Best known as Jackie Warner’s tempestuous girlfriend on Bravo’s Work Out, Mimi Saraiva raised a ruckus on the show’s first season with her bravado, her bitchiness and her biting. The two women, who had been together for four years when the show aired during the summer of 2006, split up at the end of the season — only to reunite a few months afterward. The second season of Work Out premieres Tuesday night, March 20, on Bravo, and not only is Jackie back, but so is Mimi.
The trainer and artist recently talked with AfterEllen.com and set the record straight about her volatile relationship with Warner, her new art projects and why Americans need to eat more vegetables.
Warning: One Work Out spoiler ahead.
AfterEllen.com: What have you been up to since you were on Work Out? Mimi Saraiva: I have been up to a lot of things. I’m a personal trainer during the day, and I’m also a painter. I’ve been doing a couple of TV shows … one called America’s Top Trainer [for FitTV].
AE: What’s America‘s Top Trainer? MS: It’s a competition between personal trainers in Los Angeles. You’re in front of the camera and you’re giving a bunch of exercises, and the audience gets to choose the best trainer. The idea is to start in L.A. and eventually go to other places in the U.S., other major cities.
AE: How did you get on the show? MS: There was an audition for a lot of trainers and I just showed up, and everybody was nervous as hell and I was just like, "Hey, what’s up?"
AE: Well, I suppose you’re comfortable being around TV cameras since Work Out. MS: Yeah. Like, "Oh, cameras — who cares?" I think I did really well. It was fun. We’ll see when that’s going to air. We don’t know yet for sure, but sometime very soon. I’m excited about that.
AE: Fitness is no longer just a fad, and yet obesity is at an all-time high. Why? MS: Yeah. Isn’t it crazy? In my opinion, only the major cities are focused on being fit and being healthy. It seems to me [that] everywhere else in the country, eating habits are terrible. The [fast] food in America is just horrible. Every time I go back home [to Brazil ] I go for a month, and I come back lighter; I come back leaner.
[People here] don’t sit down and eat. They eat in the car. They don’t sit down for breakfast. You see everybody with Starbucks Frappuccino in hand. We don’t have that in Brazil. We sit down and have our fruit. Here, it’s all about being efficient and getting as much work done as possible. They forget about what they should be eating … things from the nature like fruit and vegetables. In my opinion, it’s that.
AE: So you don’t eat fast food? No KFC, not ever? MS: [Laughs.] Yeah, but it is yummy. It’s really good. I’m not going to lie to you. But I found out that the chickens they use don’t have any eyeballs. They can’t walk because they inject them with so many hormones. They keep them in one small space. I never ate them again. I even drew a picture [of a chicken with] no eyes and no legs and is just super fat. And that stopped me from eating it forever.
AE: You drew a picture of a blind, legless chicken? MS: I did [laughs], because I heard the story and I got freaked out. I was shocked that I was eating such things — and the cruelty to the animals. So I drew it, and I was like, "Oh my God, I’ll never eat this again." And I never did.
AE: OK then. You said earlier you’re both a fitness trainer and a painter. Which do you consider yourself more: a painter or a trainer? MS: Definitely a painter. Yes, that’s my passion for sure.
AE: I read you have an art exhibit coming up. How many of your pieces will be on display? MS: It’s [at] the Nuni Gallery [in Los Angeles] on March 23rd. I’m going to have 30 new paintings up on the walls. I’ve been painting like crazy every day. Luckily, I’ve been inspired.
AE: What’s been your inspiration? MS: I’ve been working on two different bodies of work. One of them is portraits. They’re four-by-four portraits of clients I’ve been training that I got to know very well. I found [a way] to mix the two things that I do, which is the training and the painting.
AE: What’s the concept? MS: I took pictures of my clients working out. I did portraits of their faces really close up when they’re struggling, lifting weights or running. When they’re sweating and [they have] this expression that I see all the time — I just wanted to put that on canvas. I made 10 of those, and they’re pretty big portraits.
AE: How do your clients feel about being featured in your art? You’re not catching them at their most flattering. Their expressions are probably that of pain.
MS: I talked to them before about the idea, and everybody is very excited. I think we’re all egotistical in a way. Some of them are scared that they’re going to look really ugly, which I prepared them that they will. Because … it’s about showing everyone is the same in the things we do, no matter who you are. No one has makeup, you know.
AE: Reality. MS: Yeah, exactly. Reality. They’re excited. They’re really curious. They all want to come by and take a peek [beforehand], but I’m not going to let them. I’m really curious to see their reactions.
AE: Do you think reality TV distorts reality or is it an accurate representation of people’s lives? MS: I think it distorts tremendously. I think reality TV is a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
AE: Are you unhappy with the way you came off on Work Out?
MS: I was really upset. I was extremely mad and angry at everybody, including Jackie. [There was] the potential for drama, and they just went for it. I was not advised. I think some … actions were provoked to get certain reactions from me.
I was mad. I was pissed to hear someone [who] says they love you for five years speak so horribly about you on national TV. It’s humiliating to anybody. I felt humiliated, and I’ll never forgive Jackie for that. She knows that. I’m not upset anymore. I completely let go of everything, but it was a lesson learned. You live and learn.
Mimi and Jackie in a clip from Season 1 of Work Out: