?
JM: A lot of people, obviously, don’t wanna touch it because it’s very divisive for all these reasons, and it’s extremely polarizing, so no one’s really asked me. I think—I wrote the book because I care so much about my kids and because I was frustrated at how corrupted the mainstream information about maternity was. And now one of our kids is black, I have a kid that is half-Latino, my brother and sister are Mexican and Venezuelan, my business partner is Puerto Rican, my mother is an Austrian Jew and my father is Syrian and Greek so if anything—oh and sorry, did I mention we are gay? So we’ve been hit on all levels here.
My family means more to me than anything in the world, as do my friends, and I think we’ve all been threatened and everybody’s afraid, and for good reason. In essence, it’s really the same thing. I wrote the book out of love for my family and feeling upset that people were being exploited and the same goes, in my opinion, with the election and I’m going to watch the situation like a hawk as I know many others are as well.
GO: What I love about Yeah, BABY! is that it is very inclusive because it kind of has to be—you had a baby with your partner, this your experience. When you and Heidi were having a baby, were you able to find any books that spoke to your situation or were they all pretty heteronormative?
JM: Well, obviously, everything felt very heteronormative. For me, we have a very mixed group of friends and—we have a lot of heterosexual couples in our lives—I do identify, in some cases, with their husbands. I just do! And people get pissed: “Oh you guys have modeled this type of dynamic.” Heidi is just naturally a little more feminine and soft, and I’m just naturally more masculine, and I do kind of identify with my friend’s husbands—it is what it is. And I think, what I was kind of hoping, to be honest with you, is a lot of dads would relate to my perspective or partners that are not pregnant that are playing the sort of stereotypical role of the one on the sidelines. And that’s why Heidi’s in the book as well so you can see it from both points of view.
But it’s also not a memoir. We do include sort of our own anecdotes and personal experiences, but the reason is because the information in the book—and the reason the book was conceived, pun intended—is because of our experiences, and that’s why three doctors contributed, and a registered dietitian, and a pregnancy fitness specialist. So I do hope that it does reach across those lines of straight, gay and says we all go through the same stuff here. We’re all human, and this is what you need to know for yourself, for your partner, for the health of your baby—all the information is either corrupt or outdated.
GO: Was there anything you learned through the writing of the book that you didn’t know about motherhood?
JM: I’d say everything. I clearly know about nutrition and exercise, so that one is going to be a foregone conclusion. But I will say that I was particularly surprised at a lot of the misconceptions about maternity. I didn’t understand the tremendous influence you can have on your child—not just, obviously, in the womb, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you can hurt the baby. But did you know you can impact their IQ, their long-term earning potential, their athleticism, their body fat, the amount of fat cells they are born with, their body mass index, their taste buds, their taste in food? It’s pretty incredible. So that’s where we start to look at, beyond removing the bad stuff, having a combination of consistent safe exercise and super nutritive food content that will be huge for your kiddo.
I also didn’t understand the pregnancy is essentially a fountain of youth for mommy. We’re just now learning the baby can lend the mommy embryonic stem cells, which are completely rejuvenative. So there’s a lot that I learned, and there’s new research out there. That’s why we have doctors, a pediatrician, an OBGYN, an endocrinologist, and of course an RD in a pregnancy specialty. It’s a very specific time in your life and the baby’s life, and that’s why people specialize. There’s a lot to know.
GO: If there were new episodes of Just Jillian airing right now, what would we be seeing?
JM: Wow, well. You’d definitely be seeing the backlash of the election, for sure. That’s kind of a big deal in our household. People have tried to comment “Your children shouldn’t know.” I just want to ask what world they fucking live in. Because your kids go to school and at my daughter’s school, they have mock elections, and she would come home saying things to me like “Trump doesn’t like brown people.” She woke up in the morning after the election asking who won, and she started crying. I was like “Sweetie, what’s wrong?” She was like “I don’t want him to grab me by the privates, Mommy.” I was like “Honey, Mommy and I would never let this happen. Where did you hear that?” At school. They hear it at school, you know? They hear that stuff at school, they see the cover of the paper with a freaking Syrian toddler bloodied on the cover of the Los Angeles Times or New York Times at Starbucks, and she’s like, “What’s going on? What is that?” You can’t shelter them.
So that’s been a big deal in our household, but I think you’d see a lot of the madness. We’re in the middle of a remodel, and then Heidi wants to add four dogs and three more chickens. [laughs] My son has started swearing. I’m OK with it. You’re perfectly welcome to express yourself however you need around me. But Heidi doesn’t particularly like it. I don’t mind it. So we’ve been dealing with that, but it’s always a shit show. What are you gonna do?
GO: I have to ask, any wedding plans for the near future?
JM: Funny that you do ask that. We were going to plan something for summer of 2017, and now I think we’re just going to City Hall in the next couple weeks. Because I don’t trust—neither one of us trust anything that’s coming out of [Trump’s] mouth, and our concern is that—we’re hoping, and again, we don’t fully understand, but we’re hoping that if we’re already married, you get grandfathered in. Like the couples that were married and then they passed Proposition 8 and then the people that were already married got grandfathered in. So I don’t know what that will look like on a federal level, but that’s what we’re planning on doing now, so she already applied for a marriage license in California. We have 15 days—we have to pick it up in person, so I think we’re just going to go to City Hall because time is now of the essence. Like I keep seeing all these people on Facebook saying “Oh no, he’s going to give it back to the states.” And I’m like what do you think that means? It means the majority gets to vote on the rights of the minority, which is totally unacceptable and you lose your federal rights. What do you think the supreme court fights were about? “He’s not going to do anything—he said he’s not going to do anything.” Oh really, Mike Pence? Mike Pence is the number one anti-gay politician in the country right now. And he’s going to push a Supreme Court justice that may be too. Do you think he’s not going to bring this back to the courts? I’m sure they are. I’m so upset about this, and I’ve never been the one to get militant, but you know what? This pushed me over the edge.
Yeah, BABY! is available now from Rodale Books.