Would you take a Jazzercise class led by a woman who is 5'8" and weighs 240 pounds?
The Jazzercise people in San Francisco don’t think so, which is why they didn’t hire Jennifer Portnick. Jennifer says that’s not fair, because she eats healthy, works out, and is qualified for the job.
The Jazzercise folks don’t think she fits their instructor image, and that potential customers would take one look at her and think that the program must not be very effective if she’s their representative.
I understand the PR angle. They want the public to think that everyone who does Jazzercise looks like the dancers behind Britney Spears (if you're over 40, change that reference to "...looks like Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie 'Perfect'.") And if they don’t look like that now, they will soon, if only they would join!
What they’re overlooking is the vast number of people who hate commercials for health clubs, gyms, and exercise equipment precisely because everyone in them looks like Mr. or Ms. Perfect Body. Why? Because we can’t relate to them any more than Sir Anthony Hopkins can relate to Keanu Reeves.
They could use Jennifer as a new kind of spokesmodel. She says she’d like their appearance policy to “fit all women, not just the ones that are a smaller shape and size.” In other words, the 99.9% of American women who don’t have Janet Jackson’s amazing abs.
Let her convince people that just because they’re big doesn’t mean they’re out of shape. Sure, they’d have to do more physical activity than a single deep knee bend to check the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to see if there’s any leftover pizza.
As Jim (one of my radio listeners) points out, what if this were a large man? Say, someone the size of Rams linemen Orlando Pace or Jeff Zgonina? These guys tilt the scales at 300 pounds or more, yet they’re fit enough to play in the NFL. There would be a line out the door filled with guys who want to work out with them.
So if Jennifer can bring them in, why not hire her? Let her try it for a month, and make an effort to appeal to People Of Girth (something like “free Krispy Kremes with every membership in Jennifer’s Jumbo Jazzercise!”). Then, if the customer base doesn’t improve, dump her with just cause. On the other hand, if there is an increase in customers who want to partake of Jennifer’s expertise, then make it a regular gig.
And consider the possibility of yet another new revenue stream. I bet those big folks will be hungry after a good workout, and a stop at the Jazzercise Nacho Buffet might be just what they’re looking for.