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Celebrity Trainer Bob Harper on His Life-Changing Year

January 10, 2018 by tony
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Bob Harper (Photographed by Tony Marion)

Bob Harper can find common ground with anyone — especially when it comes to his passion for theater. The celebrity trainer and former host of the hit reality television series The Biggest Loser has been a theater fan from the moment he saw 42nd Street at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. He was drawn to the energy, discipline, and passion of the performers.

Last winter, Harper’s life turned upside-down when he suffered a near-fatal heart attack at the gym. “My whole identity was working out,” Harper says. “Since my heart attack, I had to look outside my lane for other stimulation that was going to make me feel better.” Over lunch at the famed Soho haunt Balthazar, Harper shared how his near-death experience changed his perspective on life.

What do you love about theater? What goes through your mind as the lights dim and the curtain rises?
I’m excited because it’s live and new — no matter how many times the actor has done the performance. When I’m at a Broadway show, no matter what might be going on in my world, life is so good!

How have the arts impacted your life since your heart attack? 
Theater, art, and culture are more important to me now than ever. When I go to a museum or see a show, I remember what it’s all about. It’s about getting out and experiencing diverse creation, art, culture, and how it makes you feel. This is why I’m here.

Art holds a mirror up to society. Why do you think it’s important to reflect today’s culture?
It forces people to get off their phones and be in the moment! A lot of people are missing that in their lives — actual in-person connection and stimulation. With all this crazy shit going on, theater is the escape and the intellectual engagement that we all need.

How do you think the arts can help young people today?
The arts are so important to our youth because they cultivate the creative mind. It is one thing for science to challenge the mind, it is a whole other muscle in the brain to challenge yourself creatively, and that is what art does.

How has theater been healing to you in the midst of your health scare?
The first show I saw after my heart attack was “Miss Saigon,” and I posted a picture on social media and I wrote, “The best medicine.” That is exactly how I feel. Theater just makes me feel so good — on the inside where it really counts.

What does a healthy lifestyle mean to you today?
I’m not going to give you the obvious answer, which is exercise and a healthy diet and so on and so forth. To me, today, a healthy lifestyle is about finding happiness in every day, because happiness is a major stress reliever. I believe that stress is the creator of everything in a person’s life — be it good or bad. Don’t wait for an anvil to drop on your head to change something in your life that’s not working.

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