We have finally come across the best description of the body positive movement: a rebellion! We can thank Australian fitness and media personality Emma Chalmers for this description, because it has become the cornerstone of her brand Rebelology. Emma is known down under for her appearance as a trainer on the Australian version of ‘The Biggest Loser’ and ‘Australia’s Next Top Model’, as well as her recently launched podcast series ‘Rebelology: The Rise of the Feminine Rebel’. She has also been touring the country for the past 15 years as a speaker and educator breaking down the misconceptions around the fitness industry, and bringing a more holistic, comprehensive message to such a timely subject.
Emma believes the traditional model of making women hate themselves to achieve satisfaction is existing on “borrowed time”. Meaning, everyday people have finally found their voice and a way to push new ideas of what beauty, success, health, fitness and wellness should look like.
When you hear her speak, you cannot help but be captivated by her passion and vision, knowing full well the power each of us has to be part of pushing the inclusive body positive momentum forward. Aside from being an industry leader and powerhouse, Emma has a really informed perspective on some of the very divisive conversations that have been occurring on social platforms regarding body image and health.
One of our fave US bloggers and spirit animals Tess Holliday has been a loud and proud spokeswoman for inclusive body image, and size not necessarily being an indicator of health, and she has been widely attacked on social media for this.
Recently in Australia, ‘Biggest Loser’ host and trainer Michelle Bridges (think the Aussie version of Jillian Michael) who runs a very successful body transformation training program, made a rather controversial remark in a TV interview. She said she “has never met a morbidly obese person who is happy” which set off a firestorm in the media. But before you get angry reading that, just know this is a good thing. We WANT damaging mindsets and statements like this to be unearthed publicly, so then we can work to break them down with education, support, and healthy perspectives.
This is where Emma comes in. Known to most people in her home country as the “Emazon”, we spoke with her about why the body image and fitness industry is going through a massive shift, and why leading a rebellion in the movement is working so well for her.
Before we go any further, we want to get into the mindset of the “Emazon” – tell us how you got that nickname and what she represents to you.
Ever since I was a child I was fascinated with ancient mythology, women warrior tribes and our female icons through history. Growing up I was always seemed to be the tallest in the group, played every sport I could fit into my school schedule and remember being referred to as the “Amazon Woman” which I always associated to a compliment.
So it only seemed fitting when it came time to name my company the name Emma and Amazon was combined. When I founded my company as the name Emazon, I felt it represented that part that resided in all women that is courageous, resilient, protective and not to mention mysterious; the term became an archetypal representation of the warrior woman inside us.
How did you get into the fitness and wellness industry?
When I left school I had a huge ambition to become a fitness professional and at the ripe age of 17 I was gung-ho and bullet proof but only to find that the fitness industry in the early 90’s was not what I expected it to be. It was more about image, a manufactured idea of fitness where the gym was a social scene, not a place of health. Recreational drugs and steroid use was rife in the inner city gyms I was exposed to. I left the industry for about 5 years and later returned after I had reconnected to my passion while I was in the States. America is an amazing place to conceive a business idea, Emazon was born when I returned to Australia in 2000.
You are most well-known for your role as former trainer on the Australian ‘Biggest Loser’, what was that experience like for you?
Actually now in 2016 I am better known for my work for Stand Your Ground, Rebelology and the live tours I have done, than TV. Of course prime time television always helps the first expansion of your profile. The most traction I gained was from years of touring and face to face presentation. I appeared on the first couples season of the ‘The Biggest Loser’ in 2009, where we had agreed it was an innovative and refreshing idea to have a trainer who doesn’t address their weight loss.
In the back of my head I was very well aware we were soon going to experience a cultural shift in our psychology towards health and fitness and how fitness was packaged up. The show took the suggestion and we ran with it. It was a great a success, but unfortunately the next season they wanted me to be a part of the weight loss competition and have my own team. As much as this would have given me exposure and an instant celebrity profile, it actually went against everything I believe is my greatest asset, what the viewers actually wanted to see and what I knew was coming within our cultural shift.
You were initially asked to become a full-time trainer on the show but declined, why?
I don’t know if it was a case of me declining the offer but when I argued the point that having a trainer who wasn’t a part of the weight loss competition for the long term success of the show. It was a disagreement resolved in replacing me with another trainer who would fit the role they wanted.
The woman who did end up becoming the Jillian Michaels on the show was trainer Michelle Bridges who has recently been in the hot seat in Aussie media for claiming she has “never met an obese person who is happy”. What were your initial thoughts when you heard that?
My very first reaction when that comment was brought to my attention and the back lash and controversy it had caused was evidence the rebellion is alive and well. This was an empowered protest to reject the idea of being pigeon holed by a BMI number and classified as unhappy. Comments that touch on these sensitive areas regardless who they are made by is going to receive backlash in this new landscape.
People are empowered to speak their truth and they have the means to do so through social media. The game has entirely changed. Small comments like these have the ability to go viral quickly if they appear to pigeon hole a demographic. It’s not so much the comment that needs to be focused on it’s the landscape she said it in. The response was simply an empowered protest to what is fast becoming a rapid development in pro-diversity.
With the inspiring rise of so many plus size bloggers, models and spokespeople in mainstream, there is also an increased backlash. Why does a bigger woman or man still make us so uncomfortable?
Whenever a new message is pushed in to a long term status quo there is always going to be backlash. I mean let’s face it we are not used to people who once used to hide away feeling ashamed and saddened by presuming they don’t fit in to be now standing tall with one finger in the air! Any time there is change there always a resistance however this particular resistance is here to stay.
Since it is such an (annoyingly) common question on social media, break down for us why being “fat” isn’t necessarily synonymous with being unhealthy.
This is where the wellness industry thrives; it advocates that health is a holistic state within body mind and spirit. If somebody chooses to find their wellness through emotional, health and wellbeing first this is their prerogative. There is no wrong or right way to go about finding the formula for your own health anymore and that has disorientated those who believe fat = lazy = unhealthy. Everybody naturally assumes we address our health by addressing our physiology first, this is not always the case.
When you look at the wellness pyramid the foundation of health is our thoughts and our emotional well-being. We are now in a new environment where wellness practitioners and professionals are providing incredible research and studies to prove how our emotional state defines our true health. Naturally these findings conflict with many fitness methodologies which advocate health is measured by our physical performance capacity alone. By working on one’s mental state FIRST, then allow exercise and nutrition to simply be one of the many moving parts of a person’s return to health, its thrown out the formula we have had drilled into us for so long.
Australia seems to be the headquarters for this issue at the moment, as another media personality caused a stir in the same vein. Instagram wellness model Ashy Bines called out US model Tess Holliday claiming she was as unhealthy as a deceased Brazilian model she compared her to in a social media post. How did you react to this incident?
The Ashy Bines incident is another pure example of people not liking being dictated to as to who they can choose to use as role models. Once again we see empowered, educated and free thinkers make their stand on social media when a stranger makes an assumption for us that is none of their business. We have now reached an era where dictatorship, generalization and judgement are soon becoming obsolete. When we see a public figure make a comment that does not support pro-diversity and free-will, naturally there will be anarchy.
Your brand is called Rebelology and you host a podcast talking about how the consumer, the average woman, is now rebelling against the narrow message she has been fed to for decades. Why did you start this brand?
Rebelology was a bi-product of what I found as the conducive underlying message from women as I toured the country and stood with face to face presenting my work. Rebelology became the body of work that represented the 4 key influences as to why we are now pushing back against the status quo that we once felt suppressed, objectified and in summary dis-empowered by. Like everything I do, Rebelology is a natural evolution of my work.
You talk about women already owning the power to dismantle empires built on the backs of low self-esteem, and how industries like fashion, beauty and fitness are operating on “borrowed time”. What do you mean by this?
Go to the Dr Faye quote: “Imagine how many companies would go out of business if women started to like themselves.” This is no longer a hypothetical, this is now a reality as a bi-product of this self-empowerment era in the early 2000’s where we had many empowered women campaigns and lobbying activists spreading the message of self-worth, self-respect, and self-love. This has created a new landscape where the box we were sold based on fear, self-loathing and being excluded is losing power. The algorithm of how you used to sell and market to the reactive ego of the female mind is slowly being tampered with.
What encompasses a feminine rebel, and how can she change the world?
The first stage of change comes in the form of rebellion. This is when we kick back against the status quo or belief systems that once enslaved or dis-empowered our free will. That is a natural reaction. Next comes redemption where we source out new inspired knowledge and tools that we begin to apply in our life. The final stage is the revolution where we become a living breathing entity of those new empowered tools. Anyone who embarks on the process of self-transformation will always enter a period of rebellion at some point. In most cases it’s the first step of liberation.
If you could give a woman currently suffering with low self-esteem or low self-worth a core message that would change her mindset, what would it be?
Everything I teach and present to women is the power of self-authority and knowing that we have the free will to make whatever choices that make us feel better, more relieved or closer to our more authentic self. Free will is our birth right. Once we embrace this we have self-authority, there is no such thing as a right or wrong way of going about it – your power immediately shifts.
Finally, a question we ask all our interviewees, what makes a woman powerful?
That’s simple: A woman who knows her worth. Period.
To become part of the Rebelology tribe, listen to the podcast, or find out more about the badass work Emma is doing, click here.