BY Laurie Pike
April 09 2010 5:00 AM ET
As the bravo tv show Work Out bench-pressed its way into American consciousness over three seasons starting in 2006, gifts flooded in to Sky Sport & Spa. Most of the packages were addressed to Jackie Warner, the owner of the deluxe Beverly Hills gym and the star of the reality series. Clothing companies sent spandex shorts. Supplements companies sent bags of pills. And viewers sent mash notes. For many lesbians, Warner was an icon on par with actress-model Jenny Shimizu. For suburban housewives, she was a rare same-sex fantasy. For the overweight and undermuscled, she was hope for a better body. Some fans were so moved that they sent portraits they’d drawn or painted of the 5-foot, 8-inch superwoman, who resembles the love child of Pink and Scarlett Johansson.
“I got a lot of creative stuff,” Warner says. “A guy from San Diego painted my portrait. It’s modern pop art. It hung in one of my offices at Sky Sport for years.”
None of the pictures, however, made it onto the walls of Warner’s Hollywood Hills home. Although television cameras had been invited to capture her in bed with a girlfriend or at a dinner party where Warner’s friends would debate gay marriage with her Republican mom from Ohio, the artistic keepsakes from the show’s viewers never crossed the threshold.
“I painted every painting in my home,” says Warner, who keeps an art studio in back of her house. “[When I’m] at an exhibit I always think, I can do that. If I can create something, why not put my art up instead of buying someone else’s version?” She pauses. “It’s an ego thing.”
It was that ego that helped spark a backlash almost as soon as Jackie Warner’s star began rising. “I continue to be astonished at how highly Jackie thinks of herself,” one person commented on AfterEllen.com. Snapped another on BravoTV.com, “Jackie needs to take a class in etiquette.” Anonymous online flaming strikes anyone in the public eye, of course, but in this case it mirrored the fact that some lesbian viewers were souring on Warner. “We all hoped she’d be this great role model,” a gay viewer told me. “But she reinforced every bad stereotype, like out-of-control narcissism and having a girlfriend move in after one date.”