Interviewed and written by Tocarra Eldridge
Fitness expert Tony Little has inspired and motivated millions of people around the world to get in shape and live healthier. While continuing to make a positive difference in other people’s lives, many were unaware that he was faced with multiple adversities and horrific moments through out his personal life. He would eventually overcome and survive four fatal car accidents, his struggle with prescription drugs and alcohol, owing millions of dollars to the IRS, and his biggest challenge of all, when he and his wife Melissa twin sons were born three-and-a-half months premature.
I had the opportunity to have an uplifting inspiring and enriching interview with Tony Little, who is one of the most-recognized faces in pop culture. Over the course of his career, he has sold over $3 billion worth of products and continues to have success both in his personal and professional life. Here is what he had to share with the readers.
Tocarra Eldridge: You have twin boys, children Chase and Cody who were premature at birth and still struggles with some of the health issues at 6 years old that they did at birth. Can you tell me a little about their conditions today?
Tony Little: Yes! Well first of all, they both make us laugh and smile every day. Cody, who is more on the autistic spectrum, can memorize everything, and just totally comes back and tells you everything. One day he just sat up in bed and recited the whole Dr. Seuss book. (laughs) He’s not a nonverbal; he is verbal. He loves attention. The issues that we have more with him is on the occupational therapy side. We want to make sure that someday he understands the words that he is talking about, and that he can function on an everyday basis by himself. Chase talks to himself and everybody all the time. He is quite the amazing kid. He’s a little salesman. He is really smart. He has no autistic spectrum or issues. Something just doesn’t seem right about a 6 year old talking like that. (laughs). But both are amazing. Kids are why we work hard, to try and make sure they have something that we didn’t have growing up
Tocarra: Regarding your children Chase and Cody’s health, was there a reason it took you a while to come out about them publicly?
Tony: I really never thought about going to the media with anything with the kids. It was not a thought of mines. It was more of a thing later on, as far as with the success of everything that was going on. Another reason why was because at the time, we were going thru this really hard time with our babies, who were miracle babies. They were like 1lb and 14oz each. They were in incubator type beds in the hospital. The hospital had strict instructions. They wanted to make sure you feed them within a 20 minute period. [Also at the same time] my comptroller or accountant was stealing from us. So, that was in all the newspapers, because I caught him stealing. Then my next mission became obviously the family and kids, but my next mission after that became trying to make sure he went to prison. So, that took about a year or more before he finally got sentenced. I had to make up over millions of dollars that disappeared, so we had two tragedies that had to be turned around into success stories.
Tocarra: Due to their illness, were there any concerns that this would affect your family, and also your successful career?
Tony: It’s kind of an interesting thing, the babies don’t affect anything. It’s probably because I’m an entrepreneur or I’m self employed, so that gives me a little more room to do things. But, at the same time you would say ‘oh self employed people have to work all the time and they’ll never have time for the kids’. In a situation like ours we can make a choice. Whereas, if I had a day job or a 9 to 5 job I couldn’t make the choice; my employer would make the choice. Since we’re [my wife and I] are self employed, we’re both able to make a choice for our children first. Obviously, that also allows us to work around and keep our jobs, keep our hours and keep our money flowing.
Tocarra: What words of encouragement would you share with parents who have similar health issues as your children?
Tony: I know everyone has a different situation. Mines can’t be translated to everyone’s. The only thing I can say is what I’ve always said in my life, ‘there’s always a way.’ My mother was my strong influence in my life. I’ve always believed that there’s always a way. You have to look at it that way. ‘You can’ is always going to give you more results than ‘you can’t’ . You have to move forward and try to do the best that you can do. You have to get creative. It’s no different, we all have to sell. You have to sell somebody to marry you, or date you, or the college that you may want your kids to go to. (laughs) You’re always constantly selling, but you have to sell yourself on you first, and your ability to be able to think outside the box when it’s so important to your family.
It’s a mindset thing. I’m an exercise guy, and exercise keeps me strong both physically and mentally. There were many down times in my life, and I’m sure in millions and millions of people’s lives, when all of a sudden they do take up exercise, and it does allow them to blow off some stress; it does allow them to think about life, and it does allow them to empower themselves like your magazine does for people. What they need to do then is start loading up and reading all of the books and magazines that do give you empowerment type messages that program you to constantly remember that you can do anything you believe in, and that there’s always a way around an obstacle. When people are putting out powerful messages about how you can take care of yourself, believe in yourself, exist in this world and handle anything for you and your family, it gives you a much better edge to be successful for yourself and your family.
Tocarra: Outside of your children, you have faced many challenges in your life, such as drug and alcohol abuse, living in poverty, living through 4 fatal accidents and much more. What was one of the most challenging aspects in your life that you had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
Tony: I was not always a great kid. I grew up in a small town in Ohio. I hung around a lot of kids that were older than I was. We lived in the country, so I was probably a whole lot for my single mom to handle. My mom was a pretty strong person. She was a very spiritual person; she believed in God and religion. She put herself thru college with her master’s degree with four kids. I learned a lot from her, but during the days when she moved me to Florida, I didn’t want to make any friends here, because I had left all of my friends in Ohio. It was hard for me in the beginning, because I didn’t want to make friends, I did not want to lose them again. When she changed my environment she changed my life for the better, because she made a strong move for me to be in a environment to change my position myself. I started getting into sports, etc. What happened was, early on I became a very successful body builder at a very young age. So, at the time my goal was to become Mr. America. I made a quick trend upwards into that area, and then I was hit by a drunken school bus driver about 4 to 6 weeks before the Mr. America show. Long story short, I got injured and I was just a mess. But I was 4 or 5 weeks out from Mr. America and I wasn’t going to give up. I did continue to train, although in a lot of pain, but I couldn’t do hardly what I wanted to do to get in the best shape of my life. So, I placed 5th in my category. Then I fell apart. I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t have this or that. So, I was in a little one bed apartment downtown. Having very little savings, I was drinking Half & Half with instant breakfast to keep my calories up because I did not have a lot of food at the time. I got depressed; I fell down. I caught up with bad friends again, and next thing you know you’re drinking and taking all kinds of stuff. It was a real bad cycle. I was just fortunate enough to have somebody watching over me, to have a strong mother who influenced me and also to have a strong God that talked to me.
I saw my first exercise show on TV in that little apartment one day, and decided that I wanted to do my own television show. I went down to the local television station and said, “I want to do my own fitness show.” And they kind of looked at me, because I was a little overweight at the time. (laughs) [I wanted to] do my own show and help people understand how to work out before they work out. The guy was like, “well, you can do anything you want, but it’s going to be $5,500 for 13 shows.” I said “ok I’ll do it,” and I signed the agreement. Then I went home and realized that I didn’t have any money. (laughs) However, I was stoked, so I was motivated. That decision right there made me go home to figure out how I was going to get the money. I developed a cleaning service on paper called T&T Cleaning Services. I wrote the description and what I could do to try to help alleviate a lot of the problems that health spas were having in wet areas. I went out and sold $60,000 in contracts that day to health clubs. And that gave me my money to start my television show.
Tocarra: After living through all of these events and challenges in your life, how do you continue to stay motivated and inspired, especially when it comes to encouraging millions of people around the world?
Tony: It’s easy. Life is short. You have to have a different mindset. There’s so many things that you have to make decisions on, and I guess I tend to believe simply. I believe you have to think positive and you have to program your brain to think positive at all times. Every success that I’ve had came off of an adversity. So, I found that out of all of the adversities that I had, they turned into victories when I was just positive and moved forward off of that wall that was behind me. The minute it happens you have to immediately go forward; you have to continue moving forward, and not look back. Otherwise, you’re going to get into the position of falling down, and that’s the hardest thing to get out of. It’s all mindset to me.
I did a lot of interviews before, and I owned 7 different trademarks on You Can Do It! People are amazed what you are able to trademark. I trademarked it many many years ago. People always say, ‘well yeah you are strong willed and you always say you can do it, but what about the people who can’t do it’. And I always say ‘the people who can’t do it are usually the people who think they can’t do it.’ You have to think you can do it. If you change your mindset you can change your life. I think there should be a lot of more speakers out there talking about how it’s not as complicated as people make it to be. If you say ‘I can’t’ – what are your chances versus ‘I can’? There’s definitely an edge there. What you say in your mind most of the day is what’s going to transfer to your life. I’m a common sense type of thinker. It’s just better to think that way because you have better chances. I’ve always thought positively.
Tocarra: Coming from rags-to-riches, what did you believe you did differently from anybody else to achieve this amount of success and accomplishments in your life or career?
Tony: Many years ago I changed my thought pattern. I was on a cover of a magazine many years ago. [The subject] was about ‘Where are they all now?’ I was the only picture. The reason they interviewed me is because why I am still here, and where is everybody else that I started with. I said it was because I evolved. I realized that if I can teach you how to exercise and take care of yourself, then I can also teach you how to sleep better, as well as how to wear footwear that will give you more benefits than negatives towards your fitness. So, I developed more of a positive lifestyle type company, and developed products that enrich our lives and help us do better for ourselves. That’s where I expanded.
Tocarra: Tony, over the course of your career, you sold over 3 billion dollars worth of products. What are some of your recent products that are available to the general public?
Tony: In the Wall Street Journal, they had this huge article on bison. There’s a big demand for bison. Approximately 9 or 10 years ago I started my BodybyBison company with a gentleman who is also partners with Wolfgang Puck. I remember bringing it to a home shopping network. I told them that I wanted to sell bison. They’re all like ‘what’s that’? (laughs) Nobody thought it could be done. To this day it’s the largest food business for the network. It’s growing; I started out with a bison hotdog and a bison burger under the BodybyBison label. Now I have 36 products under bison. I started selling it 5 or 6 years before it became classified as a superfood. I own a footwear line called Cheeks, and it’s one of the largest brands around. We sell millions of pairs of shoes. A lot of people would not know it, but I own about 60 patents, a couple hundred trademarks, and multiple URL’s. Early on I really thought you had to attach your IP (intellectual property), because there’s a group of people that will just watch something and try to take advantage and rip you off. So, I valued protecting my intellectual property.
Tocarra: Before we end the interview, would you like to add anything else?
Tony: No, I don’t think so, you’re pretty darn thorough. (laughs) This has been a totally different interview than I’ve had in a very long time, and it’s been very good!
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Last modified: February 19, 2024