Cliff Watts Brooke Burke-Charvet slides into a seat at an oceanfront café in Malibu and apologizes for being several minutes late. Long spa appointment? Leisurely breakfast in bed? Hardly. "I'm coming from teaching my fitness class, Booty Burn," she says, as she fans her slightly flushed face. "It's fun, but my whole concept is that we work to fatigue."
Clearly, this woman knows how to push herself. Never mind that the mother of four (she has two daughters from her first marriage and a son and daughter with her actor husband David Charvet) is a multihyphenate: author-model-entrepreneur-tireless Tweeter (up to eight times a day). This month, Brooke, 42, unveils a new line of chic activewear she developed for women of all shapes and sizes. Oh, and she just got her official certification as a group fitness instructor.
It's enough to make your head spin—and glutes seize up—until this gorgeous working mom sighs and confides: "Look, I did not feel like working out today. But when you're the teacher, you have to show up!" Over a plate of quinoa and grilled salmon, Brooke candidly tells all, from facing thyroid cancer at 41 to finding time to act like a teenager with her husband.
So what inspired you to design your fitness-wear line, Caelum?
I think that women need to feel good when they're working out. A lot of performance fabrics are so contouring that they cut you in the wrong places. Caelum—it means chisel in Latin—flatters different body types. For instance, we did a three-way waistline on our pants so you can wear them high, low or folded over.
How did you start teaching Booty Burn?
I wanted to experiment with real women and see how far I could push them, what works, how their bodies were going to change, what was hard enough, what was too hard. I started out two years ago with a couple of friends who brought a couple of friends, and it became this really great group of women.
What do you get out of leading a fitness class?
I get twice the workout when I'm teaching. And I love seeing the women support each other and transform. I do it every Sunday faithfully and a couple of days a week if I'm not working.
Booty Burn aside, how often do you work out? What's your M.O.?
Three to five times a week for an hour. I mix it up, but I always work past the burn. I believe if you're not sweating, you're not working out hard enough. My ab workouts are 20 minutes and sometimes I don't need more than that. I like to try new yoga or barre classes, and I do Pilates Plus faithfully, too.
Do you try crazy fad diets?
I did a lot of them. I used to weigh my food. I used to measure my food. I used to work way too hard at dieting and spend way too much time at the gym.
I believe in portion control. I eat a Mediterranean diet. I have meat, fish. Lots of vegetables. We never skip breakfast. I don't buy a lot of packaged foods.
Next Page: What's your guilty pleasure? [ pagebreak ]
brooke-burke-health and read a magazine.
You have a teenage daughter. Do you ever worry about her getting caught up in the pressure to be thin?
She's 14, and she's stepping into that very body-conscious era. I just want her to be healthy, and I don't want her to worry too much. I'm teaching my family about what's good for your body. But I'm also letting them enjoy their lives.
You were a model in your 20s. Did you ever succumb to that stereotype of starving yourself?
I was very strict and ate hardly any fat and very little carbs, whereas now I cook with oils and eat nuts and avocados. I'm 42 and I'm in better shape than I was in my 20s or my 30s.
What gives you body confidence?
I grew up being confident but also surrounded by more beautiful women in the modeling world who were doing much better than me. I learned to never measure myself against anyone else. It also helps that I am in a marriage with somebody I am still in love with.
Tell us about meeting David more than 20 years ago.
We met in Mexico, and it was the perfect example of right guy, wrong time because we had this beautiful affair, came back to L.A. and just stayed friends. If we had gotten together then, we wouldn't have made it. We had to grow up. And then we found each other much later in life, and it was the right time.
How do you and David keep things exciting?
We believe in romance. We hold hands. We cook together. We still make out. We're both very fiery, passionate people, so when we fight, it's like the Fourth of July!
What helps you stay grounded?
I grew up in Tucson with very down-to-earth parents, and I work really hard to keep my kids grounded. I think that the stuff that grounds me is the stuff that really matters. Everything else is fluff and icing. What happens at home with my family, with the people who mean the most, that's the core—the whole essence—of who I am.
You were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2012. How did you find out?
I was at a regular physical, and my doctor felt a lump that could have been nothing. I followed up with ultrasounds and biopsies, and unfortunately my tests came back 75 percent positive for cancer. It was a really scary time for my family. I think it was hardest for my husband because he was trying so hard to be strong for everyone and it was the one thing that he couldn't fix.
More than a year later, you're cancer-free, which is fantastic. How did that experience change your perspective on life?
I didn't get cancer and then survive it and then live differently. I have always lived my life to the fullest. Last year was an extremely difficult year for me. Two people who were very close to me passed away, tragically and young. I felt like a piñata. Sometimes s—t happens in your life, and it's not about what's happening. It's about how you deal with it, how you survive it, how you overcome it.
Next Page: What's in Brooke's gym bag? [ pagebreak ]What's in Brooke's gym bag?
The bag itself is…
"An orange C. Wonder canvas tote bag with my initials on it. I love the great size and that it has a zipper to keep everything inside."
"I use it to time my 30-second and one-minute pods when I'm teaching my class."
A loaded iPod
"It's my motivation. All my workout playlists are organized. There's Beyonce, Robin Thicke and old-school songs that we listened to in high school."
Glass bottle wrapped in rubber
"I like that it's good for the environment and reusable."
"It's a waist trimmer I created several years ago that helps you sweat out water and keeps your core engaged."
"I'll keep a high-protein, low-sugar bar. I believe in feeding your muscles immediately after a workout. It's important to put fuel back in your body."
"I carry an oversize Caelum hoodie, so I can take off my sweaty tank and go."
"I always carry sunglasses. Right now, I'm wearing tortoise-shell Dolce & Gabbana."