Walking into a Sydney hotel room to interview Kayla Itsines I never imagined that we would end up sitting on a sofa looking at photos of wedding dresses on her phone and discussing our Greek grandmothers. Suffice to say, this isn't a typical Kayla interview, beyond her exercise tips what I really wanted to know is, who is the woman behind the fitness empire?
At just 28, Itsines has an app, a book, a range of workout merchandise and over 10.3m engaged Instagram followers. According to the 2018 Financial Review Young Rich List, she and fiance Tobi Pierce are worth a combined $486 million, making them the wealthiest self-made 20-somethings in Australia.
Admittedly, I was nervous to meet Itsines. Even pregnant she's fitter and more ripped than I'll ever be; the petite woman standing in front of me is wearing a crop-top and shorts with a baby bump poking out beneath a grey hoodie. The couple, who have been together for six years, is expecting their first child in May.
Yet, the minute I meet her my nerves dissipate. She is incredibly open and treats everyone from her assistants and make-up artists - who are also in the room - and even me with the same warmth you'd treat your best friend.
Here, Itsines discusses all things baby, wedding planning and her experience with pregnancy dermatitis.
How has pregnancy changed your relationship with your body?
"I love my body. Being pregnant has given me a greater appreciation for my body and what women’s bodies go through.
"I’ve also gained a greater appreciation of my fitness community – so many of them are women that have had babies and now I can relate to everything that they go through, I have an even better understanding. It’s been really, really good."
Of course, so many of your followers are mums who are coming back to the fitness world after having a baby...
"Exactly. In the past might have said, ‘oh I feel so tired’ and I never really understood the level of tiredness but now I get it."
Did you have any concerns about sharing the baby news with your followers?
"I had hesitation in regards to when I would tell them, obviously making sure that it was safe and after talking to a healthcare professional. I chose 20 weeks, the 20-week scan is a very big scan and I just wanted to make sure that everything was all good and everything was going perfect – and it was. That’s when I felt the time was right. I was so excited to though, I said to my doctor ‘Do you think I can tell them now? Do you think I can tell them now?’ But no, I think 20 weeks was perfect."
It's amazing that you're still filming new workout videos and showing off your growing bump.
"I’ve been a personal trainer for 10 years. I’ve trained women pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and post-pregnancy so I knew pregnancy safe exercises to do and I would always do something that was safe. It's exciting to actually show women what it would be like to work through an active pregnancy."
What would you say to one of our readers who might be expecting and struggling to find the motivation to exercise?
"If you need a rest, you have to rest. Really just listen to your body. I know that’s not what everyone wants to hear because that’s not a workout mood but you have to listen to your body.
"If you can walk, then go for a walk. But the first 12 weeks are really, really actually quite hard to build up the strength – especially if you’re like me, I was quite sick. Walking, trying to eat well, stay hydrated and rest."
Do you have a daily skincare regimen?
"Prior to pregnancy I had a whole skincare regimen but when I got pregnant I started getting dermatitis. I’m not sure if you can see these bumps… [points to chin]. I started getting dermatitis and it was actually quite bad. It was over my lip, down my chin here. And I looked it up and it said it was just due to the pregnancy.
So I went to the pharmacy and said ‘I think I need a cream, like Dermaid or something’. But she said because I’m pregnant I can't use it. So she gave me this one [holding up a tube of La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive]. I apply it over my entire face and it’s been amazing."
Have you chosen a name for your daughter and is it going to be a Greek name?
(Born in Adelaide, Itsines has Greek heritage.) "We’ve chosen names, but when she comes out we’ll be able to say ‘she looks like…this’. We’re probably not going to go to the point of naming our baby after my grandparents. We’ve already asked ‘Do you mind if it’s not your name?’ My grandma was like ‘No, it’s fine!’ Because my grandma’s name is Angela and I don’t really see me naming my child Angela or Kalopi which is a Greek name that translates Poppy - which is my name."
Oh, I didn't know that...
"Yeah, not a lot of people do. My actual name is Kalopi and it translates, well her name is Poppy, which is then my name but my mum called me Kayla. But yeah they are Greek-ish sounding names, definitely."
Do you have any pregnancy cravings?
"Through the whole pregnancy, there’s nothing that I’ve been craving, I don’t want anything, I’m not like ‘I really want this or I really want this.’ I just don’t want things. Because I eat such a balanced diet right. So I eat – wait, are you Greek?
"So you understand the Greek diet. We basically eat everything. There wasn’t a food that I missed, I would just eat those foods during the day. So there were foods I didn’t want like grilled fish, I was just not interested in fish. Things like my favourite food – I think I ate the grilled fish and the bok choy so much that when I got pregnant, I was over it. Greens – Asian greens which I normally love – anything like grilled fish, Asian greens, Thai food, I did not want Thai food and I used to love Thai food."
Let's talk about your wedding, how is the wedding planning coming along?
"We’ve talked about it! So we went from getting married in Greece cause my family is there and it would be so nice because they’ve never come down to Australia. We were like ‘Okay, we’ll get married in Greece.’ ‘No we’ll get married in Sydney because there are some beautiful places here.’ ‘No we’ll definitely get married in Adelaide.’ ‘No we’ll do it at our house.’ And then we got pregnant.
"It’s finding balance – what do we have time for and what’s important to us and what’s important is the baby? We said February next year but we’ll see, we still haven’t decided."
So, asking about your wedding dress is now irrelevant...
"So I found the designer… I don’t know much about fashion and I’ve never really obsessed with wedding dresses but there’s Pablo Sebastian which is in Adelaide. I also like Palace Couture and Steven Khalil."
I imagine that it's a difficult decision
"I've had so many recommendations from friends and family. I reached out to a designer on Instagram and then I had to say, ‘I’m sorry I don’t know why I reached out to you.’ And they were said: ‘No, no worries, whenever you’re ready, just come in.’ It’s gonna be amazing."