Isaac Boots: From Hitch Kicks on the Beach to Galvanizing a Global Community

Audio Description

From his childhood on food stamps to his years dancing on Broadway, dancer and celebrity trainer Isaac Boots has lived many lives. Learn how in the height of the pandemic, through his cell phone and Torch'd workouts, Isaac has built a vibrant global community.


This transcript has been generated by an AI tool. Please excuse any typos.

00:09 - 00:35

Hi everyone and welcome to The Big Stage where we talk to athletes, artists and entertainers about their lives and impact. I'm your host, Adam Sansiveri Bernstein, managing director and co-lead of sports and Entertainment. In May of 2020, The New York Times penned an article with the headline Is this The Breakout Star of Virtual Fitness? They were referring to my guest today, Isaac Capito, better known as Isaac Boots.

00:36 - 01:12

Isaac may have been up and coming in the world of virtual fitness, but he was already a known celebrity trainer, choreographer and dancer. Isaac danced for 12 years on Broadway in shows like Mamma mia and West Side Story. He has choreographed for such people as Brooke Shields, Hugh Jackman and pop star Ariana Grande and trained many a person's cultural idols. One name celebs like Gwyneth, for example. He loves to inspire people to move. But as you'll soon hear, Isaac is inspirational in his own right. Isaac, thank you so much for joining me on the big stage.

01:12 - 01:16

Thank you so much for having me. I feel like I'm blushing after hearing that bio. Thank you so much.

01:17 - 01:36

Well, we're so excited to have you. And I'm excited to get into some of those details of the amazing career you've had. And I want to start at the beginning, though. You were born and raised in Hawaii, where you reportedly loved to dance on the beach and you taught yourself the best moves. So set the stage for us here. Give us a mental image of young Isaac.

01:37 - 02:16

Yes. That that is pretty accurate. I mean, I grew up in an incredibly conservative and poor household. I grew up on food stamps. And it was just it was it was a very humble beginning. But in many ways, it was beautiful as well. You know, I feel like those moments of feeling want. Right. I never forget. And I sort of take it with me throughout my life, whether it's through always pushing to succeed or just be thankful and grateful for whatever blessing I get to experience.

02:16 - 03:10

Now, me as a child, I was definitely an anomaly because I was the first grandchild on both sides. My my mom and dad were quite young when they had me. There are rumors that I was tossed around the high school cafeteria. True. True. And, you know, I always say that I came out of the room dancing because my earliest memory is just doing paddle trains on the beach. I definitely knew that I wanted to be in the arts. I knew that I knew that I was a theatrical person. I didn't know what that exactly meant. We weren't going to do a theater. I couldn't afford dance classes. I didn't even know that that was a thing. But I did have MTV. I'm 41, so I was born in 80. So that was a that was really formative for me. And thankfully I've been able to tell her personally.

03:10 - 03:35

But Madonna was my first dance teacher, surely. I mean, I watched her videos over and over and over and over again. Open your heart, express herself like a brat and borderline. Who could ever forget that it's. But I just sort of emulated her and sort of, like, learn. I mean, what I thought was, like, the basics of dance. And that's my earliest memory.

03:35 - 04:08

It wasn't until, like sophomore year of high school that I really started taking proper dance classes and I mean, as proper as I could. It was it was an after school dance program. I sort of found my my solace there and really dug in deep and, you know, had my best friend, my lay, like, sitting on my hips to get my splits bigger. And I was sort of ruthless about it because I knew that I had to get out. I knew I had to leave. I had to do something extraordinary and do something worthwhile and whatever that meant.

04:08 - 04:32

And to me, my eyes was New York City, you know. And I think, again, I mean, you know, not to turn this into a madonna fan club, but but it's kind of because of her. And I have to acknowledge that, you know, like watching Desperately Seeking Susan or her documentary Truth or Dare, the New York that she portrayed was like my dream.

04:33 - 05:23

You know, it was sort of the the reason a lot of people moved to New York was it had a sense of freedom and art and diversity and music and fashion and everything that I wanted to immerse myself in. And really the opposite of the sort of, you know, present, pedestrian, provincial and and Dickensian upbringing I have. And that is no shade. And I say that with love and I really do. It was a tough upbringing. You could not raise me. The way I was raised. You can not do that in modern day, I'm sure. Oh, wow. I'm sure it's a legal, illegal thing, but. But it taught me drive. And thankfully, I had my grandmother who taught me love. So I do feel so blessed.

05:24 - 05:40

Well, you learned from the best, it sounds like. And your love for New York is palpable. But rumor has it that you actually bought a one way ticket and flew to New York the day after your high school graduation with nothing but your dreams and maybe $30 to your name.

05:40 - 05:42

35 bucks. 35 bucks.

05:42 - 05:44

Isaac That's incredible.

05:44 - 06:28

And that's the damn truth. I saved my money from seventh grade with the idea. I'm going to get a one way ticket 2 hours to New York City. And there was one flight. Then it was a Continental flight direct from Honolulu to Newark. And I really didn't know anybody in New York. There was one person, my friend Matthew Tinker was starting his sophomore year at NYU. We had danced together in Hawaii. And, I mean, I came there with 35 bucks. You know, whatever was left from what I saved divide the ticket and I had nowhere to live. And so I illegally lived on his NYU dormitory floor.

06:28 - 07:28

Thank you, Mat Tinker, which I'm sure couldn't even happen now because I was all digital, you know, I had, like, a fake cardboard card that was like, I might do that, but it was exhilarating and it was exciting because I remember I the morning after I landed, I was when I was 17, I auditioned every day and I didn't know how to audition. I didn't know you need an agent. I'd know what an agent was. I didn't know you had have a headshot. And then I found out what it was and that was like 1200 dollars. I was like, Excuse me. Like, good luck. And so I would sneak into these auditions. I would sneak in, or I would, like, steal someone's card. And then I changed. I was insane, but. But I had no other option. And I knew I wasn't moving to New York to do anything else except Broadway, except perform, except dance with Madonna, whatever that meant. And I was I was sort of ruthless about it. And I think they got a kick out of me, you know?

07:28 - 08:01

Well, that tenacity and resilience certainly seemed to go to plan because you landed Mamma mia performing eight shows a week for six years on Broadway and then danced in the Broadway revival of West Side Story. For our listeners, this all sounds fabulous and I'm sure was incredibly exciting. But Isaac is you know, I come from the entertainment background and produced Broadway theater before coming to Bernstein. So so I'm familiar with the grueling schedule and work ethics performers must adhere to. So what did your years on Broadway teach you?

08:02 - 08:44

Oh, my God. I mean, I feel like Broadway is my DNA. And I don't say that lightly. I feel very blessed, very honored that I was able to really spend my twenties on Broadway. And I learned discipline. I learned the importance of community, really, because if you're really successful in the theater and I think in the industry at all, in Hollywood or anything to do with the arts, especially the importance of everyone who is involved from the lighting man to the dressers to the stage managers to the ushers, and having the real privilege to be in a long running show like Mamma mia, which ran for over ten years.

08:44 - 09:11

And West Side Story, which which was a big, big hit, is that these people become your family and you learn how to be a pro, that there is no calling out, but you show up on time, that you treat everyone with kindness, compassion and respect, and that the only thing that matters is going out on stage and making every person who bought a ticket, no matter how much or how little, make it worth it.

09:11 - 10:00

And I keep that with me throughout everything I've done since I approach everything like I'm about to go on stage, you know, like even teaching, teaching, say a group taught here in Philly during the Hamptons or in L.A. or in New York City, meeting someone, meeting someone who's traveled across the country to say classic with me. I don't take it lightly. I meet them with gratitude and I want to look into the eyes and get and give them something worth it and connect. You know that that's another thing you learn on Broadway, right? You have to connect to the audience. You have to connect with your cast. And I think I still consider myself a dancer first. So even when people call me like a celebrity trainer, it feels foreign to me. I'm a dancer and I approach everything in my life like that.

10:01 - 10:31

Well, there's a lot of amazing lessons that you just laid out for us that you've taken from Broadway. But you mentioned talk. And that's where I want to go next. Let's talk about it. This has been a massive sensation. You started offering 345 minute workouts on Instagram Live back in March of 2020, when the future was very uncertain and we were all in lockdown, all of a sudden torched, caught on like wildfire. But for those of our listeners who may not be in the know on this, can you describe this workout phenomenon?

10:31 - 11:13

Torch is a 45 minute to an hour dance conditioning class. It's not a dance class. I say dance conditioning. Really? Because I created it when I was in West Side Story. For me, with no agenda, it's insanely. Targeted repetition. It's major core throughout the entire workout body resistance. And I think what really what really was the clincher for the success of it, particularly during COVID, is that you can do it anywhere. You don't need equipment, you don't need a large jet. You can literally do it anywhere. No excuses. And it can change your body and it changes body.

11:14 - 12:08

You know, and I've been I've been utilizing it with pop stars. I've choreographed all my actress clients. And, you know, if they're on set, if they're on a trailer, you know, I can still train them wherever it is and keep their bodies not only fit and lean, but ready to perform. They're not debilitated after. Because remember, I created this world for me, for West Side Story. So I had to go on stage and do arguably the hardest choreography ever created. I mean, Jerome Robbins, nothing compares. No matter how much you try to reinvent it, it's the gold standard. So I had to be able to go out there and give it 110. And so I think that is the beauty of it is that, yes, it is insanely challenging, but you're able to approach life in a more confident way and a more useful way in a powerful way.

12:08 - 12:09

I love that.

12:09 - 12:25

Well, and to make it even more exciting of a story, you turn those workouts into a charitable opportunity with no kid hungry and have raised nearly $2 million for that charity. Why was this important to you and did it exceed your expectations when you did it?

12:26 - 12:51

Yes, it definitely exceeded my expectations, but it was a no brainer. I was that kid and I still feel like that kid, you know, I mean, as amazing as so many of my experiences in my career and life has been, that little boy that I was really never far off. And when the world shut down, the first thing I thought was, Oh, my God, imagine if this happened in 1985.

12:51 - 12:52

Oh, yeah.

12:52 - 13:21

I would have. I would it? Good luck to me. I don't I really don't know how that would have panned out. I really would have been. I don't even know. And so I thought, well, surely there is a boy like me now, a girl like me like I was then now. And no kid hungry has always been a charity that I cared about. You know, I think there's nothing more innocent than child and there's nothing more basic than food. I don't think it's a luxury.

13:21 - 14:16

I find it very strange that there is a hunger pandemic in the world, let alone the United States. So I reached out to them really about five days into my livestream because it kept growing exponentially and with people around the world, including my clients, you know, the Naomi Watts is Gwyneth's and Vanessa Hudgens of the world and. I felt uncomfortable and adamantly against receiving money. Charging felt vulgar to me with people losing jobs and then learning that schools are closing. And so many kids in America rely on that school lunch as their meal. And so I reached out to the hungry to create a direct link from my followers, my work out to immediate, urgent help with kids that that need food.

14:16 - 14:51

The first goal really the first goal was the thousand dollars. I thought, look, $1,000 to me as a kid was you know, it was like, you know, Scrooge McDuck jumping into a gold ball and gold coin. I was like, damn, all right. And we raised over $10,000 the first day. Thank you, Vanessa Hudgens. And in a month and a half, we raised over 200,000. And then in six months, we passed the million mark. And I remember crying when I found out that we surpassed the million dollar mark.

14:51 - 15:13

And I feel that that was the most powerful and important moment of my life, really making real change and creating a community with no strategy, no corporation, and no team being like, Listen, you've got to be on TikTok, glad to do this, and we got to get know it was real.

15:13 - 15:54

To that point, Isaac, you've grown a global community, right? So people began relying on your workouts for more than just muscle tone, but for their sanity and connections. And you mentioned Vanessa Hudgens, but other stars like Jessica Chastain worked out with you alongside these moms in middle America. And your friend Kelly Ripa is quoted as saying that you made a great, big, alienated, desolate world feel very small, and all you needed was your phone. So you've described what was the most gratifying moment. But I'm wondering if there's anything you've learned or anything you would do differently if you were about to do that all over again.

15:55 - 16:33

I would never do anything differently. I don't believe in that. I never I really feel adamantly about that. I don't look to the past to make a mistake. And I've made many. We all have. I'm sure I did an hour ago. But truly, I would never change anything. I think, you know, you learn from your actions. You learn from your experiences. What did I learn? I learned that there is good in the world. I learned that if you use what little talent you may have, whatever it is, you know, at the end of the day, no one is reinventing the damn wheel.

16:34 - 17:16

Okay. People have known how to work out who have known how to lose weight. People have known for years what to do. Right. It's math. It is what it is. And you can do it anywhere. But if you really show up every day and do a little bit of what you're good at, you can make a major change. And it is so much more gratifying and so much more meaningful when it's for something outside of yourself. You can always make money for you. Is actually not that hard. But when you attach it to something outside of yourself, it is gratifying in a way that is beyond the conventional sense of what we think.

17:16 - 17:39

Successes. I work with the richest and most powerful people in the world for years. And that doesn't necessarily mean you're happy. And that may sound cliche, but the people who I see that are the happiest are the ones who use their success or use their platform or use themselves for something outside of themselves, actually.

17:39 - 17:57

Yeah, that's such a great message, Isaac. And you clearly bring joy to folks in everything you do and you have such an infectious energy and you seem driven by instinct. So I'm curious, is that your secret to success that you're doing it not just for yourself? Or is there something else with that?

17:57 - 18:41

Is it I mean, that is like, well, that is a big part of it. That is a huge part of it. You know, I keep thinking of Kelly Ripa, who you just mentioned and that eloquent quote. She's quite poetic, actually. And I'm very I'm very blessed to call her family. I love her very much, but she's a big inspiration for me because she's not only successful in the conventional sense of the word, I see the way she treats people who can't do anything for her. And that's a common thread for people who are really successful for a long time. They see how you treat someone who cannot give you a job or give you press. And that's a beautiful, a beautiful thing.

18:41 - 19:07

And I think that that is something I try to remind myself to always do. And I'm sure I've messed up a thousand times. And if I have, I hope I learned from it because it is so much more inspiring and beautiful to witness people treating people in a council cliche. And I don't want to sound like the care bears, but that's true. I like treating the waitstaff well and treating people who you think can get you somewhere.

19:07 - 19:47

Well, it is just better to be magnanimous and that is a success to me and I think in the same thread is positive talk. I'm not a complainer. I don't I don't like complainers. I'm actually quite. Strict about not allowing that around me. As we know, it's like, you know, there's so much chaos and sadness in the world. It's almost embarrassing to complain about something when, you know, children are being murdered in in Ukraine and and all over the world. It's embarrassing to think that your problems are anything like that.

19:48 - 19:50

Absolutely. That's all. Well said.

19:50 - 19:57

So, Isaac, I'm I'm curious what you're looking towards in the future. How are you now leveraging what you've built and what are you focused on now?

19:58 - 20:43

You know, I feel very lucky because I'm able to now that the world is opening up in different ways, I'm able to cure AIDS. My year to be where my followers are. In high season. So Palm Beach in the winter, May in L.A., Nashville and Dallas, I think big followings there, June in Europe. God willing, in Germany, France, Italy and U.K. and then July one, Hamptons, you know, summer in the Hamptons through the end of the summer and then in the fall between New York City in Long Beach and then Christmas week in Aspen.

20:43 - 21:33

So I think it's important for me, as I said before, I am a show boy. It's important for me to be able to perform to my maximum audience throughout the year. I need to live, I need it. I need the real interaction and give people an opportunity to get out and get to witness me live in person. That's one of the most fabulous things about this residency at the Colony on Beach is. Yes, I have in every every class I has my fabulous Palm Beach ladies who come to every class. But I have people who are traveling in for the weekend every week from Boston, from Michigan, from Minnesota, from North Carolina, from from Montreal, and escaping the cold to have a girls weekend at the colony because they know that I'm here and they're going to support me at the restaurant.

21:33 - 22:04

And we take the Salafis in a moment and then we get towards on Saturday morning and they're like screaming. And then they have to go back to the treacherous pole. But but it's fun. It's it's cool. And I think it's beautiful to be able to meet these people and look them in the eye and hear their stories and seeing everyone having a great, great time and taking care of their bodies. And they all look amazing, you know, and that's a part and continuing to do good work.

22:04 - 22:39

And, you know, now, you know, as you said before, we raised so much money for hungry kids. Now, you know, my husband, Jeffrey and I are co-chairs of Childhood USA, which was created by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden to stop child sex trafficking, which is an uncomfortable topic. It really is, but it's real. And it has raised exponentially in the past two years during COVID, not only in the world, in America, in our backyard, you know, in neighborhoods, that one would be surprised.

22:39 - 23:06

I think spending the last two years how helping two kids leads us right into us wanting to protect them. We started this maybe like a month ago, and my first collaborator was Michael Kors. We activated together here at the Colony Palm Beach and have already started raising a great amount of money. And so my new goal is to get over a million for each other. US So that's the new initiative. Yeah. So I'm really excited.

23:06 - 23:15

That's so exciting to hear and we look forward to following along on your journey and I know personally I look forward to meeting you in some of those hot spots as you're traveling around. Some of my favorite places.

23:15 - 23:35

Yeah, well, you know, we've packed a lot in a very short period of time, Isaac. And our time together is coming to a close here in a moment. But I want to end on a few things that we like to like to head on in. The first is a question I ask all of my guests, and that's what's the best piece of financial advice you've ever gotten.

23:35 - 24:14

Saved in coins? I mean, that is the most important thing in the world. It really should include a water, right? I think growing up, not learning about money or money feeling elusive really throughout my entire childhood and even young adult life, I wish I had the tools that I know now and continue to learn now. I wish I had had them in my early twenties, but to really sort of map out and be aware of every coin that comes in, where to put it, where to save it, where to invest it, where to spend it.

24:15 - 25:10

You know, one thing that I discovered recently, which is amazing, so you're going to Broadway is I have a41k from when I was on Broadway that like, you know, I was there a long time. And to be perfectly frank, I wasn't even aware I had it. And I stumbled upon the email and I was like, Oh my God, thank God. Thank God. I checked. Yes. To to having a portion of every paycheck go into this. For one, I don't even think I realized that even that I did it when I was like 20, you know? I mean, but it adds up and I didn't even realize that I wasn't getting it in the moment. And now it's a great thing that you can shift into something to really work for you. That is the most important thing, is being aware and really just controlling and being specific about what the output is and where you're putting the hard earned money.

25:11 - 25:21

Yeah, well, that's a great answer for all of our listeners, but especially to our. Broadway listeners that tax deferred growth the 4001 K's make sure you know what you got.

25:21 - 25:48

It is everything and look I mean I mean, again, you know, I'm a dancer, as I said before. And it's a tough life. It is. And you don't you know, you don't get paid a lot. But if you have the opportunity to put a little bit into whether it's a41k or a Roth IRA or something that will work for you that you cannot touch, it's essential. And then it's like, you know, you worked so hard, you want it and you want it to pay off.

25:49 - 25:52

Yeah. You know the best way to do it? No question.

25:52 - 26:11

Well, Isaac, I want to end on something fun, and I'm hoping you'll humor me. I've heard that you do some really great impressions. What's a little birdie said you do some great impressions or some boy. My gosh. So can you lay one on us to leave us with something fun?

26:11 - 26:12

Oh, my God. I can't even. Yeah.

26:13 - 26:14

Okay. Well.

26:16 - 26:54

You know, as funny funny story is I got into trouble every week of Mamma mia for six years. We're singing like Cher on stage. What's and what's the great irony of that is a Cher ended up being in the movie. Yeah doing an album singing singing every was going into the style of Cher so I'll give you a little thank you will be an awful crowd down the road and back that's good.

26:54 - 26:55

That is good.

26:55 - 27:01

That classic. She gets me there. Madonna taught me how to dance and Cher taught me how to sing.

27:01 - 27:16

Well, you couldn't have had any better mentors than that. And, man, Isaac, this has been phenomenal. I've had such a blast. You are so infectious. I can't wait to see you in one of those great cities across the world. And thank you so much for joining me today and being on the big stage.

27:16 - 27:17

Thanks for having me.

27:18 - 27:37

Thank you all for listening. This has been the big stage. If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to subscribe, please go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Please email us with your thoughts, questions and any feedback to insights at Bernstein dot com and be sure to find us on Twitter and Instagram at Bernstein.

27:37 - 27:53

P.W have you guys, if I can give you one bit of advice that the one thing that will always warm your heart is to sing any song ever written in the style of Cher. It will brighten your day. It is the best thing ever.

Adam Sansiveri
Senior Managing Director

The information presented and opinions expressed are solely the views of the podcast host commentator and their guest speaker(s). AllianceBernstein L.P. or its affiliates makes no representations or warranties concerning the accuracy of any data. There is no guarantee that any projection, forecast or opinion in this material will be realized. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The views expressed here may change at any time after the date of this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. AllianceBernstein L.P. does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. It does not take an investor’s personal investment objectives or financial situation into account; investors should discuss their individual circumstances with appropriate professionals before making any decisions. This information should not be construed as sales or marketing material or an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument, product or service sponsored by AllianceBernstein or its affiliates.

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