Marlo Thomas
Huffington Post

2010 National Fitness Hall of Fame inductee Forbes Riley is an award–winning TV host, author, highly sought–after spokesperson, motivational keynote speaker, and life coach to celebrities and CEOs. She has helped millions take positive action in their own lives by sharing her passion for and unshakeable belief in the impact a healthy lifestyle can make in your life.

One of today's most accomplished entrepreneurs, she has been highlighted by Forbes magazine as a megabrand CEO for her SpinGym and has gained international celebrity due to her highly successful, globally broadcasted infomercials for the Jack Lalanne Juicer and the Living Well Healthmaster Blender, both of which have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. Alongside Silly Bandz, Skullcandy and Carol's Daughter. E! has produced a TV special profiling each of these hot new products and their talented creators, filmed Got Rich Quick: Outrageous Fortunes.

Forbes, crowned “America's Fitness Innovator,” is passionate about finding unique ways for people to get and stay healthy through food and exercise. She's known worldwide for starring in the feature film about raw food, Super Charge Me! The daughter of an inventor, Forbes was named Miss Teenage New York at age 16, and her TV debut was with Bob Hope on NBC in the Miss Teenage America pageant.

By Lori Weiss

Forbes Riley is the billion–dollar woman. Actually, she's brought in $2 billion, if you add up all the products she's sold on TV. But that money isn't in her bank account. With 119 infomercials on her resume, she's sold enough health and fitness products to win a place in the Fitness Hall of Fame –– but it was all for other people. And it was really just supposed to be a part–time job.

Forbes Riley “I was an actress,” Forbes explained, “and in between plays and parts on soap operas, I'd go on commercial auditions. One day I walked into a room and someone just handed me a pen. And then they told me to sell it. Minutes later, Jake Steinfeld walked out of the control room and said, 'You're going to make me millions of dollars.'”

Steinfeld is the celebrity fitness guru better known to audiences as “Body By Jake” and at the time, he had a daily presence on a 24–hour fitness network. Overnight, Forbes became the woman to watch, when at the end of every hour, she'd pitch products like exercise balls and treadmills.

“My acting friends thought I had sold out. But they were all waitressing and I was coming home with five–figure checks.”

The actress who had battled her way to Broadway and made her way on to shows like “The Practice,” “Picket Fences” and “24" was suddenly cast in the role of pitch woman. And while she still saw it as a way to simply make ends meet, her role continued to grow. It wasn't long before she was standing side by side with her fitness idol, Jack LaLanne, and selling more than a billion dollars in juicers.

Jack LaLanne

And while some might have been happy just collecting the super–sized checks she'd take home after every taping, Forbes still had her sights set on something bigger.

“My greatest downfall,” she said with a sigh, “was that I wanted to be an actress. From the time I was a teenager, I'd wanted to take center stage, but I kept ending up in the chorus.”

So, in between infomercials, Forbes would continue to audition for starring roles. She was even cast as the lead character on the Fox Network's “Fashion House” –– but then suddenly replaced by Bo Derek before the pilot she filmed went to series.

“That's when my agent said, 'You're a really talented actress, but I can't get you the role you want.' I was competing with women like Katey Sagal and Kim Cattrall, who had already gotten their big breaks. He told me I needed to get out there and brand myself.”

“And then it hit me. I'm the two–billion–dollar woman. This is who I am, and I have to embrace what works.”

Suddenly Forbes began to see her world in an entirely different way –– and opportunity was right there in front of her. She was on the set of QVC in London –– there to sell elliptical trainers –– when she met a man who had something he referred to as a de–stressor. It was a little silver object, shaped like a yo–yo, and connected by a string on each side.

“He'd go on QVC,” she recalled, “and sell a couple hundred of them. He said that people used them in their office to unwind. He really thought it had run its course. But as I held one, I saw my future in front of me. I could see all the ways it could be used for fitness. It was a gym you could carry in your pocket. I thought, “Suzanne Somers has the Thigh Master. I'm going to have this and I'm going to call it the SpinGym.” The billion–dollar woman was about to cash in.

“I'm a dancer and I've been practicing martial arts for 28 years. I understand anatomy and I could see how this little yo–yo could be used to strengthen the body and give women the arms of their dreams. So I re–purposed the product and began creating fitness programs for it.”

But it's one thing to have an idea, and another thing to bring it to life. Even with all the experience and connections that Forbes had, she had never actually brought a new product to market. So she did what any other pitch woman would do –– she agreed to go on a new television series produced by the Discovery network, called “Pitch Men,” to get some advice.

“And they laughed at me. They told me it's never going to work. So I put together a business plan, and it was this: 'Screw you. I'm going to show you!'”

“People appear on these shows all the time and whether they get picked up or not, they're flooded with business, so I built a website and when the show aired, I got 50,000 hits. That's when I mortgaged my house and began manufacturing. I sold them out of the trunk of my car, on airplanes –– even to TSA screeners when they were checking my bags.”

And then, of course, Forbes took her idea to a more familiar audience –– customers who'd been buying other people's products from her for years. The SpinGym premiered on HSN in 2010. This January, she sold $1.2 million worth of SpinGym in 24 hours on HSN. And now she's gearing up to shoot her own infomercial in her very own television studio in St. Petersburg, Florida. Forbes Riley has become the star of her own show.


“I was called an idiot over and over again,” she laughed, “for pursuing a product no one believed would sell. I chose not to listen. What I've learned throughout my career is that you're going to hear the word “no” a lot. I heard it on Broadway. I heard it in Hollywood. And I heard it with the SpinGym. But what I've also learned is all that means is that you've asked the wrong question or the wrong person.

I see the word “NO” as 'Never–ending Opportunity.' Find someone else and ask again."

And Forbes didnot stop there...

Today Forbes is the Executive Producer and the Star of Forbes Living:

Forbes Living is a unique talk show that is filmed at the Forbes Living Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida. We see it as one part Oprah, one part Shark Tank, and one part Rocky story. Forbes features creators, inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs that she and her team have signed–on to appear. These innovators are able to present their ideas to Forbes and her national television audience. Guests get to present their ideas, while also telling their back story. After all, every great idea comes from a great story. In addition to being able to finally give their ideas a stage, each guest inventor has the opportunity to hear from Forbes and her audience in hopes of being awarded a Forbes Certified Next Award.

As the daughter of an inventor, Forbes saw firsthand the obstacles that people face trying to turn their ideas from dreams to reality. This experience has driven her career and her desire to create Forbes Living. In today's competitive media world, fighting for one's ideas to be heard over the marketing machines of massive corporations is truly a David vs. Goliath feat. Forbes Living is the first talk show to level the playing field and provide a platform in the hopes of finding the next Alexander Graham Bell, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg. The stories you hear will leave you laughing, crying, and most of all, inspired.

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Marlo Thomas
Article by: Marlo Thomas

Margaret Julia "Marlo" Thomas is an American actress, producer, and social activist known for starring on the sitcom That Girl (1966–1971) and her award–winning feminist children's franchise, Free to Be... You and Me. For her work in television, she has received four Emmys, a Golden Globe, the George Foster Peabody Award and has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. She has also received a Grammy award for her children's album Thanks & Giving All Year Long.

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