Jesse Brune Fights Fat, Fur

Jesse Brune’s on a mission: making the world feel better, one person at a time.

A professional chef and personal trainer, Brune’s big break came when Bravo asked him to be on their gym bunny reality show, Workout. And now that he’s a household name, Brune’s got a new gig: hocking Nair For Men, which he did quite well during yesterday’s gay pride extravaganza here in New York.

Our editor sat down with Brune to discuss his campaign against unwanted body hair, why he’s fit to change a stranger’s life and how the closet forced him out of acting.

Read all about it, after the jump…

Andrew Belonsky: So, you’re in New York, Jesse, for gay pride. You were on the Nair for Men float…

Jesse Brune: Yeah, I am in town for Nair spreading the good word.

AB: Spreading the good, hairless word. Do you think your involvement with Nair may make bears think they’re being discriminated against? Do you fear the bear backlash on all of this?

JB: [Laughs] I thought that a fun activity to do is to Nair a bear – but, no, absolutely not. There’s no problem with body hair. If you’re going to own it, own it, but I think that a lot of people are getting ready for summer, getting ready for pool parties, are working out really hard in the gym and what Nair does is get that smooth skin that makes your muscles pop and get your muscular structure in full light after you’ve been working so hard on it. It’s just one of those little things that you do to feel sexy. It’s sort of like after having a hair cut or buying new clothes. It just helps your energy. You carry yourself a little differently. I think that after Queer Eye for The Straight Guy, men having been really hip to grooming. It’s okay for us to take care of ourselves – and in the gay community, come on, everybody has their little tricks.

AB: That was a very serious answer. Now, how did you get involved in all of this? Did they approach you?

JB: Yeah. I was actually talking about cooking shows with somebody and I was with my manager and she said, “Jesse, have you ever thought of Nair?” And I was like, “Um, not really.” And then after talking to them and hearing their mission statement, it made a lot of sense for me to stand by this because it’s what I do – I help people feel good about themselves and that is pretty much the focus of this product.

AB: And, Jesse, I’d like a bit of biographical information about you. How did you get into what you call the “transformation field?”

JB: It started with – I was in LA and New York, I was acting a bit and I got really sick of auditioning, I hated auditioning. And then I signed with a big management firm and they told me, I had one of those creepy made-for-tv movie moments – I went into their office and they closed the door and they said, “Jesse, we think you can be a big star, but you have to go into the closet!” It was that bad and that cheesy. And, so, I just couldn’t do it. I had to stay true to myself. And the other thing that I always wanted to do was cook. My mother was Southern, she was big into food and so family meals were very important. When she started working two jobs, she taught me how to cook dinner for the family. I always had a fantasy of going to culinary school and becoming a chef; I always thought it was so sexy.

AB: Oh, yes. Indeed.

JB: So a week after I decided to quit acting, I was in culinary school. I think all those years of acting made me very body conscious, so I got certified to be a personal trainer while I was in culinary school so that I wouldn’t gain a lot of weight. It was as shallow as that – I just didn’t want to get fat in culinary school.

AB: And how did you get involved in Workout?

JB: Toward the end of school I developed a following with my training and then I was approached by Workout to come on the show. I didn’t want to do it initially because it was a show about working out – I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to focus on food, but then they said they would feature me as a chef on the show and it just sort of took off from there. The more popular the show became, the more I had people wanting me to do both for them – train them and cook for them. So, my business started forming itself there, but it took me until the second season of the show – I had gained weight between the first and second season and part of the focus of the second season was about how I gained weight and, you know, that’s not the end of the world, doing that, but when I looked back at the footage, I realized that I just wasn’t happy. I had to take a step back and really go to the core issue, which was not that I gained weight, it was not what I was eating, it was “what can I do to make myself feel good.” And that’s where I started and from there I transformed my life.

AB: That’s a very strong word: “transform.”

JB: And I have to use the word “transform,” because that’s the only word that would accurately describe it. I approached my clients with that – what is it that you want to, not necessarily change but work on? Starting from that platform and moving around there, I realized when asked what I do, all I can say is “I help people transform.” It’s more than getting in shape, it’s more than just changing somebody’s eating – all that falls into place, but the brand that I endorse for myself is the “happy living expert.” That’s what I try to help people do: get to the point where they can really say, as clichéd as it might sound, is to say that they’re happy.

AB: Okay, so now let’s go back even further – where did you grow up?

JB: I grew up in Seattle – I grew up a Southern Baptist in Seattle, Washington.

AB: Was your family very religious?

JB: Yeah, when I was younger, I was very religious – I had a close family connection, but I would say I dropped the Southern Baptist probably when I was about fourteen. I came out of the closet when I was fifteen. As soon as I realized what it was, I was like, “Oh, that’s what it is: I’m gay!” I came out and never had any – I mean, I’m blessed in that my family just embraced me and loves me no matter what.

AB: And what year was that?

JB: 1995.

AB: That’s pretty impressive. Now, do people ever come to you only to get a date or because they’re gawking at someone who’s on television?

JB: Well, you know, what’s funny is that I’m at the point now where I screen my clientelle. I ask – because I get an overwhelming number of people who want to work with me, especially after a season is on the air, so I’m pretty good at weeding out the people who want to come just for the – I’ve had people who have come to work out with me and afterward they’ll be like, “So, what are you doing now? Do you want to do something?” And those are the people I never see again. I don’t care to waste my time with that. I keep my personal life my personal life and my business life, my business life.

AB: Speaking of your personal life – do you date? Are you dating somebody?

JB: Yeah, I’ve had a boyfriend now for about a year.

AB: Hoorah! Are you guys going to get gay married?

JB: [Laughs] God, I don’t know. Who knows what tomorrow brings…