Interviews

What It's Really Like to Be a Fitness Model

Getting paid to lift weights and look jacked would be a dream come true for many of us, but it’s a reality for NYC’s Lony Pizarro.

Lony Pizarro
Edgar Artiga

At 15 years old, Lony Pizarro was tired of being bullied for being skinny and weak. So, like a lot of adolescent boys in search of respect, he hit the weights. Hard. Motivated by the physiques of guys in the pages of Muscle & Fitness and other magazines, Pizarro would tell himself, “If they can do it, I can, too.”

And so he did. Eventually, he got so ripped that he started entering amateur bodybuilding shows. And his love for fitness inspired him to earn a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Utah. Then Pizarro started his own personal training business in the Salt Lake City area.

But despite his success, he felt the urge to reach more people and do more in the world of fitness. So Pizarro ditched the Beehive State for the Big Apple, where he is now studying acting in addition to booking as many photo shoots as possible.Being a fitness model is not for the weak-willed, says Pizarro.

Nor is it an ultra-lucrative path for most. But for those able to grind through the tough times, it can be extremely rewarding to see yourself in print advertisements and your favorite magazines.

On the Job

Think you might want to be a fitness model? Here’s what you can expect, according to Pizarro

The Daily Grind

“I wake up, eat my first meal, hit the gym for a couple of hours, go home, shower, and then eat again,” says Pizarro, whose diet consists of a lot of tuna, tilapia, spinach, asparagus, and water.

“Then I commute to New York from my home in New Jersey with all my stuff packed, mainly meals. I go to my castings [meetings with casting directors and photo directors] and acting classes and whatever side projects I may be working on with photographers, trying to build my portfolio. And then once I’m home, I do cardio for two hours and hit the sauna for 45 minutes to an hour. I also have to prep all my meals again for the next day.”

Required Skills

“You need to be self-motivated,” says Pizarro. “You’re essentially an independent contractor, and you are your own business, so you need to be ready, every day, to work out, look for jobs, network, and find the right photographers. You have to keep your ultimate goal in sight and then slowly take steps to get there.”

Best Part

“When you book a job, it’s a huge high. It’s an amazing feeling of happiness that you get unlike any other. It’s just a huge sense of accomplishment.”

Worst Part

“The worst part is never knowing when your next job is going to be or what it will be. You have to put in a lot of work and just wait.”

Other Advice

“As a professional fitness model, you should always be in great shape. Then your personality is what’s going to make you stand out and help you land jobs. Be yourself and a good, friendly person, and people will notice.”

The 411: Fitness Model

1. Suggested Education:

A bachelor’s degree in exercise science or its equivalent would help a lot. Beyond that, you should know how to perform most fitness moves (with proper technique!) and what it takes from a fitness and nutrition standpoint to look your best.

2. Suggested Prelim Jobs:

Personal trainer and/or a job at a commercial gym. Or, really, any job where you had to bust your ass and hustle, like a server in a restaurant or a salesperson in retail.

3. Salary Range:

When you’re first starting out, expect nearly nothing per shoot. The top guys (who also typically have endorsement deals) can rake in as much as mid-six figures per year.

4. Most Important Skills:

Self-motivation, confidence, an expert knowledge of training and nutrition, an excellent physique, and an even better work ethic. Oh, and a handsome—or at least distinctive—face doesn’t hurt, either.

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