BY ALLISON KUGEL
From coveted lingerie model to popular television host to fitness guru, Brooke Burke has lived many lives in her fifty-one years on this planet and her more than two decades in the entertainment industry. She is living proof that you can grow wiser and more self-assured while remaining healthy, vibrant and youthful through total body wellness, both inside and out.
During my conversation with Brooke, she muses about the hard-earned lessons she’s gained from two divorces, one of which she laments was from “the love of my life,” her journey in healing from thyroid cancer, her sharp rise in television and then sudden dismissal from ABC/Disney primetime juggernaut Dancing with the Stars, and some humbling moments that ultimately led to reflection and re-invention.
Now at midlife and definitely not looking worse for wear, Brooke has once again found what she calls “a healthy love” with longtime partner Scott Rigsby. She’s applying her mind, body, and spirit-based wisdom toward helping other women through her mobile and steaming fitness platform Brooke Burke Body and her superfood blends, Brooke Burke Longevity. When pressed about women and body image, Brooke insists that her platform is about engaging women on a holistic level to help them feel healthy, strong and confident no matter their body type or previous level of fitness.
Allison Kugel: What are three pivotal events that have made you the person you are today?
Brooke Burke: Motherhood is the obvious one, but it really did instantly change my whole life. It’s my greatest learning opportunity. They’re my best teachers and it’s the greatest and hardest part of my life. I’m just keeping it real. Another one that is funny but true is winning Dancing with The Stars, which was a huge accomplishment and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve never worked harder at anything else in my life. It was thrilling, and even though it’s a silly mirror ball trophy, like big deal; it was three months, seven days a week of blood, sweat, pain and tears, and everything in between.
Allison Kugel: Did you think you had any shot of winning at the time?
Brooke Burke: No. I actually wanted to stick around for a couple weeks (laughs). And then halfway through, you kind of want to get out of it because it’s so difficult. So that was amazing, and that segued me into hosting the show, which was also fantastic. Another pivotal event in life was divorce, because that really changes you, and changed my expectations and the way I approached life. It taught me how to surrender and taught me about self-love, acceptance, and the power of change. It started me on my journey of transformation. I think after 19 years of marriage, having those moments by myself was really telling and eye opening. It’s an amazing opportunity to be by myself as a woman, which you really don’t get if you’re married and you’re with children.
Allison Kugel: Did divorce make you feel like that whole starry-eyed expectation of finding “the one” and living happily ever after got shattered?
Brooke Burke: I don’t still want that or need that. I had that in one marriage when I was intoxicated by love, and I didn’t [have that] in the other, when I was trying to be responsible. One was the love of my life and my soulmate, and one wasn’t. I really am passionate about a healthy love right now with boundaries; a love that has purpose and that’s fulfilling. I’m so blessed to be in my new relationship with Scott (Brooke’s current partner). He’s an incredible human being, but it is the healthiest time of my life and maybe it’s because I’ve defined my own boundaries as a woman now in my 50s. Maybe it’s because I brought everything that I didn’t quite get right with me to the table. I bring a better version of myself to this relationship, but it’s different now.
Allison Kugel: You started as a Fredericks of Hollywood model way back in the day and you successfully made the leap to television with your first show, E!’s Wild On!? I’m sure a lot of models would love an opportunity like that. How did it happen?
Brooke Burke: I think it’s a painful story for some people to hear, because it wasn’t like I pounded the pavement and went on every audition. I actually was doing commercial advertising and studying business advertising in school. I was doing some modeling and I went on an audition a friend of mine sent me on for the Wild On! gig. It was just taking advantage of the right opportunity. I accepted the gig and learned on the road and got all of my entertainment experience within my first contract on E!. It was an amazing show to do. We covered 40 countries in a short period of time, and more than 100 countries around the world. I actually brought my daughter Neriah on the road with me as a baby for the first few years of her life. Then that segued into other things. I love being in the wellness space right now. I never thought I would be in this business and start my own company (Brooke Burke Body). I knew I would start my own business, and I’m really passionate about it. I love this space it’s so fulfilling and it’s the greatest way that I know how to connect with women around the world. I’m doing something that feels good and that really matters to me.
Allison Kugel: Was fitness always a huge part of your life, or did your 2012 diagnoses with thyroid cancer jumpstart your fitness journey?
Brooke Burke: Fitness was always a big part of my life. I think I have a much better and much clearer understanding of my body today than I did back then. Being diagnosed with thyroid cancer segued me into being an advocate for women’s health, and it was really because of the process of being diagnosed during a yearly physical. It gave me an understanding of the value of medical knowledge and kind of fighting for that and telling my story to inspire and to help many other people. It was about understanding the value of being a great patient and understanding the medical possibilities that we have today. I really do believe that it’s the mind, body and spirit. It’s the union of all these things. I can show people how to get in shape all day long. It’s not just how we care for ourselves, it’s also how we speak to ourselves, how we meet ourselves, how we fuel our bodies. How we get our inner strength is really important to me. The messaging of Brooke Burke Body is really about mindful fitness, mindful movement, and incorporating mantras. It’s knowing how to slow down and listen, valuing yourself and changing our inner dialogue.
Allison Kugel: What do you believe created the cancer?
Brooke Burke: I think that our body weeps the tears that we don’t cry. I love that saying. I think there are toxic energies and feelings that we compartmentalize that affect our body, with cancer in particular. I’m not sure I could blame it on the environment, but who the hell knows. Are emotional traumas toxic? Sure, they are. How it rocked me was that it showed me there’s something a little bit larger than wellness philosophies that could really change my body, and that was really scary. People often ask me did it make me take better care of myself? No, because I was doing that already. What it taught me was how diligent we need to be in our self-care and having those markers, gaining that knowledge and paying attention to the science. There’s usually an event that happens that shifts us or makes us change. We don’t just decide, “I’m going to find this healthy lifestyle.”
Allison Kugel: With your brand, Brooke Burke Body, people can download the app on just about every platform to learn and apply your fitness tools and routines, and your Longevity brand is comprised of super food blends for smoothies, and you adhere to these practices daily. What do you think keeps people from being consistent, and what is it that keeps you consistent?
Brooke Burke: I think time is a big issue. There are a million reasons not to work out. There are a million excuses. I always tell people to lean into the other side of it. Be afraid of not working out and not caring for yourself, more than you’re afraid of trying something new. I think there is fear, insecurities and people get stuck in a rut and don’t know where to begin. My app is really designed for everyone. It is a digital gym. It’s about creating a space in a room; your hotel room, and your living room. I have workouts we can do in the kitchen and in the office, in bed, on the sofa, inside and outside. It’s something for everyone of all ages, and it’s really about creating energy. Make a personal commitment, hold yourself accountable, know that you’re worthy, change your narrative. I think we need that at all stages of our life. Get an accountability partner to do it with you. We’re doing a five-week program this December where you can digitally come over to my kitchen, and we’re doing the kitchen bar burn. It’s super fun live content. I also teach Zoom classes on Fridays for everyone that wants to sign up.
Allison Kugel: What are your thoughts on the body positivity movement?
Brooke Burke: I love body confidence and it’s super important when raising children. With my daughters, I’m so careful with my words. I’m a size two, so take that off the table and who cares what size we are and how much we weigh. I think it’s about finding your feel-good and feeling beautiful at different stages of your life, and with every size. I don’t like to use numbers and sizes, and what you weigh on a scale anymore. We’re talking about strength, body confidence and I want women to tap into their self-love space and their own inner dialogue, and to find their own self-confidence. If you don’t feel good about your body, then you need to make some changes. If you do feel good about your body, I am celebrating it all the way. You either change something in your life or you change the way you feel about it, and we’re celebrating healthy women. I think we’re celebrating voluptuous women right now. I personally love that, and I think it’s beautiful. Do I think it’s healthy? It depends on what your ratio is, what your index of body fat is, and where you’re storing that. There may be a size 14 plus size woman who has more energy and mobility than a size 6 woman. One of the things that I have women say out loud in class is, “I am worthy, I am strong. I am capable. I am beautiful.” There are a lot of women struggling with that, and if you can’t say “I’m beautiful,” you need to keep saying it until you start to believe it, because we all deserve that. We are all looking outward right now on social media. We look to everyone else to make us feel good, and I think that’s a really dangerous place to be. We have to bring it back to center, go inward and celebrate ourselves.
Allison Kugel: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve ever had to learn, and how does it now serve you?
Brooke Burke: What comes to the top of mind would be when I had to surrender in my fantasy of forever. I felt love lasted forever. I would have sworn that I would have been married forever. That was the intention, that goal that was sort of the fairytale. That was a big turning point and a big surrender for me, to not equate divorce with failure, and to realize that there was a need for change. I had to redesign my idea of what family was supposed to look like. That really changed me, and it was a very hard lesson to share with my children. I really thought I was making love last forever, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in it today. I just surrendered to what was, and I didn’t give up. I really fought the fight until it was time to change, and I think that’s an important concept. But sometimes change is necessary, so that was a deep learning lesson for me.
Allison Kugel: How has that now made you a better partner?
Brooke Burke: I think I bring all that experience to the table as a woman. Scott and I both do. We bring all of those lessons to our relationship. This relationship is more precious to me because I know how fragile it could be. I don’t take love for granted. I think a lot of people do, and I think that’s dangerous.
Allison Kugel: How do you know when you’re in love?
Brooke Burke: It has changed so much through the years. I know I’m in love when I have a feeling of fulfillment, and when it feels good. Love has a beautiful flow to it. There’s not a resistance. It’s not a struggle. Love is complicated, especially with a blended family, but there’s an ease and contentment and a sense of fulfillment that I have all the time now with Scott. It’s such a relief, it’s so joyful, and it feels safe. I think love should feel safe.
Allison Kugel: What do you think you came into this world as Brooke Burke to learn, and what do you think you came here to teach?
Brooke Burke: I think I came here to teach women how to connect with themselves, and it’s also been one of the greatest lessons in my life, for me and my children. I think I’m learning now in my late 40s and 50s the value of stillness of space; personal space as a mother, a businesswoman and entrepreneur, and raising four children. There’s very little time for self, and I take that very seriously now and I create those moments. I’m working on a body of work right now called a “Soul Contract.” It’s about the commitment to self and defining those boundaries, and the promises that we make, and how we value those and keep them.
Allison Kugel: You’re a Jewish woman. I’m a Jewish woman. What are your thoughts on all of the recent anti-Semitism that has been in the news? Do you get angry and pissed off or do you try to lead with love?
Brooke Burke: I don’t really meet racism with love on any level to anyone. I take that very seriously. I don’t take things personally in the media, whether it’s a headline that was incorrect about me or something I said that was misinterpreted. I don’t really internalize a lot of that, even on social media when it comes to criticism and the world we’re living in right now. There are so many moments to feel bad about. Unapologetically, I’m who I am and I’m really proud of my culture. I’m proud of my religion. My children are proud of who they are. It’s all very confusing and it opens up the need for deeper dialogue. It’s interesting that there’s so much talk about Judaism right now and there’s so much negativity in the world on all levels, with so many misunderstandings. Yes, we have that dialogue with my children at home, about knowing who they are and being proud of it. It’s such a fragile time right now on so many levels. It’s hard to speak openly and to speak up or to have an opinion. We can hardly say anything these days. [Antisemitism] is sad to me, but it’s also reckless, and I think social media allows people a platform while not always holding them accountable for what they say. And now it’s become very impersonal. I struggle with do you try to rise above? Do you correct ignorance? Do you speak out, and if so, how do you speak out? Will your words be twisted? And then you think about the history of it. And I mean working for a network you really can’t say much of anything. We all know how that goes. But I don’t feel the need to correct anyone. I parent my children I correct them when I need to. Then there is a kind of surrender with everybody else, because it’s not my role. It’s just not my place nor would it serve me. I just think it’s sad. There’s a lot of ignorance, and it’s a lack of education.
Allison Kugel: Your 2014 dismissal from Dancing with The Stars was somewhat disrespectful. You were blindsided when you were suddenly let go. How do you handle rejection?
Brooke Burke: It’s hard. It’s an amazing conversation to have, because how do we process rejection and what did that moment really mean for me? I was hired on what I thought was the greatest show during that time, and I was then let go of that show. If I didn’t have other meaningful things in my life, if I wasn’t grounded, and if I didn’t have a foundation that was built on purpose and a loving family, I would imagine that I would have been quite lost. The entertainment business is so unpredictable and so out of our hands and can be so inconsiderate at times. I always tell people to make sure you have meaning in your life, and you do things that really matter that go far beyond that. I have been so blessed. I love working in the entertainment business, but I have a lot of other things that really feed my soul. That moment, being let go from Dancing with The Stars, it was a really shitty departure and unexpected and shocking, and not handled in a gentlemanly way, but that’s showbiz. So, that wasn’t the surprise. The surprise was those moments where you expect to be treated the way that you treat other people. People don’t really let us down; they break our expectations. That moment allowed me to dig a little deeper and say, “Okay. What’s next?” It inspired me to get more creative and find the next opportunity to start Brooke Burke Body.
Allison Kugel: How can people find your Brooke Burke Body and Longevity brands?
Brooke Burke: Brook Burke Body is everywhere. It’s on every Smart TV. It’s in the App Store. I guess the easiest way to find me is at BrookeBurke.com. It’s a portal for all things longevity: recipes, blogs, community inspiration and all of the fitness work that I do.
Listen to the extended interview with Brooke Burke on the Allison Interviews podcast at Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Watch on YouTube and follow Allison Kugel on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at www.allisoninterviews.com.