Lady Gaga's Trainer Harley Pasternak Explains How She Turns Her Health Into Art – EXCLUSIVE
Do your friends tell you you're "celeb obsessed"? Do you follow your favorite celebs' every move? Know their Instagram histories so well that you can rattle off their inner circle by name and IG handle? If yes, Elite Daily's new series, SideClique, is just for you. We're bringing you everything you've ever wanted to know about the people living their lives right alongside our favorite celebs.
Harley Pasternak has been present for some of pop culture's biggest moments. Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour? He was there for that. The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where Kanye West told Taylor Swift he was gonna let her finish? He was in the audience as Gaga's personal guest. He's been working behind-the-scenes with your favorite celebrities for years getting them in top physical shape. Developing close friendships with icons like Lady Gaga and Kanye West have just been a work perk for him. So what's it like being Lady Gaga's trainer? To zero surprise, Pasternak tells Elite Daily that Gaga found ways to make eating and working out seem like art. The mind she has.
She’s just fantastic and creative, and absolutely not driven or interested in the financial aspect of her job. It’s all about the art.
Pasternak is a nutritionist and trainer, with the majority of his clients being famous people (plus some kings, heads of state, and Russian businessmen... casual). He has degrees in nutrition and exercise physiology, and he worked as an exercise physiologist for the Defense and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine, Department of National Defense in Canada (aka the Canadian military) before his full-time job shifted to getting entertainers in shape. Obnoxiously enough for millennials who are sick of being told they have to network to get ahead, the way he got his celeb training gig was through networking.
In the middle of his studies at the University of Toronto, Pasternak tells me he was asked to help a Hollywood producer (whom he didn't name) change his nutrition and exercise habits to help him live a healthier lifestyle.
That producer then brought him on as the nutritionist/trainer for Cold Creek Manor, which was filming in Canada, where Pasternak was living at the time.
From Cold Creek Manor came the opportunity to work on Angel Eyes, a 2001 film starring a young Jennifer Lopez, and more film opportunities snowballed from there. In his first few years working on Hollywood film sets, Pasternak worked as the nutritionist/trainer for films that starred actors like Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Penelope Cruz, and more. Before you ask, yes. Harley Pasternak was Halle Berry's trainer for Catwoman. I told you he has been part of pop culture's biggest moments!
His celebrity client list has since evolved into an even more impressive roster of people. He's worked with Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Falchuk, Adam Levine, Ariana Grande, the late Mac Miller, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Halsey, Charlie Puth, Megan Fox, Alicia Keys, LL Cool J, and more, and he stars on E!'s Revenge Body with Khloé Kardashian, which premieres on Sunday, July 7 at 9 p.m. ET.
Celebrities are more motivated and committed to the process than others because their entire identity and business is heavily impacted by the way they look.
So, how did he end up working with Lady Gaga? Through his connections in Hollywood and the music industry, he tells me he started working with Gaga before she ever was that rah rah b*tch. It was her manager before she got famous that connected the two.
"He had managed other musicians in his last life, a lot of hip-hop artists. I worked with a lot of them," Pasternak says. "He kind of left music management for a while, and then contacted me and said, ‘I’m back in music, and I’ve got this girl. I think she’s going to be really big.’" Pfffft, yeah!
Pasternak then describes his first meeting with Gaga.
"I remember the first time she came by, she was teeny tiny. She’s petite," he says. "This is not someone that needed to lose weight. She dressed like a Jean-Paul Gaultier ad from the ‘80s, like so cool, and just woah. There’s presence." Essentially, Pasternak is saying she had the range.
"She was so incredibly sweet. I remember we had a nutrition talk, and she went home and immediately sent me screenshots of a Polaroid she took of a couple of dishes she cooked from one of my cookbooks," Pasternak continues. Of course Gaga took a Polaroid of her food and sent it to him.
The father of two adds that Gaga's authenticity right from the jump is what impressed him most.
"I just thought it was amazing, because a lot of the entertainers, they either never learn how to cook or they have someone to cook for them, whatever it is," he tells me. "Right away, she cooked a pizza from my 5-factor diet cookbook better than I could’ve. I thought it was interesting she took a Polaroid because she liked the aesthetic of Polaroid better, then with her Blackberry took a photo of the Polaroid."
"That's meta," I respond.
"Yeah, she’s just fantastic and creative, and absolutely not driven or interested in the financial aspect of her job. It’s all about the art. Everything was about the art," he says back.
From there, I ask Pasternak if working as Gaga's nutritionist and trainer has been, for her, more about a genuine desire to eat healthy and exercise regularly, or if it was more a requirement of her line of work. Pasternak's response flows into a deeper conversation about how social media has changed the world of celebrity fitness. And we're not just talking about the diet fads the Kardashians push on Instagram (which Pasternak hates, by the way).
"It wasn’t about losing weight," he says of working with Gaga, "but I think a lot about being a performer is being confident about your body."
"Confidence is everything, so taking control of the way you move and the way you eat to change the confidence you have in your body, often that means changing your body," he continues, "but with that comes a lot of confidence. And also having the stamina and endurance to be able to keep up with her tours and her exhaustive stage shows."
I think that people really need to be educated on what’s real and what’s not.
Here's where Pasternak's insight into the world of celebrity fitness becomes the most eye-opening.
He tells me that before phones had cameras on them, he observed that celebrities had more privacy that allowed them to keep their weight and fitness updates relatively to themselves. When a project wrapped, they would take a break from the nutrition and fitness plan Pasternak put them on, making it harder to get back into shape when the next project came along.
"Then when cameras started to be on phones," he goes on, "if you were in a grocery store and you saw Kirstie Alley had put on 70 pounds, you would take a photo, and then upload it to Perez Hilton. Then everyone would know, and it would be a thing. Because of that, celebrities are always in the public eye, and they feel there’s more of a need to always be within striking distance. You can’t let yourself go anymore because it will hurt your ability to get endorsements."
Pasternak says this cultural shift has made it easier to train celebrities than it is to train non-famous people.
"They’re more motivated and committed to the process than others because their entire identity and business is heavily impacted by the way they look," he says, "so it’s not necessarily an insecurity."
Another pop culture fad that has had a big effect on the world of celebrity fitness are diet programs advertised on social media. Throughout our entire 40-minute conversation, Pastnerak spent the most time dispelling all of the diet fads he sees online, using his education in nutritional science as a backup for his arguments. It's also one of the biggest reasons he's partnering with Undeniably Dairy, as misinformation about the ways dairy is "bad" for humans has led to what Pasternak feels is a largely inaccurate opinion about the food group.
Social media and the internet creates the perfect platform and delivery mechanism to disseminate confusing, often agenda-driven messaging.
"With the popularity of the internet and social media, people are overwhelmed today by conflicting information, most of which is agenda-driven, and often not based in actual logic and foundation of science," he says. "I think that people really need to be educated on what’s real and what’s not."
It's this kind of spread of misinformation that makes Pasternak so vehemently against diet fads sold on Instagram. The current fad he hates the most is celery juicing, but "detox" and "weight loss" teas, like the ones the Kardashians push, are also on his naughty list.
"Social media and the internet creates the perfect platform and delivery mechanism to disseminate confusing, often agenda-driven messaging for people to abandon what does really work, what science supports, and what we know is healthy for us with these crazy, fasting, eat like a caveman, only eat celery juice. Things like acai — all of these things are just ridiculous."
Pasternak has, quite literally, written the book on nutrition plans that actually promote healthy and sustainable weight loss. He says that no matter how famous the person pushing a diet tea or the benefits of celery juice on Instagram are, the healthiest way to get into top nutritional and physical shape is to eat three full meals a day, some light snacks in between, to exercise regularly, and to get your steps in. We should probably take his word on that, given that the same celebrities who promote these diet fads are also some of Pasternak's clients... makes you think!