Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Who wears short shorts?

Fitness guru Richard Simmons sparkles

"My message has always been love yourself," says Simmons.
I am greeted with a song and dance, a huge smile, and more sparkle than a disco ball. Yes, it is the fabulous Richard Simmons.
 
Simmons was in Ottawa recently for Bust a Move for Breast Health, a fundraising event that raised more than $350,000. Xtra took the opportunity to chat with the fitness icon.
 
Xtra: How did you become involved in Bust a Move Ottawa?
 
Last year I was asked to go to Halifax to do a Bust a Move. It was the first one there, and then I keep doing them. I’ve done one in Edmonton, and I just got back from The Rock, St John’s Newfoundland, where it’s really cold and my Afro froze! I’ve been involved in fundraisers and I’ve been travelling since I was on General Hospital in 1979.
 
Why are these events important to you?
 
I’ve had my exercise studio for almost 40 years now in Beverly Hills, and over those years I have lost some women to breast cancer and some have conquered it. A lot of people are suffering with self-worth, diseases, obesity, depression, and when I touch somebody I feel that I take it inside of me. I have very big shoulders, and I wish I could put everyone’s problems on there.
 
What would you say to someone struggling with obesity?
 
My message has always been love yourself, that’s the first thing. If you don’t have that, then you are not going to go to the second. The second is watch your portions. As a kid I never exercised. When I saw someone running in New Orleans, I called the police — I thought they stole something. I had no idea that people actually did that kind of activity!
 
How would you describe your style?
 
I must say that my style would be childish. I give people the chance to be kids again. Life can be very cruel, with its ups and downs, highs and lows, and some people grow up way too quickly; they forget to be silly or tell jokes or see the lighter side. I have a very stressful, frustrating job, so being childlike and letting other people be a child again, whether it’s my crazy outfits, my music or my moves, I’m sort of one-of-a-kind and I’m proud of that.
 
And your workout style?
 
I’ve done 65 videos and DVDs, so my formula is a rhythmic formula for the heart and a static stretch with lots of cardio, including movements that are safe. So my safe workouts and unbelievable music just get people going. I used to get in disguise and go and see other classes — most of them were not fun. Exercise has to be fun, and right now the country is taking it way too seriously.
 
You have such a wide range of appeal, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community. Why do you think this is?
 
I have no idea. When I started being on Facebook and Twitter, so many different people came to my studio that I was not ready for. I’m going to say that 50 percent of my clientele now is under 30. I could be their grandfather! I don’t know why I became successful. We all have friends that didn’t become successful, and I don’t know why I was chosen. I have a very difficult time with that. I try not to think about it too much, and I help as many people as I can because I’ve been lucky.