Jesse Brune: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Fans of "Work Out," the reality series on Bravo that tracks the high-end Beverly Hills gym run by hot lesbian Jackie Warner, know that drama builds quicker than muscle. Jackie is a strong-willed, powerful woman, who keeps her staff operating at her high standards. Outside of her work environment, though, Jackie has a strange, interdependent relationship (or did, until recent episodes) with a younger, immature woman. So, you see two opposing sides to her personality. But when you combine all the different personalities of all the trainers on the show, there's a lot of drama swirling high above Beverly Hills.

I recently chatted with Jesse Brune, one of the trainers on the show. He's always had a really sweet spirit on the show, but one of the reasons I wanted to get him in Oasis was because he and Doug, one of the other trainers on the show (who, sadly, died in the middle of filming the second season), had a conflict as a result of the first season of the show, which has been a big topic at the beginning of the second season. Doug asserted that he was happy to be on the show to show someone who was gay and "normal. Not over the top gay," and referring Jesse as more like Jack from Will & Grace. While not interested in the argument, it led to an interesting discussion about topics that come up a lot on Oasis, such as stereotypes and how butch and masculine are perceived as better. All things I totally and completely think are internalized homophobia, so I really wanted to get Jesse in here so we can chat about it more, since it is such an important discussion within the community.

So, I watched the show last year and we're into the second season now. So, I guess I'm just curious about the origin of it all. Did you apply for a job at a place that ended up becoming a reality show? What came first, the training or the reality, I guess?

Good question (laughs), the chicken or the egg? I actually got a call when I was in my last month of culinary school, and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my cooking. I was training at a boot camp facility in Hollywood and kind of developed a bit of a following there. I was known as Boot Camp Jesse. And one of my clients was a reality show producer and she was friends with the producers of 'Work Out.'

So, I got a call and asked if I would come in and meet the producers of a show about training. And I was like, 'Uhh, I guess? Sure, why not.' You know? I really didn't think twice about it. But I went into to meet with them and they offered me a place on the show in our first meeting, which is kind of interesting. So, I wasn't sure what it was all about, but I got such a great vibe from the producers, and the producers have become really good... almost family.

They promised to feature me cooking on the show once, and the rest is history. And now, training has become a much larger part of my life than I thought it would ever be. So, I'm combining the cooking and the training, and I started a healthy food delivery service last year. I call myself a happy living expert, but it's really a healthy living expert tackling everything from fitness to food, trying to create a healthy balance between the two.

So, you're like a one-stop shop. You'll get the calories into them and then help burn them off.

You have no idea how true that statement is.

I'm low-fat vegan and just coming off of losing more than 80 pounds and all, so...

You're a vegan?

A low-fat vegan.

A low-fat vegan? What do you eat?

Lots. Lots of stuff. Beans, rice, veggies, everything. But I used to be over 300 pounds, and I'm just getting back down under 200 now.

Wow, good for you.

And I just started Bikram Yoga.

Yeah, I went through a Bikram phase myself, actually. It's so funny. It's such an intense workout, and I find that with really intense regiments like that, you let so much emotional stuff out in the process of the workout. It's very therapeutic.

Yeah, I just started it. So far, I've done 22 classes in 22 days. Well, if you do 30 in a row, you get the next month free, and I'm cheap, so... Anyway, I guess when you watch the show, and I'm always very skeptical of reality TV, because I don't know where the reality begins and ends...

You know, I can say this with all honesty, 30 percent of it is real, no. (laughs) This season is really like... hold onto your hats. I think that this show, it's funny because it's about a woman who owns a gym. And this season really takes you into huge pieces of life and it really showcases a lot of vulnerability with the characters on the show this season.

There's an element of camp to it, and I think that has a lot to do with editing and sound effects and things like that. And, of course, they're going to take the most dramatic or high-octane moments that they recorded over the last couple months and use them, but this show is really going to include a lot of humanity. I think it's going to go places that no reality show has ever gone before, and I'm really excited to see it.

And have you been surprised by the way it's been presented, or is pretty much like, yeah, that's what happened?

Here's where the surprise always lies, and my biggest learning lesson this season. It's that you see what's recorded, and you see the interactions that go on, and, yeah, that's what happened. But then, they splice them with these interviews, and you get people's opinions on what happened, and that's where the drama comes in. People give this complete balls to the wall, like, no care for others' feelings or opinions on the situation. And that's where the drama comes in.

It's like, really?! That's what you were thinking? Well, fuck you then. This season in particular, especially the first two episodes, they just went all out with making me feel like a big, fat girl. Again, I never realized my weight was such an issue. So, you see the interviews and it's like, 'He's a fat cow!' And Jackie is all, 'I'm concerned for his health.' Really? Was it that bad? It always makes me feel like I was about to be confined to a wheelchair, or something like that.

It's almost like ... they can't talk to you directly?

Exactly!

There wasn't a moment where this could have come up before you were one-on-one with the camera?

Thank you! Exactly! It's like thanks for letting me know. Thanks for letting me know.

Save it for the show...

Yeah, great, and then when I got to look at it, I was like, omigod, I've got tits. What's really funny about my weight in the first couple episodes is the response from people, like people were enraged that I gained weight. It's either 'I'm ready to send money to the help Jesse lose weight fund,' or they're like, 'how dare you train people looking like that!' And I never knew! And business has never been better, so I guess it's not that big of an issue. But I will say, it's a really good setup for a comeback story. That's all I'll say.