"Richard Simmons and Britney Spears Combined": Meet YouTube's Fitness Marshall

Andrew Eccles
Caleb Marshall

The channel founded by Los Angeles-based self-proclaimed fitness pop star Caleb Marshall features his unforgettably campy dance workout videos and has garnered over 2.5 million subscribers.

In the midst of stay-at-home orders, the demand for home workouts is higher than ever. Luckily, the Fitness Marshall has hundreds of upbeat dance workout videos available on YouTube, with new content posted every week.

The channel is founded by Los Angeles-based self-proclaimed fitness pop star Caleb Marshall, 27, whose campy videos have garnered over 2.5 million subscribers. Since moving to L.A. from his hometown of Marion, Indiana, two years ago, Marshall has launched the “Booty Army Membership” — a tiered membership ranging from $5 to $15 per month, which includes early access to videos, merchandise discounts and weekly member-only sweat and strength sessions. With a growing fan base and seemingly unlimited energy, the Fitness Marshall speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about his business, filming videos from home and what life is like right now amid the coronavirus pandemic.

How did you become the Fitness Marshall?

I really have been the Fitness Marshall since I was born. I used to be really obsessed — and am currently obsessed — with Britney Spears, the princess of pop. I would always watch her videos when I was a kid and idolize her. I fell in love with performing … but didn't really feel confident enough to do it in front of other people. I didn't feel like I fit in or looked the right part, but I wanted to participate and feel like I was on top of the world. Dancing in college, I got the opportunity to teach these dance fitness classes [and realized] "this is your calling, to be Richard Simmons and Britney Spears combined." I just fell in love with it and started making these videos. They made me so happy and I realized they helped hundreds of thousands of people feel the same way. I started posting videos my senior year of college and by the time I graduated, I had 100,000 subscribers on YouTube. That was 2014.

Did you move to L.A. alone or with anyone?

With my best friends and my boyfriend. We are all from the same hometown and we're out here doing this YouTube channel together. It's been a really cool way to see how many people have been going to YouTube and online fitness for their workouts during this time. I think it's almost brought us closer together and kind of made everybody really human.

Do you shoot at home?

We're in North Hollywood [and] we used to shoot at Griffith Park all the time. We are doing all of our new videos in our house. We do weekly, hourlong live streams for our YouTube membership and we are able to connect with people in that live capacity, get live feedback and comments. We'll go up to our rooftop and shoot some stuff every week. We do them in our living room, moving my coffee table out of the room, setting up my camera and doing it. We're all at home, and we have to adapt to this new way of life.

Do you have any celebrity fans?

I just did a call with Cheryl Hines and Keegan-Michael Key — [Hines] had me on a Zoom show — we were doing the "Cake" dance [one of my videos] together. I've [heard] the Property Brothers love doing the Fitness Marshall in quarantine.

What are some of your most popular dance videos?

People have been loving the "Yummy" dance by Justin Bieber. That was actually the first idea when all this started. There was a news show that posted the crew of a cruise ship … when the [coronavirus] outbreak first started and the chefs were all in their face masks doing the "Yummy" dance in their kitchen. In quarantine, that video has just kind of stuck; I've seen a lot of people doing it. We've been doing so many Dua Lipa ones and people have been obsessed with them.

Do people watch your YouTube content and FaceTime each other while they dance?

I’ve been tagged in so many stories and posts where people are having Zoom dance parties and FaceTime dance parties and they are doing our sweat sessions and videos with family all over the world. I've seen so many videos of them, it’s amazing.

How often do you post?

We post a new YouTube video usually every week and we also do a 60-minute workout every week for our members. We have so much free content on YouTube. We have one song at a time, four-minute videos, easy to digest. Just a couple months ago, we started our YouTube memberships to give people those full-length workouts. It did come at the right time, really giving people an opportunity to get the most effective workout possible. We have a lot of content ready and banked. I just launched a podcast recently with my other friend. We're doing everything remotely.

Do you need any workout gear to work out with the Fitness Marshall?

Honestly, for the things that we do, the best equipment is your body and your spirit and just your willingness to get uncomfortable, get silly and make the most of it. Your body can do so much [if] you give yourself permission to make a fool out of yourself and just go for it.

Do you know anyone who has been affected by COVID-19?

A good friend of my boyfriend's mom passed away from COVID-19. I feel like everybody knows someone who's been affected by this in some way.

Mental health is a big issue for people during this time. What are you hearing from your fans and how are you doing?

I've gotten a lot of comments that a lot of people are really struggling mentally; there's a lot of anxiety and depression and uncertainty. I was having a really bad anxiety attack the other day, it was one of the worst in a while. I was about to do one of our Booty Army Sweat Sessions [and] I was so close to running out of the room. I felt so overwhelmed and anxious, [but] I pushed through it, I kept doing it and I held the whole class. At the end of it, I just felt so relieved and at peace and joyful [that] I conquered it, just accepting we're going to be uncomfortable sometimes and it's going to be scary. It's about pushing through and finding the joy and not letting it takeover.

What are some other ways that life has changed for you?

We were supposed to go on tour this month and we obviously had to cancel. We're hearing that tours and concerts will all be canceled for the next year and a half, until maybe 2022. [For] our own tour — we call them cardio concerts — we travel all over and [you can] come and follow along and do the dances like you’re at a concert.

I think a really positive thing that's come out of all this I've been communicating with people I normally wouldn't be talking with, taking the time out of my day to call my mom or my great grandma. For me, I think really connecting with family is important. It's made us all realize what's important in life  — making that effort can make us all feel a little bit. We're all going through the same thing.

Interview edited for length and clarity.