INTERVIEW: Richard Simmons On Lady Gaga, How He Survived His Eating Disorder And Being Healthy

If you haven’t heard of him, you’ve heard of his legacy: Bethenny Frankel, Kim Kardashian, Jillian Michaels and other big names have built exercise DVDs into their empires, a career choice modeled after Richard Simmons, the fitness pioneer. When the New Orleans native moved to California, he felt downcast by LA’s fad diet gimmicks and trendy gyms filled with people who didn’t need to lose weight. He opened his own center, Slimmons, and his workout videos were so integrated into American pop culture that General Hospital gave him a four-year recurring role playing himself. Thank goodness he chose to inspire people instead of becoming a priest!

I had to interview you because I am a fan and want the new generations to love you like I did. Please explain to Buzzfeed readers about why you are irreplaceable!


I suffered from eating disorders when I was just a kid. I did not like me or the way I looked. But back then, you could not tell anyone. I took laxatives, learned to throw up and starved and ended up in the hospital. I have always told my story. and I think it is important for others to tell their story too. By telling your story, you are helping the new generation how to deal with life without destroying their health.

When you see young girls like Lady Gaga being open about their past or current eating disorders, if you were their friend, how would you support them?


I think it is very important that you like yourself for who you are and not want to look like anyone else. You also have to understand, many people have had cosmetic surgeries in order to look the way they look. So why look like them when you can just look like you? And there is nothing wrong with looking like you. You are one of a kind and unique. Never forget that.

Simmons recently filmed a new music video, “Hair Do.”

Do you think it is harder for young people, like the Buzzfeed readers?


They deal with things like Instagram photos all day, Photoshop, etc.? Do people just compare themselves to other people’s bodies all day, all the while as they look at us and say, “Wow, those people look better than me?”

No one is perfect…absolutely no one. Like precious stones, we have a few flaws, but why focus on that? Focus on what you like about yourself, and that will bring you happiness and peace.

Can perfection exist if people are happy with themselves, or does it only come with impossible body image standards? Why are people afraid to change their lives in a healthy way?


When we are kids, we develop certain habits, and habits are very hard to break. I was raised in New Orleans, and everything was fried. We even fried pickles. I always thought that when I pass away, someone will deep fry me. We are taught these habits by our family. If they were inactive, chances are their kids would be inactive. If they had unhealthy eating habits, those can be passed on too. But habits are not impossible to break. I broke them, and my formula has always been: “Love yourself, move your body and watch your portions.”

Simmons says he is “the saint of weight loss.”

I remember you cried a long time ago while discussing your past issues on TV, I believe on E! How did you get to be so happy with yourself today?


I am a cryer. I have always been. When rain pours down from the heavens, angels are crying. I cry tears of joy and sometimes, tears of sadness. After all tears, comes a rainbow.

What advice do you have for people with “drunkorexia:” starving themselves and binge drinking?


It’s really sad. You have to be thin and somehow manage to have a party lifestyle in high school and college.

I am not a drinker. I was raised in New Orleans, where I saw people intoxicated everyday. Drinking ages your body inside and out. Our youth should be high on life and on friendship, and on their dreams.

Now, a guest question! I just interviewed Brian Cuban for Buzzfeed.


He’s a great guy who wrote a book about his eating disorder. Brian wants to ask you, “What do you think we need to do to bring male body image issues into the mainstream to the extent that women’s eating disorders are?”

Eating disorders used to be thought of as disorders that women went through, but that is not the case. When you are not happy with you, you do things to hurt yourself and ruin your health. My advice is not to bottle it up inside but to reach out for help. When you are facing disorders of any kind, support is what you really need.

My junior high best guy friend Matt Fessler made me a huge follower of yours.


He brought over your incredible exercise tapes, and I loved your positive message about accepting yourself or literally, “killing” yourself with an eating disorder. Matt wanted to tell you how when he was 6, he pretended his empty vegetable cans were the weights you used. Meanwhile, I felt like you came out of the videos with your big personality, like a friend who happens to be a positive role model. Did you ever think you would one day inspire people much younger than you?

I live to inspire people. It is my desire to inspire. In my workouts, I just want people to be happy and to believe in themselves and exercise to the best of their ability. I am overwhelmed that people of all ages treat me like a friend.

You’ve released a song, have a clubhouse and came out with a new Sweatin’ to the Oldies DVD. What else does your future hold? Any dubstep dancing? What about using music by current Top 40 artists: Usher, Taylor Swift, etc.?


My future plans: I just finished my first music video, called “Hair Do,” that I wrote and sing. Chris Phillips from Toronto wrote the music, and his wife, Kathy, sings on the songs too. I have written 29 songs and will do more music videos. I like to do anything to inspire people and to bring them joy.

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