This summer marks the third time that fitness guru/personal trainer Jillian Michaels has announced she’s leaving “The Biggest Loser,” a show that made her a household name when it debuted in 2004. Known for her “tough love” motivational style, Michaels has had her own share of drama with the NBC reality competition over the last 10 years, as she’s quit and returned multiple times.
Now, thanks to a candid interview this week about why she’s leaving, it appears it’s all really coming to an end. But can Michaels really stay gone for good?
NBC confirmed last month that Michaels would not be back on the show for the upcoming Season 16. This week, Michaels really drove that point home in an interview with People magazine, explaining that she wasn’t happy about how the show edited her appearances this season. Because of the series showed more of her “tough” side as she worked with overweight contestants, she said, “millions of people have this warped negative perception of me.”
Plus, she added, “There were some fundamental differences [with 'Loser's' producers] that have existed for a while.” Though Michaels didn’t elaborate, she was openly not pleased when this past season’s controversial winner, Rachel Frederickson, appeared looking extraordinarily thin at the finale.
While that seems to be a nice way of veiling criticisms about her employer, this isn’t the first time that Michaels had had “creative differences” with the “Biggest Loser” team. Her journey is quite complicated: Back in 2006, she left after two seasons and expressed unhappiness about the way she was portrayed. Michaels spilled the details in an Australian magazine (she was also a trainer on the Australian version of the show).
“For ‘Loser’ in the States, they just made me look like a crazy person in the gym and it’s not who I am,” she said. “Yes I am, but there’s a good reason and there’s a method behind my madness. I just started to feel limited by the portrayal so if I did go back.”
Yet despite the harsh words, perhaps realizing the enormous potential of being on a hit broadcast show, Michaels was indeed back for Season 4 in 2007. She departed again in 2010 after Season 11 to focus on her family (she has two kids with her partner, Heidi Rhoades).
But in 2013, she came back once more for the 14th season. She told reporters that she “underestimated” the reach of the show. “A vehicle like ‘The Biggest Loser,’ with that kind of exposure and those kind of resources behind you, allows you to really get a message out and make a dent,” she said.
So: Will this decision to quit stick? All signs seem to point to yes, especially with NBC’s very “nail in the coffin” statement (“‘The Biggest Loser’ and Jillian Michaels have decided to part ways and she will not be returning for season 16 when it airs in the fall,” it read in part.) And given how much Michaels criticized the show over Frederickson’s appearance, it would look odd for her to forgive so quickly.
There’s always the chance that she’ll miss the spotlight of “The Biggest Loser.” Though ratings have slipped since its beginning years (averaging a little over 7 million viewers per episode these days), it’s still a powerful platform. Although Michaels has her whole “fitness empire,” there’s nothing like being on national television. And as we’ve seen multiple times in Hollywood, that can be a very enticing motivator.