After a controversial and moving second season, Season 3 of
Bravo’s Work Out premieres
on April 15, and Jackie Warner and her Sky Sport training staff are back to
their usual romantic escapades and gym drama.
Photos courtesy of Bravo
Warner is a unique personality on the television landscape —
a lesbian, an athlete and a businesswoman. In a medium where elite female
athletes are not given much coverage and the emphasis is on those who are
traditionally feminine, Warner stands out for her assertiveness and power.
In a recent interview with AfterEllen.com, Warner said that
to counteract this sexism, it’s important for "men, in particular, to see
women come from a place of strength, and that we can push ourselves physically
With Warner front and center, the show reverses the common stereotypes of male athletes as more competent and talented than female athletes. For example, while WNBA stars earn a fraction of the salary and respect of their male counterparts, Work Out highlights a woman who is better than the male trainers, higher paid and more effective.
Whatever her shortcomings as a boss, Warner’s charismatic
and authoritative character is a far cry from the more passive women who pop up
in both scripted and reality television shows.
As in the first two seasons, in Season 3 Warner never falls
back on feminine stereotypes to make people feel less threatened. Her powerful
business persona is inseparable from her physical strength. "That’s why I
got into athletics," she said, "because I wanted more respect. I
wanted to carry myself differently."
While not every viewer may identify with Warner’s strength
and athleticism, it’s easier to relate to her as a professionally successful
woman who still struggles to master her emotions and relationships.
Warner’s presence as a strong woman and lesbian on
television was mostly serendipitous. Bravo, often described as "the other
gay cable network," might better be characterized as bisexual (as in
falling for the person, not the gender): Bravo picks subjects regardless of
Andy Cohen, Bravo’s senior vice president of programming and
production, was part of the team that created and developed Work Out. He said: "At Bravo we follow the person. Jackie happens to be
gay. … We didn’t have a mandate saying we need a lesbian show. We just found
Cohen went on to credit the gym setting with bringing out
the drama in the personal lives of central and supporting characters alike:
"You go into a gym and you start talking to your trainer, and suddenly
you’re kind of spilling your soul. [The drama on Work Out] is kind of the natural course of what happens."
Rebecca Cardon, Sky Sport’s best-known trainer in the
lesbian community since her relationship with Warner in Season 2, agreed:
"Initially, [the relationship with a client] is sort of superficial. And
then after you’re with somebody and they trust you, they open up about the
craziest things, like affairs, and different things that if it ever got out it
would just ruin their lives."