That One Time Richard Simmons Touched My Hair + Made Me Cry

Have you ever had an experience that’s so magical and deeply personal that you sort of don’t want to talk about it?
The sort of thing that might become less amazing once you write about it online or blather on in a blog post? A once-in-a-lifetime sliver of amazing that might lose its shine if you spread it too thin?
I have.
(I think we all have).
It’s taken me almost a year to tell you about this.
Let me begin by telling you that I love Richard Simmons without irony. That man has changed millions of lives, he’s a smart + savvy businessperson, he’s kind, he’s funny, and he’s deeply, deeply himself. If you shit talk Sweatin To The Oldies I will cut you.
So, when I discovered that it’s possible to workout with Mr. Simmons himself (for $12!!) I nearly wept with joy. That hair! That voice! I was going to witness it in person. I quite literally planned my trip to L.A. around the schedule at Studio Slimmons.
I should also tell you that the time leading up to my workout with Richard was, well, challenging. October and November of 2012 were two of the toughest months of my entire adult life (and sitting L.A. gridlock while wearing spandex won’t do much for your emotional state, either). So when I walked into that mirror-walled studio I was not, perhaps, at my most stoic.
And let us add to this the fact that I don’t actually want to interact with people I admire. What if I say something ridiculous? What if they’re jerks? I want you to sign my book, I’ll shake your hand while I avoid eye contact, and that’s the extent of what I’m looking for in a celebrity interaction.
So I was thrilled/terrified when the double doors of the studio opened promptly at 7:00 pm and Richard stood in the doorway – wearing pantyhose, white tennis shoes + scrunch socks, a custom-made snowflake-inspired outfit, and Elton John-caliber sunglasses.
And then I was just 100% terrified as he began working his way around the class, shaking everyone’s hand and greeting them one by one.
“THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT” was the calm, measured recitation of my brain. But thankfully, my friends and I were tucked into a corner and I had time for a bit of deep breathing before Richard reached our little group.
I stood there in braids and Adidias as Richard greeted my friends and I steeled myself to blush and mumble once he got to me. And then he was shaking my hand and welcoming me to class and I was thinking “IT’S ALMOST OVER DON’T BE WEIRD DON’T BLOW IT” when Richard looked me in the face and pulled me to the side of the room.
And just like that, my personal nightmare/fantasy came to life. Richard tilted his head and put his hand on one of my braids and he said “You know what I like about you? You’re not materialistic. Your friends and family are what’s important to you. That’s what I like about you.”
“Unggggn.” I said.
Richard moved on to say hello to other people and I turned around and dissolved in a pile of snot and tears.
The class, obviously, was amazing. There was techno, there were sings-alongs and kick lines, there was a dance circle, there was a little pseudo-sermon at the end. After class was finished Richard announced that he was ready to take pictures with each of the first-time attendees so I dutifully stood in line, waiting my turn to stand next to one of my favorite humans ever.
And when I did, this is the exchange we had:
“I’m sorry if I was too sassy before.”
“Not at all! You were perfect.”
“So what do you do?”
“I’m a professional blogger.”
“Oh my! Are you going to blog about this?”
“Yes I am.”
And then, a year later, I did.

27 Comments

Maggie

I love this so hard. I nearly bawled when I met Nadia Bolz-Weber. Never mind the fact that I'd ALREADY MET HER, but when her book was in my hand and she was suddenly a celebrity, then I lost my marbles when I shook her hand.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Yes! When I was living in Wellington, New Zealand, Jemaine Clement of 'Flight of The Conchords' was standing in line behind me at the movie theater. AND I RAN UP THE ESCALATOR TO GET AWAY FROM HIM. Whhhhhaaaat?!

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Metamorphocity

I teared up just reading this and I barely know anything about Richard Simmons! Haha. Clearly I could never handle the in-person experience you had. It just sounds like such a little moment of magic. Thanks for sharing it with us!

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Amy Elizabeth

One of my heroes is Zoe Margolis, better known as Girl with a One Track Mind. I saw her in the crowd at Slutwalk and it took me about half an hour of awkwardly texting my boyfriend to get up the courage to say hello to her.

I felt completely ridiculous, but I took a deep breath and went over to tell her that she was awesome and I really loved her work. She hugged me and it was one of the best moments of my life. They say never meet your heroes, but she was completely wonderful. The same thing happened when I briefly met Caitlin Moran at a book signing.

People are awesome and surprising. Love this story 🙂

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Emily

I am trying to take this all in. It's so perfect. I have spent about 50% of my adult life bent over with anxiety at just the thought of ever meeting Steven Tyler. If it ever happens, I will certainly cry myself to death.

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Jane

so neat! i have to say i own sweatin to the oldies 1,2,3,4 and have been working out to it all last month. i took a break but seriously starting again today. so fun to follow along! 🙂 brings back memories of elementary school gym and also track practice. our coaches would make us follow along when it was raining outside. ha.

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EJ

I just googled Richard Simmons. I knew of him – the sparkles, voice and shorts but not much more. He seems to be a wonderful, genuine soul. I'm so glad your encounter went well and I do hope sharing this experience with us didn't diminish it in any way.

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Laura

I love this story! I don't really know much about Richard Simmons but it's pretty cool that you got to have this experience! What he said to you about not being materialistic must have really made you ponder! I know it would have to me!

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Anonymous

I can't imagine how amazing it would be to do aerobics with Richard Simmons! !!!!!
This reminds me of the time I met Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. I completely did the hovering-in-the-sky-over-yourself-while-it's-happening thing. (And then Judas bought me a beer, which is obviously a metaphor for another time.)

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Ailsa

I have the same thing with celebrities, or even 'celebrities'. The amount of times I've casually freaked out and run away when members of my favourite (local) bands are nearby is ridiculous.

I'm so glad this even worked out well for you. It's a great story 🙂

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Creole Wisdom

I'm feeling tender, too. He has done so very much for people. He is kind, upbeat, and working towards the greater good. Of course you admire and respect him. I'd of cried, too. What he said to you is what most people would love to hear. And that is you!

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Kate K

I adore Richard Simmons (and I am so envious of you!) I did "Sweating to the Oldies" so many times in high school that when I hear any of the songs (especially "It's My Party"), I find myself wanting to do all the steps. 🙂

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Kylie

This is my favorite post of yours ever. So. Much. Love. And yes — I totally know that experience of wanting to hold the special thing close to your heart. (And am really glad you shared it with us after some time had passed.)

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Sarah

This is awesome! I love Richard Simmons. He's so upbeat and very much his own person, such a great role model! I have so many amazing memories of doing his videos with my friends over the years.

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Sarah Bares

Richard Simmons is one of the celebrities that I always hope will walk on my plane someday. I feel like I would want to give him a big hug and that he wouldn't mind.

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Stacia, the Homey Owl

This is amazing. I can definitely tell why it took so long for you to blog about it. I admire that you actually did, I am perhaps too guilty of keeping magic moments to myself. I really admire how very himself Richard Simmons is, too. Thanks for sharing this!

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