An Open Brooke
Brooke Burke-Charvet pauses mid-thought to snap a selfie in the mirror in front of her makeup chair. She is about to step into wardrobe and proceed on set for the first shot of the morning, but first she wants to capture her look for our shoot. “Looking good, guys! Thank you for the cheekbones,” she says, laughing and flashing her megawatt smile. “I always love the transformation,” she says to me, nodding to the hairstylist and makeup artist working behind her, whom she affectionately refers to as her “glamily.” As Brooke posts her pic to Instagram, I ask her how she feels about our digital world, which can be murky territory to tread – even for those of us who aren’t celebrities.
Brooke is a master of social media, with more than four million followers across her platforms, including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, but she admits that it’s something she still struggles with as a woman and a mother. “I think it’s amazing that we can create community with people around the world and have 360-degree conversations 24 hours a day,” she says, “but, to be honest, there’s also a very unrealistic part because everything is sort of filtered, beautified and retouched. I’m going to call it fun – not wrong – because we all get to become photographers and editors, but we still need to hold on to what’s real.”
For Real Fitness
“Real” is an adjective that sticks after just a few minutes of chatting with Brooke. She is down-to-earth, relaxed and straightforward. The only thing unbelievable about her is her figure. She has a body that would make most 20-year-olds jealous – and she is a 44-year-old mom of four. When I can’t help but point this out, she’s straight up about it, too: “I work at it,” she says, “hard.”
Unlike a lot of celebs, working out isn’t just a necessary part of staying camera-ready, though; fitness and athleticism are a passion for Brooke. She is probably best known for her time on Dancing with the Stars, first as a winning contestant and then as a co-host for eight seasons. Brooke has been the face of the Skechers shoe brand for six years and, in 2014, launched a fitness apparel line, Caelum, that is designed and priced to encourage women to dress the part for an active lifestyle.
Whether it’s through instruction or inspiration or a bit of both, helping other women get fit is something Brooke truly believes in – so much so that she teaches a free fitness class near her home in Malibu, CA. “It’s a passion project for me,” she says. What began as a small test group when she was choreographing her fitness DVD series has evolved into a weekly community class with a following. “I have women of all different shapes and sizes, and it’s a place where women find safety and inspire each other as well,” she says.
A Woman’s Woman
Women supporting women is a theme that carries over into several of Brooke’s projects, including a partnership with Poise that raises awareness about stress urinary incontinence (SUI), a problem that affects one in four women at different life stages and for a variety of reasons. “I’ve dealt with it, and I’m amazed at how many other women have dealt with it,” she says. “My motivation was to start a dialogue in the hopes that women would be less embarrassed about the changes in their bodies. I wanted to bring awareness to an extremely common problem and let women know that there’s an easy solution.”
“The power of ‘me, too’ is something I really believe in,” says Brooke. “That’s why I wrote my book about motherhood when I published The Naked Mom and why I started [the website] ModernMom, so that we can find comfort in one another’s journeys. It’s about understanding your body, taking control and doing something about it, whatever your health issues or challenges are.”
Health challenges are something that Brooke understands well: She beat thyroid cancer in 2013. The diagnosis was sudden – found during a routine physical – and the initial fallout was scary but ultimately empowering, she says. “Instead of going into a full-blown panic, I got educated about my prognosis, got a second opinion, made a plan and assembled a team of doctors,” she says.
Brooke is familiar with sudden change in her professional life, too. “After I left ABC, instead of dwelling on ‘OMG, I don’t get to go back [to Dancing with the Stars] for another season,’ it was like, ‘OK, what’s next?'” she explains. Brooke says that one door closing allowed several more to open. “I have done two shows since then [Breaking Bread with Brooke Burke, a food-oriented talk show with celebrity guests, and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Hidden Heroes], and I’ll do another show later this year – I think it was a really good thing for me,” she says.
At this point in her life, Brooke says she is more afraid of becoming too comfortable than of what changes are coming next. “I don’t ever want to get too comfortable in love, in life, as a parent or in my fitness routine,” she says. “You get complacent with comfort.” Being able to embrace change and get creative is a skill that she is trying to teach her kids, too. “They’ll say to me ‘Mom, I’m bored’ and I’ll say ‘Then you are boring,'” she says, laughing. “Sometimes life pushes the button for us, but we have to learn to push ourselves, too.”
Brooke takes one final appraising look in the mirror before sliding out of her makeup chair. I tell her how great she looks and ask if she has a beauty secret. “We all fight the system,” she says. “We’re all looking for that new beauty product, laser or tightening product, but beauty for me comes from a very deep place. I want to take care of my skin and my body from the inside out because I look good when I feel good inside.” When I ask if she has any thoughts on aging gracefully (because if anyone is giving advice on this, we want to hear it from her!), she says with a smile: “I want to be healthy and happy and comfortable in my skin, and I want to look my age, which is 40ish, forever.”
Photography by Alvaro Goveia; Styling by Ingrie Williams; Makeup by Dominique Samuel; Hair by Chris Dylan