health

How Kayla Itsines became the richest young woman in the country.

Only six years ago, Kayla Itsines was yelling the word “Next!” at a class full of women at a gym in Adelaide.

She had graduated from the Australian Institute of Fitness at 18, and was now leading exercise classes. But there was a problem.

The classes revolved around machines. “Every few minutes I’d shout, ‘Next!’ and they’d change machines. That was it. ‘Next!’ I was like, this isn’t doing anything for them,” Itsines told Bloomberg

Then one day, she decided to ditch the machines.

She turned up the music and instructed the women through aerobic circuit training, focusing on the three regions women report struggling the most with: abs, arms and thighs.

They liked it. A lot.

Itsines began experimenting with abdominal exercises that are critical for stability, and jumps and squats which build strong legs. She listened to women who were afraid that muscle development would make them ‘bulky’.

She also suggested they take progress photos – a feature which would prove critical to the growth of her business.

In August 2012, Itsines’ 12-year-old cousin suggested she join Instagram – a social media network she’d never heard of – and showcase before and after photos.

ADVERTISEMENT

Within months she had hundreds of thousands of followers.

Her feed was predominantly images of clients in their underwear. The left was their ‘before’. The right was their ‘after’, with added biceps, quads, glutes and six packs, often accompanied by a caption which outlined precisely how much weight they’d lost.

Video by Mamamia

It was then that she met her boyfriend, also a personal trainer, Tobi Pearce.

He suggested she put together a workout guide for women to follow at home. In early 2013, the pair started their own company, with Pearce as the CEO and Itsines as the director.

Over the ensuing months, Itsines and Pearce launched a website where they sold a 12-week fitness program titled ‘Bikini Body Guide’, commonly referred to as the BBG program. The high-intensity workouts run for 28 minutes and draw from a number of sports and strength-based exercises.

To accompany the program, the pair also released a nutrition guide.

Acknowledging she had no nutritional qualifications, Itsines employed Julie Dundon and Anne Schneyder, directors of Nutrition Professionals Australia, to put together a diet that includes meat, carbohydrates and fat and didn’t focus too heavily on kilojoule counting.

The diet, however, has been a point of contention among some clients. Originally, the meal plans only totalled 5,020 kilojoules a day, when the average adult has a recommended daily intake of 8,700. It has since been changed.

Itsines was also widely criticised for the title of her program: Bikini Body Guide. Some social commentators felt it perpetuated the myth that there is such thing as a ‘bikini body’, and that a woman had to physically ‘prepare’ to be on display for summer. Others criticised her use of before and after images, which they found reductive and objectifying. Did her brand sell women the idea that their bodies were always a work in progress?

ADVERTISEMENT

“Do I regret calling my guides Bikini Body? My answer is yes,” she said in a 2016 interview with Bloomberg. “That’s why when I released the app, I called it Sweat With Kayla. Sweat is so empowering. I love that.”

Itsines co-founded the app with Pearce, publishing e-books and various fitness programs. In its first year, ‘SWEAT’ was the most downloaded fitness app on iOS and Google Play, attracting more than $17 million in revenue.

In April of last year, Forbes called Itsines the ‘Internet’s Workout Queen’, placing her at the top of their inaugural Top Influencers list in the Fitness category.

Itsines, the publication highlighted, packs out football stadiums, and her 2016 US Sweat Tour sold out in just an hour.

Her recipe book, The Bikini Body 28-Day Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Guide, was a bestseller, with hundreds of thousands of women signing up to her $19.99 a month Training Guide program.

On Thursday morning, Itsines featured in the 2018 Financial Review Young Rich List. She will be gracing the cover in November.

So, how much is the 27-year-old worth?

$63 million.

But there’s more.

According to the AFR, Itsines and Pearce, who announced their engagement in April 2018, have a combined fortune of $486 million.

Itsines has an Instagram following of more than 10 million, and a Facebook following of 23.5 million, making her not only among the wealthiest, but also one of the most influential young women in the country.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???