Jillian Michaels opens up on “Just Jillian”

Tonight on E! Jillian Michaels will invite viewers into her home with partner Heidi Rhoades and their children, Lu and Phoenix, on Just Jillian, a new reality series about the fitness guru’s life outside of the gym. Since becoming a household name on The Biggest Loser, Jillian has created a multi-million dollar empire with her fitness books, DVDs, motivational speaking tours and clothing lines. And while she wasn’t always so open about her private life, Just Jillian is a no-holds-barred look at what the infamously abrasive Jillian is like as a partner, a mother, an employer and a friend. 

We spoke with Jillian about the new show, the pressure her friends put on her to pop the question to Heidi, and if she sees herself as a voice for the LGBT community.

Just Jillian - Season 1Photo by Don Flood

AfterEllen.com: I’m sure you’ve had opportunities and people coming to you before with a show like this, so why now?

Jillian Michaels: That’s not necessarily true. [laughs] No! It’s funny, I was sitting around with my lawyer one day, telling him a story of something that I had been through with Heidi and her fucking mail-order chickens—you have no idea. He was like, “Your life is absurd. You realize it’s absurd. You should do a show.” I was like, “No, I don’t know what….” And then when I started to think about it, I began to appreciate that it’s not always been about building a better body; it’s about building a better life. And what the show is really about, outside of being absurd on so many levels, is that it is about that and there’s a cast of characters–straight, gay, male, female, people from all different age groups and ethnicities—but everybody on the show is on that same journey, just at various stages. And I thought this would be really interesting to kind of say, “Hey,” open up the doors a little bit, pull back the curtain, show people that we’re all going through similar things and have them go on that journey with me. But it is different. It’s not like coming from a place on high as an expert; it’s sort of being a mess and trying to figure it all out. So it’ll be interesting to see how it’s received because the people that like me are going to see me in a very different role, and the people that don’t like me are going to see me in a very different role, so we’ll see. But I think the cast of characters is really likable. If you still hate me, there’s a bunch of people you’ll probably like.


AE: Fans of yours have been following the podcast so they’ll probably know some of the characters—

JM: That’s right. You’re absolutely right. That’s true.


AE: But now they’ll be able to see them, which is great; an added thrill. What do you think is in it for them?

JM: The audience? I think for them, they’ll definitely identify with it. It’s very relatable. The whole show—it’s honestly about the comedy of errors that occurs as we go about juggling our everyday lives. Whether it’s your professional life, your personal life, being a mom, being a partner, being a daughter, being a friend, trying to run a company or do the best at your career—there’s no way people won’t relate to that. We’re all going through that. And it’s about the absurdity in the minutiae. The show is, for example, I’ll just give you an example—we’re going to the Video Music Awards, and the show is not at all about the Video Music Awards; it’s about the two-hour car ride and the shit that happens on the way to the Video Music Awards. And that’s life!


AE: That’s your life!

JM: Well, Music Awards, believe it or not, turns into a shit show and I get ripped apart from my outfit which is a whole nother conversation but it’s not about, like—that’s just a backdrop. That’s all. I think people will relate; they’ll laugh, they’ll cry; hopefully, they’ll be moved. Hopefully, they’ll identify. Hopefully, there’s a moral of the story hidden in every episode. Like spinach in brownies, that’s how I look at it.

Jillian with friend and co-star Giancarlo 2016 Winter TCA Portraits  Photo by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

AE: So private life—when you started on Biggest Loser, it was something that you didn’t really put out there. What is it like now to have the cameras inside of your home with your family?

JM: In truth, it’s very different now that both of the kids—well, I adopted Phoenix, obviously. Heidi had Phoenix. But we both—I adopted Lu and then Heidi had to adopt Lu. So now that that’s done, it’s kind of—you can be very transparent. Prior to that, you know the world is changing at a very rapid pace, but I think there are only 14 states where couples can adopt kids out of foster care and I’m not even going to get into international adoption laws with you, so I was always pretty careful knowing that that was coming down the pike most likely. And then once that was done, we did People magazine cover and it was like, “Hey, ta-da!” But I really don’t hide much, other than being really mindful of that situation, I’m pretty transparent. I am who I am, for better for worse.