If you've dreamed of training famous actors, athletes, business people or
other celebrities, it's important to realize that you can-as long as you do
certain things right and avoid doing certain things wrong. You also need a
unique job mindset and a special understanding of these kinds of clients.
Celebrity clients expect three things above all else:
You can never reveal anything said or done in your training sessions unless
you're given the "okay" in advance.
Stars' schedules, goals and demands can shift like the winds; you must be
able to adapt.
3. Top-tier professionalism.
It's all business with the famous. They're not in this to be your friend,
and you have to bring your A-game to every session.
Now, let's walk through each of these:
Can You Keep a Secret?
Confidentiality must be absolute with celebrity clients. Because you'll be
working with well-known people dressed in fitness clothes who are not
camera-ready, they must feel comfortable around you. You may even have to
sign confidentiality forms and turn off your mobile phone-no selfies unless
they want one. "I carry my cellphone when walking the Hollywood Hills
outdoors with my clients only for emergency purposes, but otherwise it
remains off," says Jeffrey Bornman, a trainer who works with celebrities in
Hollywood, California. "Your client has to know that whatever happens
between the two of you will stay between the two of you. Trust is the most
important issue for them when letting their guard down to work with you in
such a personal capacity."
How Flexible Are You?
Celebrities need a trainer who
understands their special needs and expectations. You'll have to
accommodate ever-changing schedules without showing a hint of frustration
at tardiness, missed appointments and changed programs. You'll have to be
okay with clients multitasking--taking urgent calls or texts during
Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, founder of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, agrees
that having a high-profile client comes with unique responsibilities that
transcend the normal 60-minute interaction. "While I treat all my clients
with the same energy, focus and attention," he explains, "many times
high-profile clients need more time outside of our session with additional
accountability and motivation. Because they are often very busy, it's easy
for them to get distracted and off course, so it's my job to make sure they
are doing what they should be doing when they are not with me."
Can You Be "All Business"?
"Whereas some clients are not very serious about being their absolute best,
celebrities tend to be more serious about results and appreciate finding a
trainer who can facilitate that," says Doug Brignole, a Hollywood trainer
and champion bodybuilder who has worked with many celebs over the years.
"Celebrity clients have high expectations of their service providers but
don't want to feel that their trainer is star-struck by them."
And make sure you understand that a famous performer's appearance is a
product they use to build their brand. New York City-based Dominique Adair,
MS, RD, explains that "[while] people are people in terms of their response
to exercise, I have found the 'appearance stakes' are considerable with
very-high-visibility clients. It helps me to think I am working with a
brand in addition to a person."
Jennifer Horvath, Pilates teacher trainer for Body Harmonics in Montreal,
agrees: "Because they are a commodity, unlike most other clients,
celebrities rarely have time for, nor want to, chitchat or get to know you
like your regular clients. They are mostly all business and they just want
to stick to the workout for their specific, measurable goals."
Why It's Good to Have VIP Clients
The benefits of working with famous clients generally outweigh the
complications. "Having high-profile clients lends a strong element of
social proof for your training business," says Michael Piercy, MS,
NASM-CPT, CES, PES, CSCS, recipient of the 2017 IDEA Personal Trainer of
the Year Award and owner of The LAB Performance & Sports Science center
in Fairfield, New Jersey.
Furthermore, says Durkin, "If they trust and like you and you have a solid
relationship with them, they have the ability to open up opportunities in
their sphere of influence. And the generous ones take care of you and your
family. [NFL quarterback] Drew Brees, whom I've been training for 15 years,
recently took my entire family to Kauai for an incredible vacation."
The marketing voice and influence of famous clients can be a game-changer,
says Mark Fisher, who trains elite Broadway performers in New York City.
"Among our many Tony Award-winning Broadway stars, we've trained
choreographer Jerry Mitchell [of Legally Blonde, Kinky Boots and On Your Feet] for many years," Fisher
said. "He's been a very public advocate for Mark Fisher Fitness, which has
helped grow and legitimize our brand among the Broadway community."
Finally, you can make considerably more money training celebrities-not
merely because they can afford higher rates, but because of all of the
extra effort you must extend, including strange hours, travel time and
extra preparation. Those hours are billable, of course.
It's a Team Effort
The personal trainer of a celebrity sometimes has to coordinate with other
professionals in the star's orbit. "I have clients who are under pressure
to prepare for different types of roles, like needing to have weight gain
or weight loss," says Bornman. "So I have to stay in constant contact with
their nutritionist and even therapists to coordinate their overall wellness
so they can achieve their SMART [specific, measurable, attainable,
realistic, timely] goals as needed."
Adair adds: "My job as nutritionist for most celebrities means I am
responsible for the nutrition arena myself and then act as a wellness
coordinator for everything else including hiring others, composing medical
teams and sourcing exercise equipment."
Confronting the Complications
Preparation is key to handling the ups and downs of high-profile clients.
Bornman recommends a fair-but strict-cancellation policy. "All of my
clients know that I invoice them for all canceled sessions with less than
48 hours advance notice. They also know that I can try to rearrange things
to create last-minute sessions, but at a markup starting at 100%."
Self-care also becomes paramount because having demanding clients requires
you to be resilient enough to accommodate strange schedules. "My VIP
clients know that I offer 'concierge training,' which includes being able
to text me meal questions from restaurants, requests for motivation when
they are on the road, and calls to check in with me," Bornman says. "All of
that comes at a premium price, and now even some of my non-celebrity
clients want in on that special value."
Training a Star
At the movement level, training a celebrity is about the same as training
anybody else. "I don't train celebrity clients differently than
non-celebrity clients," Brignole says. "Doing so would suggest one of two
things: Either celebrities' bodies are anatomically different from those of
non-celebrities, which is obviously not true, or that I save the 'good'
workouts for the celebrities, and I give the 'bad' workouts to
non-celebrities, which is also not true."
While celebrities may rush in late and need to leave early, their
challenges, goals, questions and physical issues are consistent with those
of traditional clients. "Keeping a level head when working with all of your
clients, regardless of what they do, or who they are, is so important,"
says Bornman. It's crucial, he adds, to treat all clients the same as we
coach each one toward his or her wellness goals.
Tips from the Pros for Landing Famous Clients
Looking to find some higher-profile clients? Here are some tips from the
- "Start by looking current, sleek and professional in all of your
marketing materials, from your Facebook page to website to business card.
Have a consistent message, hashtag and image you represent. Project that
consistency." -Jeffrey Bornman
- "Develop relationships with their 'handlers.' All high-profile
work with handlers like agents, talent managers and publicists. By building
a relationship with them, you position yourself to serve their high-profile
clients." -Mark Fisher
- "Become the best in your field. When the A-listers come to town and
they need referrals, you will be the one referred if you are the best of
the best in your city and you've built up a reputation." -Jennifer Horvath
- "Just ask the universe. Put out there to your current classes and
clients that you'd love to take on a higher-profile client and would love
your tribe to help you make that happen. Ask everyone to introduce you to
just one high-profile potential client. Soon you are meeting neighbors who
are news anchors, friends of friends who are announcers on the local
television station, and your children's president of the Parent Teacher
Association. Everyone knows someone." -Lawrence Biscontini
- "Start with one celebrity client, and then encourage him or her to
tell a friend about you. I was referred to a client named Dr. Harold
a Beverly Hills cardiologist-by his son. Soon, Dr. Karpman referred me to
the Gavins. [John Gavin is a former U.S. ambassador and a well-known
actor from the 1950s and '60s, and his wife Constance Towers is a regular
on General Hospital and has appeared in a number of feature films]. Soon,
the Gavins referred me to Pat McQueeny [who was the manager for Harrison
Ford]. McQueeny then referred me to Mace Neufeld [producer of many feature
films]. Neufeld then referred me to Phillip Noyce [prominent movie
director]. Noyce then referred me to Colleen Camp [former TV star and now
producer of feature films]. And now Camp is suggesting introducing me to a
number of other high-profile celebrities." -Doug Brignole
What Does a Celeb Want in a Trainer?
Constance Towers, star of the ABC soap opera General Hospital and
the movie The Perfect Murder, often jets between New York City and
her home base of Hollywood. That means she prizes a trainer who
"understands that sometimes I have to cancel at the last minute and it's
just beyond my control."
Towers and her husband, John Gavin appreciate that their trainer respects
their privacy when he trains them at their home. "If he wants a picture for
his own website or resume, I'm happy to agree to that," she says. "But we know
that in advance and plan that together outside of training hours."