With the recent closing of Robert Kennedy Publishing
, we sat down with Trish Stratus as she reflects on the amazing run the magazine publishing company had. As many know, Trish gained her first taste of international fame and success as one of the signature fitness models for the company that produced iconic publications such as MuscleMag
and she quickly became one of the world’s most sought after Fitness Models. From her first cover in 1998 to her last in 2011, Trish has long been associated with the brand, before, during and after her career in WWE. A chance encounter at a gym she was working at would lead to an incredible run in the fitness world that would link to a career in the health and wellness realm that is now Stratusphere.
Here now is a look back at Trish’s history with Robert Kennedy Publishing.
TRISHSTRATUS.COM: What was your first thought when you got the news that RKP was closing down?
It’s a sad thought to know that a brand and legacy is gone. It is something that has been a part of me for so long – the place that started my career – the brand, the people of the brand were friends of mine. It was a shocker to hear the doors were closing. After Robert Kennedy’s passing about 14 months ago, they truly lost the leader, and sometimes, the ship can’t go on without its captain. Bob was the heart and soul of the brand.
TS.COM: For those not familiar with Robert Kennedy, tell us a bit about him?
He was the Vince McMahon of the fitness world. The parallels between them, both mentors to me, are actually quite amazing. He built MuscleMag magazine from the ground up starting in 1974. He was a pioneer in fitness publishing and was as hands on at the end as he was when he started the magazine. Much in the same way Vince is with the WWE product. The way Vince himself was a part of it all, first announcing and then competing, Bob was the same way. From taking the pictures (he took all my pictures in the beginning), to being a part of assembling the magazine. In his offices he would give every employee personal attention, he’d stop in at every single desk, check on things and he had this way of looking at a photo and knowing it was ‘the one’.
TS.COM: What was your first interaction with Robert?
My university went on strike in ’97 and my med-school path was put on hold. I got a job at a gym so I could train. During this time, I saw these women with attainable physiques popping up in the fitness magazines. They were athletic and feminine – a nice change from the heavily muscled women that were typically seen in the fitness magazines. The first woman I really noticed and could relate to was Marla Duncan and it was in the pages of a MuscleMag International that I saw her.
Chance would have it, MuscleMag was a Canadian publication, in fact, they were about 25 minutes away from the gym that I worked. One day I was working at the gym and I was approached by a guy who was looking for models for a new clothing line that MuscleMag was creating. Although I’d never done any modelling before, but I was introduced to Robert Kennedy, and he said, ‘let’s do a test shoot.’ He showed me the fitness mags and the look and poses, and gave me my first bottle of spray tan. It was the first time I became orange!
My first test shoot was in a studio in the MuscleMag offices and he said, ‘wow, you got it!’ He said I had a certain sparkle in my eye – he was capturing ‘smizing’ long before Tyra Banks was!
TS.COM: Now at the time you were also into comic books...
Yes, my brother-in-law owned a comic store in Toronto. Some of the ones I was into at the time were Danger Girl and Witchblade. As I was starting to weight train I had a Marla Duncan picture taped to my mirror, and as I was reading these comics, I saw the parallel – the heroines had the fitness model body – the lats, the quads, the arms. The cool thing about weight training is you can literally mold your body whatever way you want. I remember my third MuscleMag cover, Bob said ‘you look like a superhero’. I thought that was pretty cool.
TS.COM: So you did your first photoshoot in 1997 in Miami. Tell me about it – were you nervous? Excited?
It was intimidating! I was in awe, because these girls were all professionals and already in the pages of the magazines, and here I was on my first photoshoot. But I approached it the same way I would later approach my first wrestling matches – I studied it and gave my full attention to prepare for it. I studied the magazines, I was posing in the mirror, saw what my best angles were, tried a few different poses. My first shoot, Bob was like, ‘look at you – you’re the new girl but you look like one of the professionals.’ Following that shoot he signed me to an exclusive contract. My first cover then came in 1998 and can you believe, it was one of the photos from that first shoot!
TS.COM: One of your first gigs as a ‘MuscleMag Girl’ was at the Arnold Expo. Talk about that experience and how it came full circle at your WWE HOF induction.
Bob and Arnold Schwarzenegger were very close friends; he actually was the first one to put Arnold on a cover. Even when Bob was ill, Arnold came up to Ontario to see him in his last days. The Arnold Expo was huge in the industry – it was like the WrestleMania of fitness shows, so when I got asked to be a part of it, it was a big deal to me! Bob brought Arnold over to the booth and we all got to met him. I later was kicking myself because we all got caught up in meeting him that no of us got a picture of it! Of course, at my Hall of Fame induction, I saw Arnold again and I introduced myself. I told him we’d met quite a few years ago and that I was a close friend of Bob Kennedy. As soon as I said Bob’s name, he melted and we talked about what a wonderful a man he was, how gracious he was and how he had remained a friend (to both of us) for so many years. We had a instant connection. he defining year and turning point for models, fashion, and popular culture was 1990 when the combined power, singular beauty and influence of five women created such an impression on the world that a new word was coined especially for them: supermodel.
TS.COM: You were a part of a group of women who were known as the ones who shaped the Fitness Modelling industry. I’ve heard comparisons that the Fitness Models (you, Monica Brant, Vicky Pratt, Amy Fahdli and Stacey Lynn) were to the fitness world what the Super Models (Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Claudia Schiffer) were to the fashion world.
I would say timing had a lot to do with that – the same way with the timing of my WWE career where I was lucky to be a part of a group of women who ended up shaping an industry. When we all started to come up in the fitness scene, there wasn’t anything that had been presented like that before, the combination of athleticism and feminism –
Monica, Vicky, Trish, Amy
ironic that was what we the ‘Divas’ ended up embodying as well. But it was the vision of Bob that started us all on this climb. Bob was a pioneer in everything he did. Suddenly, he saw a niche that needed to be filled and he coined the term ‘Fitness Model’. Suddenly, there were female bodybuilders and then there were Fitness Models. The industry blew up, and suddenly, we were all in demand. Only a few months after I did my first photoshoot, I was all over the world - within one week I would be shooting a cover in Costa Rica and then flying to an appearance in Germany. I even created a calendar series which I shot with Stacey Lynn, called the Dream Team. It was a whirlwind – and the craziest part is this all took place over a 2 year span before WWE even came a knocking!
TS.COM: There were other Fitness Models who came into the wrestling world. Talk about your fellow Divas who came from fitness.
Victoria, Torrie, Vicky, Stacey, Trish
Torrie Wilson was one of the first to do it, in WCW. I remember we were at a photoshoot in the Bahamas when she told me about WCW because she knew I was a huge wrestling fan. I was so excited for her! Funny, I didn’t even have a thought at that time, that it would end up being something I was going to do. The first time I met Victoria was during my Fitness Modelling days as well. It was so awesome when I saw her come into the WWE eventually. We even created a storyline based around the fact that we were both Fitness Models. That’s when she did, in my opinion her best work as a heel. She really was the original ‘turned psycho’ character, which we’ve now seen reincarnated so many times. She was an awesome psycho b*tch!
TS.COM: What was the conversation like when you told him you were moving on to WWE?
It was a whirlwind, it really all happened within two years. When the wrestling rumours started that, I was still doing the modelling while starting to train. And only six months after that, I was in WWE! I had to go to Robert and say ‘I have this opportunity, will it conflict? Is it cool?’ and he said, “Pursue it.” He knew it was an amazing opportunity and most importantly he knew what a wrestling nerd I was! It didn’t interfere with my contract, in fact I continued to shoot for him while I was in WWE and we continued to have an amazing friendship. Through it all, Bob was my mentor from the very beginning. He always told me I would tackle the wrestling world like I did fitness modelling world.
TS.COM: You would later do a cover after your retirement from WWE and starting Stratusphere. How did that come about?
After I opened up the studio in 2008, Bob and I were still friends, still having lunch about once a month. I was telling him about how amazing yoga was, and at the time my body was completely different than how it was when I was fitness modelling. He said, ‘you look great’ and I said ‘it’s just yoga! You’ve got to turn your readers onto it.’ At that point he just didn’t get it nor did he think his readers who were all about the strength training would get it either. Over the next couple years when he saw me, he said I had lost my
most famous asset, and it was true. I had just been doing only yoga and my butt was gone! He was very open about it. It didn’t occur to me but I got very skinny for a couple years there while I was doing strictly yoga. It wasn’t until I filmed Bounty Hunters and created my Stratusphere Yoga system, that I got that balance back in my body – and my booty! In 2011, I told Bob I had something that would be perfect for his readers – a blend of strength training and yoga. At that point we decided to do a covershoot to present this system to his Oxygen readers. And I’ll never forget it: towards the end of the shoot, Bob came in and saw I was doing some yoga poses and he goes ‘I’ve heard you rant and rave about yoga for so many years. To walk in and see everyone on set watching you in silence flow between the poses and see how people were in awe of how your body was moving. I finally understand it. Yoga is a part of you. I get it.’
TS.COM: What, to you, is the Legacy of Robert Kennedy Publishing?
Through his publications, Bob brought fitness to the forefront and made it mainstream. He’s responsible for creating an industry that allowed women to strive towards an attainable physique which portrayed a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
In light of the company's closure, Stratusphere Shop has acquired limited copies of Trish's past issues of MuscleMag International. We are proud to offer them as a way to celebrate Trish's legacy as one of the world's top Fitness Models. To own a piece of history that shaped Trish's career, visit Stratusphere Shop today »
NOTE: Quantities are limited. Autograph included while supplies last.
• My letter to my longtime mentor and friend, Bob Kennedy