Curves, Anytime Fitness and Kelli Calabrese all have something in common: They all have ties to TV shows, they all have ties to Texas and they all have shined a positive spotlight on the industry.
Let's take them in order. First, Curves founders Gary and Diane Heavin (pronounced "haven") starred in ABC's "Secret Millionaire" on Sunday, April 3. In the show, the Heavins left their comfortable Waco, TX, ranch, hopped on a private jet and headed to Houston, not far from where Gary was born. For one week, the Heavins lived in a poor, rough Houston neighborhood while visiting local charities, not revealing their successful backgrounds. Sticking to the premise of the show, the Heavins revisited the charities at show's end, told the organizers who they were and handed them checks. All told, the Heavins distributed $410,000. (Here's a Reality TV Magazine synopsis of the show, and here's ABC's entire broadcast of the episode.)
Through Becky Frusher, Curves' PR director, Diane Heavin told Club Industry in an e-mail that she and Gary watched the show Sunday with a big group of family and friends, even though the Heavins had already watched the episode several times before it aired.
"It was like living through the experience all over again," Diane says. "We cried along with everyone else! And the impact that the show is having is exactly what we had hoped for—that people would realize that we are all one big community and we have a responsibility to help each other. And that it doesn't take a lot of money to do that—just time and a servant's heart."
Diane adds that just days after the show aired, she and Gary have received several e-mails, letters, phone calls and Facebook posts from people telling them how much the show touched their lives and that they are pledging to get involved in their communities.
"After the show, one of the charities we gave to—No More Victims, helping children of incarcerated parents—called to say that they were instigating a new requirement as part of their program," Diane says. "The kids in the program will now be volunteering their time and talents to the other two local charities that we gifted—The Lazarus House and The Sean Ashley House. How incredible is that?"
The following night, just down the dial, A&E aired the reality show "Heavy." The show, which began airing in January, is about morbidly obese adults who are attempting to lose weight with the help of personal trainers and medical clinics. Unlike NBC's "The Biggest Loser," this show is not a contest but rather a documentary of these subjects.
Anytime Fitness trainer David Richardson (pictured here) is one of the featured trainers on the show. Richardson was chosen out of a few hundred trainers who auditioned. Anytime's PR director Mark Daly tells Club Industry that once Richardson told the producers that he worked at Anytime, the producers then called the club to ask if the show could feature the Anytime clubs in the Austin, TX, area. Naturally, Anytime said yes.
Daly says that Monday's broadcast was a follow-up to an earlier episode. During the broadcast, which also included an Anytime Fitness commercial, Anytime's website traffic increased by four times, Daly says. The Hastings, MN-based company and "Heavy" are expected to continue their partnership for Season 2, which could air this fall or early next year.
The exposure has done wonders for Anytime.
"Dozens of (Anytime) franchisees across the country have contacted me to say that people have come to their clubs and joined their clubs because of what they saw on the show ‘Heavy,'" Daly says.
Finally, there could be a new TV star in the making, and it's someone who has spoken at Club Industry shows and has served as a judge for several of Club Industry's Best of the Best contests. Fitness coach Kelli Calabrese of Flower Mound, TX, is a finalist to take over Jillian Michaels' spot on "The Biggest Loser." Michaels is leaving the show after this season.
After she was selected from more than 200,000 personal trainer candidates, Calabrese, who says she did not apply for the position, showed her stuff to the show's producers at a local Anytime Fitness, where she was interviewed and trained clients.
"It is a great opportunity to do an interview like this one," Calabrese told The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper. "It will be a career maker for someone, but I'm not sure if it's me."
If she is selected from among the finalists, Calabrese will fly to Los Angeles later this month for a final round of interviews, the newspaper reported.
"I've got to tell you, I'm excited," Calabrese told the Dallas-Fort Worth NBC TV affiliate. "I would love to get it. I just want to reach more people. This has been my mission for a long, long time."
Go get 'em, Kelli! Keep up the good work, David! And thank you, Gary and Diane!