Wednesday, May 18, 2022

‘Dancing with the Stars’: Cody Rigsby’s Tale of Mud Riches

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Cody Rigsby was rarely recognized on Fire Island in New York. It was a sanctuary, a place where “no one knew my celebrity without quotes,” says instructor Peloton, who has been inspiring users to climb imaginary hills since 2014.

“Many of my demographic groups are women in their 30s and 50s who live in the suburbs or in Central America,” he says, noting that he was sometimes spotted visiting his mom in North Carolina. “There aren’t that many on a very fun island.”

That all changed when COVID-19 broke out. As people looked for ways to stay fit at home, Peloton has grown exponentially – from 1.6 million users in early 2020 to 5.9 million in June 2021.

Likewise, Rigsby’s fame: something about his flamboyant teaching style resonated with people in times of isolation and uncertainty.

This new reality dawned on Rigsby when he returned to Fire Island this summer, after spending a year with little more than a visit to an empty Peloton studio in Manhattan. Instead of the blissful anonymity he once enjoyed, people came up to him at breakfast to ask for a photo. Sometimes they were celebrities.

“I need to be on my guard right now,” he says via videoconference from Los Angeles, where he concludes his life-changing year with a performance at Dancing with the Stars. “Because if I’m out with friends and having a good time, which probably includes drinking,” he rolls his eyes for comic effect, “I don’t want to be too messy.”

This self-deprecating frankness is part of what made 34-year-old Rigsby an extraordinarily approachable fitness guru – a virtual confidante who helps take his mind off the pain of a grueling workout. scavenger Justin Timberlake and shares cute stories about her boyfriend.

According to social media metrics, he is Peloton’s most popular teacher with nearly a million Instagram followers. His 30-minute session with Britney Spears has been played 650,000 times, and the number continues to grow – more than any other session of the same length. NBC News’s Kristen Welker took lessons from Rigsby to help her prepare to moderate the second presidential debate in 2020.

Not bad for the job that Rigsby took to earn a few hundred dollars while trying to become a professional dancer.

Cody Rigsby and his partner Cheryl Burke perform at Grease in Dancing With the Stars.

(Christopher Willard / ABC)

Like the boy band members Rigsby talks about so often, each Peloton instructor has a different personality type and teaching style: Spiritual, Quiet, Technical. Rigsby – Cheerful, she easily plays the role of “gay best friend for all,” as her colleague Emma Lovewell put it.

The tall and sturdy Rigsby has Mickey Mouse ears tattooed on his arm. While other instructors focus on form or motivational conversations, Rigsby spices up his class with kitschy phrases, casual observations of pop culture, and ranting about his personal annoyances. He is notoriously disliked for anything from Olive Garden breadsticks to the horror ball pit Chuck E. Cheese. In her popular XOXO themed lesson, Cody Rigsby pours sex and love advice into a rowdy pop playlist.

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More than anything, he loves Spears. Every time her music plays during class, which is often the case, he admonishes his followers, “When we play Britney, we’ll screw up.”

Rigsby’s lighthearted approach has appealed to users who upload his humorous revelations to TikTok and YouTube. You can buy Cody Rigsby prayer candles and mugs on Etsy. There is even a fan club.

However, when Rigsby was announced as a member of the DWTS production crew in September, some scoffed at the spin instructor’s idea of ​​being a bona fide star.

“Celebrities are not what they were when we started this show. It’s a much bigger world than just the people on TV, ”says co-executive producer Dina Katz, who increasingly attracts influencers and other personalities outside of the traditional celebrity categories.

Cody’s advice to the stars

Rigbsy is known for his candid talk about celebrities. We asked him to tell us about some famous people and characters.

Carrie Bradshaw: Please fire any stylist in the new Sex and the City. What happened to Patricia Field? You let her go to Emily in Paris and you guys are sorry about that.

Bennifer: Ben, don’t be surprised if your heart breaks, so don’t get rid of your friends so quickly. You may need them.

Kim Kardashian: Girl, haven’t you made enough money? Just retire, don’t do anything. And please don’t go back to Kanye.

Lovewell, who has known Rigsby for nearly a decade, believes there is something unique about the intimate yet virtual relationship between Peloton instructors and their audience.

“You cheer them up, you make them feel uncomfortable, out of breath and sweaty. They trust you with their body, their mind, and their heart. It’s a very different experience than just watching someone on a movie screen … “

Part of Rigsby’s appeal is his own story of triumph over adversity. His father died of a drug overdose when he was several months old. He was raised by a single mother, first in Burbank, then in Greensboro, North Carolina. Money was scarce and there were periods of homelessness.

A man in a purple sweater, sweatpants and black shoes poses by the pool.

“They took a chance on me, and it paid off, and I took a chance, and it changed my life a lot,” Rigsby says of his career at fitness company Peloton. “In a way, it’s very divine.”

(Al-Sabe / Los Angeles Times)

The difficulties “got me to my feet and take responsibility for myself at a very early age,” says Rigsby, who is more serious and reserved in conversation than his flamboyant Peloton persona would suggest. He talks thoughtfully about how therapy helped him deal with the emotional baggage of his childhood and how he moved his mother, Cindy, who is struggling with various health problems, to Brooklyn, “so she can feel comfortable and have as much joy as she can.”

Rigsby says he has always been a born performer, teaching his classmates choreography, which he took from Spears’ video. Although there was rarely enough money for dance lessons, he became involved in show choir and musical theater. “I really excelled in these places and was able to express myself in very conservative North Carolina,” he says. “Even though people laughed at me for being gay, I still enjoyed being on stage.”

After college, this led him to New York, where he trained as a dancer, combining professional performance (performing with Nicki Minaj at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show) with any incentive that would help pay his bills (working as a waiter).

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Lovewell, who first became friends with Rigsby when they were hired to dance at a lavish Venetian-style wedding in Washington DC, was immediately struck by his sense of humor. “He says what you are thinking, but he would never say out loud, but that does not mean,” she says. “It’s a delicate balance.”

Rigsby was working at Box nightclub on the Lower East Side when he heard about a new fitness company looking for performers interested in teaching. He sent a snapshot to Peloton’s head, believing it would be a good help and he would get the job after a 10-minute interview. He recalls inviting his friends – “gay men from New York, who are 20 years old, who will read you for filth if something is wrong” – in the first test class. For a year he taught Peloton full time.

Cody’s advice to the stars

Erica Jane: I hope she’s renegotiating her contract with Bravo. She needs more money.

Nicki Minaj: You are literally the best female rapper of all time. I feel that you often forget about this, and it manifests itself in insecurity.

Adele: Enjoy the reign that lies ahead.

Britney Spears: You also live your life. And be happy. Don’t worry about being forced to write music or perform. The fans will still love you. Have sex with Sam and have kids.

“They took a chance on me and it paid off. And I took a chance, and it changed my life a lot. In a way, it is very divine. “

Peloton is “fitness meets fun,” says Rigsby, one of several experienced instructors (British instructor Bradley Rose even starred in a Hallmark Christmas movie). “There are many people who can give [fitness] Class. But how do you keep people? How do you get people to come back again and again? I think these are the stories that we tell, the vulnerability that we show, the laughter that we share. “

DWTS, where he competed with Melanie “Sporty Spice” Chisholm, was a childhood dream come true – literally. As a child, he constantly had a dream in which he was friends with the Spice Girls. “I think it’s because I’ve watched The Spice World so many times,” he says.

However, the DWTS experience was challenging. He flew to Los Angeles for the first few weeks to record the show, then returned to New York to teach Peloton. Exhausted, Rigsby contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus and was forced to compete virtually from his apartment, dancing with his partner Cheryl Burke through a split screen – no less than Spears. “I’m still upset,” he says. To keep his sanity, he remains in Los Angeles for the rest of the show, teaching in a makeshift studio at the Peloton showroom in Pasadena.

The judges weren’t very kind to Rigsby, but his grades are improving. An avid fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Rigsby knows enough about reality TV to take it easy. “I have to remind myself not to be the victim of a TV story,” he says, “and to have fun, because that’s all it’s about. I’ll quote myself, “It’s not that big of a deal, boo.”

However, his journey with DWTS was over, the show brought him to a wider audience, and this opened up new possibilities beyond the motorcycle.

Rigsby is not one with a five-year plan, but he would like to do something else on TV, maybe as a judge or presenter. “If RuPaul is listening, I’m totally ready to play Celebrity Drag Race,” he says. “I just want everything I do to be based on bringing joy and good energy to the world.”

‘Dancing with the Stars’

Where: ABC
When: 20:00 Monday
Rating: TV-PG-L (may not be suitable for young children with harsh language advice)

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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