Your Favorite Fitness Icons of the ’80s: Where Are They Now?
Bright spandex, leg warmers and crimped blow-outs were all the rage as the aerobics trend swept the globe in the 1980s. Whether you tuned in from the comfort of your own living room or were among the trendy gym rats flocking to health clubs, all of a sudden, you could watch ridiculously good-looking people in very tight clothing and fashionable (for the time) accessories demonstrate how to get a perfectly sculpted bod.
Getting in shape and looking great were the name of the game in the era of scrunchies and Lycra leotards. The 1980s fitness fad produced a handful of exercise icons. While some of those legacies live on in the pop culture canon, others have gone in other directions. Read on to find out what happened to all those fitness video vixens and buff beefcakes!
Raquel Welch made big hair, brunettes and bikinis all the rage in the 1960s. After exploding onto the scene as a sex symbol in “Fantastic Voyage” and Jame Bond’s “Dr. No,” she expanded her legacy to fitness guru with her 1984 book and video collection titled “The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program.”
The timeless beauty and platinum-winning fitness video legend has since continued acting with roles in “Legally Blonde” and “How to Be a Latin Lover.” Raquel, as she is mononymously known, also continued her entrepreneurial streak with her most successful venture (we kid you not), a wig line called HAIRuWear.
Cher has been rocking leotards as a fashion statement for decades. The “Goddess of Pop” has been dancing and touring since the ‘60s and has kept her impossibly svelte figure ever since. Although she’s been a pop culture fixture for six decades, the ‘80s truly defined the “Strong Enough” singer as a fitness icon.
Considered one of the world’s most celebrated musical divas, fans constantly fawn over her flawless performance physique. She released the book “Forever Fit: The Lifetime Plan for Health, Fitness and beauty” in 1991 and has apparently subscribed ever since, announcing at age 71 that she can do a five-minute plank. We “Believe!”
With her perfectly feathered blowouts and bedazzling blonde locks, Heather Locklear did it all in the ‘80s. Apart from acting and modeling, the ‘80s “It girl” was approached to make VHS gold with her own fitness video where fans could attempt to get toned like their favorite spandex-clad star.
Locklear may have left the leotards in the past along with the sexy retro workouts, but she is still one of the most recognizable names in Hollywood to this day. Now in her sixth decade on Earth, Locklear’s bod is still rocking as she remains a devoted fitness aficionado.
Musical and acting sensation Olivia Newton-John tossed the wholesome poodle skirts and sexy leather biker getups for leg warmers and headbands when she became the icon that everyone wanted of the aerobics era and showed off some killer cardio moves in her enduringly popular hit “[Let’s Get] Physical.”
Newton-John will forever be ingrained in the public conscious for her role and unforgettable hits in the all-time musical film favorite “Grease.” The English-Australian star has continued to record, perform and snag various acting roles and didn’t let a recurring breast cancer diagnosis stop her. We’ll always be hopelessly devoted to you, Olivia!
Whether for her tips on getting a toned tush or for her hard-core good looks, fans were flocking to get their hands on Tamilee Webb’s “Buns of Steel” and “Abs of Steel” series, whose titles have since become a part of pop culture fitness vernacular.
Driven by the theory that you can never have enough toned body parts, Webb stayed true to her more than $10 million infomercial legacy and has released her whole “Steel” collection on DVD and has appeared as a fitness expert on the digital channel FitTV. We already feel the burn!
There are more babes and barbells where that came from, keep scrolling!
Jane Fonda released her first exercise tape,“Jane Fonda’s Workout,” and the world of home aerobics and gym fashion changed forever. That video was a top seller of all time and was the first of 22 fitness videos Fonda released that sold 17 million copies in total.
The iconic godmother of the workout video retired from acting during her marriage to media mogul Ted Turner from 1991 to 2001. Since then, she has returned to acting with several big-screen credits and TV roles on acclaimed shows like “The Newsroom” and “Grace and Frankie.”
It’s hard to tell whether fitness queen Denise Austin was more smoking in the ‘80s or now. Austin started her career as a gymnast before she went on to become a leading fitness figure. Known as “America’s Fitness Sweetheart,” the blue-eyed workout babe sold more than 24 million videos.
Austin has since kept up the routine as a fitness instructor, author and columnist. Nowadays, she has almost 100 video releases to her name and has starred in several fitness-related TV programs. Her doppelganger daughter, Katie, has followed in her mom’s fit footsteps and is also an exercise instructor.
This powerhouse blonde was a multi-millionaire by her mid-thirties thanks to her personal fitness empire. Kathy Smith was a class-A fitness vixen in the ‘80s who has transcended decades as an exercise titan with her brand of videos, books, apparel and equipment.
The life cycle is no enemy to Smith, who has continued to be a top name in the world of wellness. This Video Hall of Famer has adapted to the times and is now the brains (and bod) behind a popular health blog, podcast and workout app.
Judi Sheppard Missett
Before there was Zumba, Jazzercise was one of the hottest fitness trends of the ‘80s. The regime that was a fusion of dance, strength and resistance training and popular music was spearheaded by fitness force of nature Judi Sheppard Missett.
Apart from Jazzercise remaining a recurring pop culture reference, the program has boomed in a global franchise located in 32 countries. For her part, Judi remains the poster woman for her workout program, which she still swears by and has adapted to the new fitness age. And, by the looks of it, it’s working!
Charlene Prickett and her team of perfectly trim young fitness instructors were energetic and invigorating icons whose target audience was generally an older crowd although that didn’t deter from the intensity of the workouts. Charlene notably gave tips on nutrition and fitness that helped fans understand the perks.
Charlene made 40 popular videos featuring “old school, low impact, high intensity, interval aerobics” and appeared on TV to promote healthy living. Since the ‘80s, however, she’s kind of gone on the DL, promoting fans the Internet over to call for a comeback.
A hall of fame trailblazer of the infomercial phenomenon, Suzanne Somers set the standard for the “as seen on TV” craze that swept the 1980s and beyond. Somers became the immortalized Thighmaster spokeswoman after her initial rise to fame on “Three’s Company.”
Somers continued garner credited acting roles – most notably on “Step by Step” – and had a live gig in Las Vegas, but is still perhaps best known as a health and wellness icon. Somers has published a series of bestselling self-help books among her accomplishments that also include breast cancer survivor.
You’d never guess the next Hollywood star had a stint as an ’80s workout video star.
Sure Alyssa Milano’s best-known claim to fame in the ‘80s was her role “Who’s the Boss?” which propelled her to teen idol status. Tapping into her young fame and fresh-faced cuteness, Milano joined the fitness video bandwagon at just age 16 with the production “Teen Steam.”
Milano’s days of marketing gimmicks are long gone, but her acting career only skyrocketed from there and continued to expand with her roles on “Melrose Place” and “Charmed.” Milano has overcome a lot of Hollywood drama over the years and has a vast filmography to prove that she’s still going full-steam ahead.
Jamie Lee Curtis
The intrigue surrounding romantic trysts in the sweaty, scantily-dressed studios of Los Angeles fitness gyms was the plotline of the 1985 movie “Perfect” that propped Jamie Lee Curtis on the stage as a sexy fitness icon of the athletic community.
Turning from the locker room drama of Hollywood health clubs, Curtis went on to be Tinseltown’s resident “scream queen” in several cult classic horror flicks. Nowadays as a bona fide film industry titan, Curtis is cast in more matronly roles. This Hollywood honey even wrote a children’s book.
While the aerobics craze hit the United States full throttle in the ‘80s, the phenomenon and the instructors were just as hot north of the border in Canada. Case in point: Cynthia Kereluk. The blonde fitness guru from British Columbia went from Miss Canada 1984 to a televised exercise star.
Following her “Everyday Workout” success that gave Canadians an insight into how this beauty queen kept her regally toned body, Kereluk had some minor roles in three films. Although Kereluk’s legacy is largely a product of the ‘80s, you might see her around still on the red carpet with English singer-songwriter husband, Paul Rodgers.
The story of a welder moonlighting as an exotic dancer propelled “Flashdance” star Jennifer Beals into one of the defining figures of the ‘80s. If leg warmers and off-the-shoulder crops weren’t popular before, she sure cemented the look and the prospect of dancing your way into physical perfection as emblems of the decade.
These days, Beals still looks like she’s in fighting form to perform that iconic “Maniac” routine. Her resume also indicates that she hasn’t eased up on the intensity since her 1983 breakout hit. With dozens of TV and film credits, her later successes include a role in the series “The L Word.”
Known for his big hair, even bigger personality and tiny shorts, if you were around in the 80s Richard Simmons was one of the biggest household (workout) names. Inspired by his own personal weight loss story, the eccentric workout enthusiast sought to help others get in shape to the beat of some catchy retro tunes in his “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” series.
Simmons remained a pop culture sensation since the ‘80s, but in recent years he’s strayed out of the spotlight and closed his legendary LA studio, prompting conspiratorial theories about the fro-ed fitness guru’s disappearance. Still, we’re hoping the good ‘ol days of dancin’ and sweatin’ aren’t over.
Read on for more fabulous figures from the 1980s fitness scene!
I can’t believe it’s not… oh wait, it is: Fabio! The “Italian Stallion” had ladies swooning in the ‘80s with his super buff physique and trademark golden, long locks. Fabio first gained traction as a magazine model and romance novel muse before he flipped his hair into fitness world success.
Whether he was seducing you into shape or convincing you to buy margarine, Fabio’s name and his man pecs are still instantly recognizable. On the outside, it seems not much has changed for this rock-hard heartthrob although he’s actually landed some film roles and gigs for top fashion houses.
Jake Steinfeld had everyone in the ‘80s wanting a “Body by Jake,” even if it seemed humanly impossible. Heralded as the father of the personal fitness training industry, Jake was notedly ripped and capitalized on many bankable aspects of the fitness lifestyle.
Jake’s days of revolutionizing the business of fitness are far from over. As chairman and CEO of Body by Jake Global, his entrepreneurial spirit has helped him continue to develop products and merchandise geared toward a healthy lifestyle. Now in the digital age, Jake stepped up his game with the online FitOrbit 2.0 personal training platform.
You’ll never guess what became of the next ‘80s fitness icon!
Who can forget the Tae Bo craze that took over infomercials and living rooms across America? Billy Blanks doesn’t, that’s for sure. Banks developed the fitness system that incorporated elements of martial arts and boxing. From there he opened a Tae Bo gym in LA and produced a massively popular video series.
Banks has since kept in shape, turning to YouTube to showcase his fitness routines. Given the success and fame of the Tae Bo phenomenon, he remains a household name. His resume now also includes several feature film credits. In 2009, he relocated to Japan after marrying second wife, Tomoko Sato.
With tropical Hawaiian backgrounds and equally as scenic ripped demonstrators, Israeli-born fitness icon Gilad Janklowicz had us dreaming of bathing suit-ready bodies with just half an hour of exercise a day! His legendary “Bodies in Motion” program made history as the first workout program to air on ESPN.
Gilad’s legacy lives on as the longest-running fitness show in the US. With more than 30 video title to his name and multiple high-profile clientele, the international 1980s fitness icon cemented his legendary status when he was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame in 2007.
If you were around in the ‘80s, you couldn’t help but know about by Greg Smithey’s surefire approach to tightening your tush. This certified fitness instructor was best known for creating “The Original Buns of Steel” that ubiquitously took over the infomercial sphere and sold over a million copies.
Our buns have been in jeopardy since the Alaskan health club owner/fitness titan all but completely disappeared from the spotlight, apart from re-launching the DVD version of his beloved buttox-toning video. However, there have been reported sightings by bun-loving fans in the Vegas area.
He might not exactly be the spandex rocking, perky aerobics video instructor type, but don’t pity him as any fool. Along with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Hulk Hogan, old-school butt kicker Mr T. was a symbol of ‘80s tough-guy brawns with his trademark mohawk, gold chains and bulging biceps.
Born in Chicago as Lawrence Tureaud, the retired pro wrestler has kept his name a fixture in the pop culture canon with various TV appearance, advertising endorsements and film cameos. One thing is for sure, he ain’t no sucker.
June Jones was a founding member of Australia’s “Aerobics Oz Style” that was intended to make people of any age and gender get moving Down Under. The program was so popular that it ran from its 1982 debut until 2005. Crickey!
June has remained in slamming shape and has transitioned from TV fitness to the video world with the released of her “Beautiful Stretches” DVD. In 2016, she and her crew pulled out their best neon getups for a 2016 reunion show on aerobics Aussie style.
Keep reading for to see if your favorite fitness stars from the Lycra and leotard decade made it on the list!
Decorated bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno made a name for himself with some early major title wins, including IFBB’s Mr. American and Mr. Universe. The colossal specimen of a man was famously cast as the eponymous character in the “The Incredible Hulk” series that ran until the early 1980s.
Ferrigno’s is still a huge (literally) fitness aficionado and has trained the likes of Michael Jackson. His resume of late includes several guest appearances on “The King of Queens,” cameo appearances in newer Hulk films. Those guns have also gone to good use too as part of police posse in Arizona and LA.
Dubbed the “aerobics queen of the 1980s,” Bess Motta was one of the hottest workout women of the decade. She was one of the “bevy of beautiful girls” on the Canadian fitness phenomenon “20 Minute Workout.” The show only lasted a year, but Motta’s career didn’t end there.
With toned hamstrings and her iconic big hair, the seductive brunette headed to Hollywood where she landed small parts in “The Terminator,” “New Monkees” and “The Home Show.” Since then she’s mostly shied away from the limelight, but we’re sure her comeback would be celebrated.
Hands down the most famous bodybuilder of our time, Arnold Schwarzenegger was not only a fitness giant in the ‘80s but an action film superstar. Audiences were drawn to the humor and heroism the Mr. World title holder and seven-time Mr. Olympia champion portrayed in his movies of the decade including, “The Terminator,” “Predator,” and “Twins.”
Apart from remaining a Hollywood heavyweight until this day, the “Austrian Oak” famously took on politics and became the subject of the international intrigue as the “Governator” of California from 2003 to 2011. One thing is for sure, he won’t be saying “Hasta la vista, baby” to us anytime soon.
Derrick Evans, better known as “Mr. Motivator,” made working out less of a grueling ordeal and more of a fun and entertaining approach to health. With his trademark psychedelic-colored Lycra outfits and high-energy enthusiasm, he had Britain up bright and early doing his routines that were broadcast on GMTV.
In light of the Jamaica native’s big break in the United Kingdom, he released several workout videos in the ‘90s such as “Mr. Motivator’s 10 Minute BLTs” and “Bums Legs & Tums.” He now balances appearances on fitness-related TV programs, family and his Jamaican ecotourism resort, PaintSplat.
Known as “America’s personal trainer,” Florida fitness personality Tony Little has gone down in workout and infomercial history for his long ponytail and big booming voice that let those at home watching know that: “You can do it!”
Although Little has been the target of several parodies and mocking pop culture references, he seems good-humored and has made numerous TV appearances. Little is having the last laugh though, as his exercise empire raked in 47 million customers. That’s a lot of Little!
Hot off the success of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease,” Travolta proved he was an acting-singing-dancing triple threat who made (ahem) very short shorts and feathered man hair look like a good idea in 1985’s sweaty health club flick“Perfect.”
Apart from being linked professionally or personally to a couple foxy fitness ladies on this list, Travolta has claimed his place among Hollywood royalty for his five-decade-long career in show business. The ‘80s have been noted as a low-point in his acting career, but we think it’s debatable.
Don’t miss the next exercise dynamos who helped define the decade of the 1980s!
Perfectly proportioned fitness personality Karen Voight had a fitness and center in LA that was the place see and be seen for happenin’ aerobics gym rats in the ‘80s. Apart from training other fitness icons like Kathy Smith and Keli Roberts, Voight trained Hollywood celebs like Tina Turner and Bette Midler.
With some 25 fitness videos and a published book on precision training under her trim elastic workout belt, Voight is considered a pioneer in the industry. In the ‘90s she turned heads co-starring in a fitness video alongside supermodel Elle Macpherson and continued making videos well into the 2000s.
Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds was already an established star by the time her adorably upbeat fitness video “Do it Debbie’s Way” came out in 1983. The retro aerobics treasure featured other well-known actresses of the day such as Florence Henderson and Teri Garr.
The award-winning “Singin’ in the Rain” actress graced the big-screen well into the 2010s and has gone down in history as one of Hollywood’s most beloved figures, not to mention the mother of another ‘70s and ‘80s icon – daughter Carrie Fisher. You will be missed, Debbie!
Powerhouse Australian fitness personality Susan Powter was somewhat of a radical and inspiring figure when she emerged on the scene years after she moved to America. Know for her platinum cropped hair, Powter was a nutritionist, personal trainer, author and motivational speaker.
Powter’s catchphrase “Stop the insanity!” was the centerpiece of her weight loss infomercial that caught on in the ‘90s. Known for her barefoot speaking appearance and edgy appearance, Powter has also hosted a talk show and continues to be active in publishing and TV cameos.
Canadian exercise instructor Arlaine Wright made her way from ballet and cheerleading to become an aerobics instructor. She was discovered at a studio in Toronto and offered a position on “20 Minute Workout” where she made a name for herself alongside Bess Motta.
The show was taken off the air in 1984, but Wright’s famous face (and physique) landed her the position as the head of Reebok Canada’s “Aerobic Instructors’ Program.” Apart from a cameo in archival footage of her former fitness show in the movie “Dirty Work,” it seems wrong, but, we, unfortunately, haven’t seen much of Wright.
Swedish stud Dolph Lundgren’s name alone rings with the image of a chiseled, blonde adonis. This martial artist/actor/director/screenwriter/chemical engineering grad has seriously done it all. And you better believe that include a fitness video.
No matter how hard you try, though, you probably won’t get the gams he shows off in his 1986 video “Maximum Potential.” Lundgren has kept up the bodybuilding and fitness routing since then. If you don’t believe us, just check out any one of his high-intensity action flicks.
Martial arts master Chuck Norris has been inspiring the masses long before his persona prompted an endless supply of hyperbolic meme factoids about his greatness. Don’t get us wrong, the “Walker, Texas Ranger” star is awesome! In the ‘80s he was already kicking butt and taking names.
In fact, during that decade he was the leading star of The Cannon Group conglomerate. Only Chuck Norris could convince a nation to buy into his ‘90s infomercial promoting the Total Gym and still be considered so legendary that it’s said that “Chuck Norris built the hospital he was born in.”
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