‘I can’t believe it’s happened, really’: Joe Wicks — The Big Interview
When you’ve got an eight-book deal, 2 million followers on Instagram and a whole country hanging on your every 15-second cooking video, fame comes with the territory.
Joe Wicks has just flown in from Los Angeles and is claiming jet-lag, yet remains ridiculously well-groomed, charming… and just so nice. Here at ‘The Body Coach HQ’ – a huge room split down the middle with a short running track – there’s a full gym, fancy glass partitions, and an army of workers on laptops.
His publicist tells me he has 40 people working with him on split shifts – though you’d never guess it from the authentic, selfie-style videos he posts on Instagram and Snapchat.
‘You know what we do here?’ he asks. ‘We transform lives. We really do. We save people from the diet industry, get them eating better food and exercising, and we’re doing it all over the world.’
Only four years ago, Joe was, in his own words, making ‘a grand a month’ and followed by a smattering of social media devotees.
Now, The Body Coach is a serious business, turning over more than a million pounds a month, and the entire country is seemingly tossing midget trees (broccoli) into a pan alongside the Lucy Bee (coconut oil). The whole operation revolves around Joe and his perky persona. Does he ever feel the pressure?
‘I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel. You know, digital content and social media never sleeps so even when you’re having a day off, you’re not really having a day off.’
But isn’t that quite hard to deal with? ‘I love it so I don’t see it as work. I’m gonna cook anyway so why don’t I just have my phone there and record it, put it on Instagram and have a bit of content out of it?’
Joe uses words like ‘content’ and ‘platforms’ a lot. He puts a great deal of thought into the way he documents his day online.
He tells me he recently went to Soho Farmhouse and left his phone in the car park. Did that feel like cold turkey? ‘No, not really. The community talks to itself now,’ he says.
Which isn’t quite what I meant – I wanted to know how Joe felt when he switched off, not his followers. What about meditation? ‘I’m mindful, but not that mindful,’ he says. ‘On holiday, I tried the Headspace thing. I did that for a little while.’
Starting a family
It’s clear he’s got to where he is through a relentless work ethic combined with an ‘insta-ready’ formula of being attractive, unthreatening and likeable. You can’t follow Joe on social media and not know that he’s one of life’s nice guys, and while I’m with him he obligingly poses for photos, selfies and ‘insta-stories’ with everyone who crosses his path.
In the middle of being fussed over during his photoshoot for this month’s Balance cover, he stops to share a funny video with his staff. They clearly love him, too. The office vibe is relaxed and, surprisingly, Joe has no ego.
But I’ve been wondering what motivates him apart from his work. I suggest we do some Joe Wicks future goal-setting. He’s keen.
‘I did this mad thing where I wrote down what I wanted in five years,’ he says. ‘It’s weird, you know, like The Secret and all that. Opening it up after five years, I literally had done everything I had written down. So I feel like I need to do another one of those.’
Great. In that case, as a starting point, I suggest the technique of focusing on what he’d like in the different areas of his life in five years. For someone famous for not talking about his private life, his first suggestion comes as a surprise. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I’d like a family.’
So we’ve got a future Wicks clan on the list. What else? ‘Hmm. I’ve got a lovely house which I’m really, really happy in. I’m not obsessed with having properties all over the world, and I’m not that driven by money. It is a nice perk of being successful, but I don’t think you should chase money.’
He continues: ‘Holidays are my thing. I just love going somewhere new. I’d like to visit New Zealand. I haven’t been to New Zealand. I’d like global success but most of my audience is in the UK at the moment.’
The price of fame
We quickly start to veer back to career goals. So would he put ‘global success’ forward as one of his New Year’s Resolutions? Apparently not.
‘Thing is,’ he confesses, ‘I say that, but I don’t want to be famous.’ This might be a bit of a problem. When you’ve written four bestselling books, spent 31 weeks at number one in the UK DVD charts and have been responsible for a 25% increase in UK broccoli sales, you’re going to be in the spotlight.
And one of the most recognised men in Britain has just told me he doesn’t want to be famous.
In fact, Joe has just flown in from LA where he has had his first negative experience with the tabloids.
‘I got papped in Santa Monica, and it’s really weird that someone’s following you round taking photos of you. I want to be successful, but I don’t want the fame that comes with it. I’m not trying to be a celebrity. They followed us around for an hour.’
To make him even more tempting to the lurking paparazzi, his girlfriend is former Page 3 model Rosie Jones.
Joe famously doesn’t like talking about his private life, artfully dodging questions on the likes of Loose Women, Good Morning Britain and pretty much anyone else who asks. But since we follow so much of Joe’s life online already, perhaps it’s only natural we want to know about his relationships, too?
‘I’m quite shy. I don’t really want to talk about that. I’m a bit more relaxed about it now, but we don’t share stuff on social media together because it’s our private stuff. We have nice photos together, but I don’t feel the need to be like… “look how happy I am”. That, for me, is private.’
If the global domination he mentioned earlier happens, I suggest that level of intrusion will come with the territory. ‘Who knows, maybe I’ll just stick to the UK,’ he says.
Wherever he concentrates his time, it seems Joe is going to be well-known for quite a while. It’s easy to be a little cynical about a Snapchat-phenomenon who has an eight-book deal but is ‘not a massive book reader’.
But he is the proud author of the UK’s biggest selling diet books of all time. His latest, The Fat-Loss Plan, came out on Boxing Day and is predictably selling by the bucketload. In his own way, he is changing the lives and shapes of thousands of people and his philosophy about both diet and exercise is to keep it simple.
‘People try to change too much at once and it never works,’ he says. ‘I believe in home workouts; 15 minutes a day, in my opinion, is more effective than one hour a week.’
Stress? What stress?
As we start to wrap up, I’m still wondering about the unceasing demands of keeping so many millions of social media followers satisfied on an hourly basis. It must be never-ending. I ask Joe about other de-stressing techniques, like yoga.
‘I started doing Vinyasa Flow. I love the physicality of it but when they go spiritual, some of these yoga teachers are really into their spirituality. I feel like they are always saying, “let go of your stress and anxiety and your troubles”.
But I’m really not troubled, I’m fine, I’m really happy. I’ve got a lovely girlfriend, I’m actually really, really happy.’
The Fat-Loss Plan: 100 Quick and Easy Recipes with Workouts by Joe Wicks is published by Bluebird (£16.99). Joe’s latest DVD, Lean in 15: Workouts, is out now (£19.99, Universal)
Joe by numbers
1.9 million: The number of Insta followers he has now, the highest UK fitness influencer, 21st in the world
42,000: The number of Insta followers he had when he signed his first book deal in 2014.
12 million: The amount (in pounds) Joe is estimated to have earned last year
111,830: The number of copies of Lean In 15 sold in its first week, making it the fastest selling diet book ever
25 per cent: The increase in tenderstem broccoli sales attributed to Joe by one major producer
Read more: Joe Wick’s 4 tips to getting healthier and happier