Kayla Itsines is probably the only person on the planet who became famous without actually realizing she was famous. But after an attentive younger cousin pointed out that the personal trainer was gaining thousands of followers on Instagram—the platform on which Itsines had been posting before-and-after photos of her clients, thinking the account was private—the then-21-year-old Australian realized she’d unknowingly become a very big deal on social media.
Those progress pictures have since become an Itsines trademark, shared by millions of women every week who bow at the altar of her printable 12-week Bikini Body Guides, a $69 program that promises to change women’s bodies through 28-minute, equipment-free workouts in just three months. For Kayla though, now 24, these 4 million-plus followers are “her girls,” and the business she created isn’t just a money-making opportunity.
“I don’t feel like it’s a business,” Itsines says. “It’s all happened so quickly and it still to me feels like a community. I’m not at the top, everyone’s not looking up to me—we’re growing together, like a family.”
Calling what she’s built a community is a bit of an understatement: Her global followers organize real-life meet-ups to obsess over Itsines’s program, and when she crashed one in New York last year, Kayla transformed a gym filled with adult women into a studio of screaming fan girls. “These girls are all my friends, they ask me about Tobi and the dogs.” she shrugs, casually brushing off the hysteria.