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Underneath The Hoodie: Margie Lempert
Height: 5’ 1” and a lil’ bit
Weight: 140 pounds
Born: September 4, 1977, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Skoolin’: Smith College, Psychology Major, but…basically Theater.
Favorite Way to Eat an Egg: Fried duck eggs in bacon grease (!!!)
In 1984, a small indie film took the world by storm. Hatched in the academic, “Jewy”, suburb of Cheltenham, PA, “An Actress At Seven” was written and directed by its precocious child star, Margie Lempert, a captivating wunderkind of (you guessed it) seven years old, who chose that year to elbow her way into cinematic relevancy. Buoyed by strong supporting performances from her neighborhood friends and a elegiac, focused, and winning performance by her grandfather (respectfully described as a “More Jewy Mr. Miyagi,” referencing fellow 1984 Oscar nominee Pat Morita) “An Actress at Seven” was Lempert’s first major film production. After a promising career as a young actress, involvement in several prestigious collegiate theater programs, and jobs at Roundabout Theater Company and the New York Foundation for the Arts, Lempert has seemingly fallen off the map. Rumors have circulated about her becoming involved with an underground movement centered around carnivorous barbell routines, raw milk, and breast toughening seminars.
It’s true, mostly. Long before the first Tough Titsday or group class WOD performed to a soundtrack of Simon and Garfunkel, Margie was a fledgling thespian, growing up in suburban Pennsylvania. An only child, from a young age Margie would record herself telling stories. Whether they were of her own creation, or a recording of the entire script of her pre-K school play (naturally playing all of the roles,) Margie was a born storyteller. In Cheltenham, a smart, racially mixed suburb, these stories were great entertainment for an only child, but quickly developed into something more. In the summers, Margie began attending an arts camp, concentrating in theater, and began taking acting classes when she was ten, continuing through high school. In high school, Margie would always act in the fall play, but skip the spring musical, since she didn’t like to sing. Like everything in high school, the drama program was shot through with politics and jockeying for status, which Margie largely ignored. This led to her often being cast as wacky, quirky characters, but rarely the ingenue, despite her peers widely accepting that she was a very good performer.
Margie was a late bloomer in high school, somewhat lackadaisical academically, prone to procrastination, and not yet secure in her self. This began to change when she had the opportunity to attend the Alexander Muss High School in Israel during her Junior year. Margie spent 8 weeks participating in a program for American high school students. Living in a dorm, and attending classes on site while still responsible for her coursework from back home, Margie had her first taste of the intensity and independence of a college environment. School came alive for her there, aided by spending half of every day visiting the historical sites and landmarks they were studying. Margie returned to the US inspired, albeit with some very strong culture shock.
Margie left for Smith College better prepared for the pace and rigors of college life, but didn’t anticipate some of the unique issues attending a women’s college would bring. Freshman year was tough, and Margie seriously considered transferring, but upon returning for her Sophomore year, she found a more comfortable niche in campus, and finally felt like she had a “place” within the greater student body. This was aided, no surprise, by a heavy involvement in the theater scene. While Margie enjoyed her collegiate acting opportunities, her real passion was for organizing and developing theater with her peers. She was heavily involved in the leadership of the Student Theater Committee and a member of the “Sikos,” a campus improv group.
Margie’s first inkling that a life on stage might not be for her came during her Junior year at a semester long program at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Despite being located on beautiful oceanfront property, a trip to Russia and London, and high level instruction, the program was a crucible of critique, self-obsession, and interpersonal drama. In what seems like a scene from a movie, the program was capped with each student going alone into a room. Inside, all of the program’s instructors sat around a table, and proceeded to deconstruct the students strengths and weaknesses while the student sat mutely and embraced their shortcomings. While extremely powerful, the whole experience was also “somewhat horrible,” and changed Margie’s sense of self in regards to theater specifically, and life more generally.
Returning to school, Margie began focusing more energy into directing theater, as her prior experiences had turned her off the fishbowl world of being an actor. The behind the scenes work agreed with her more, and upon graduation she left for New York City, and a job at the Roundabout Theater Company. During this time Margie was directing as well, but began to get even more involved in the administration side of theater, and started to work in production, stage, and company management. After an amazing but stressful turn as the company manager with a troupe travelling to Romania, Margie landed at the New York Foundation for the Arts, where she worked for eight years.
It’s in this eight year period where the heroine of this story began to think about exercise, healthy lifestyle, and making changes to a diet that was self-described as “notorious.” Make no mistake, this was not an overnight change, but a slow march towards self-realization, with many bumps and twists along the way. Even after Margie began to think that exercise should be something she should try it was “a year or two” before she set foot in a gym. Every night, Margie would set an alarm, ostensibly to wake herself up in the morning and propel her towards the gym. Every morning Margie would turn her alarm off and simply not go. For the sake of narrative, it would be convenient to say that one day trumpets blared, angels sang, and the ghost of Jack LaLanne kicked Margie in the ass, but it didn’t happen that way. On this one particular day, she just went.
Slope Fitness was Margie’s new arena, and after getting her feet wet Margie became a fixture, firmly ensconced on the treadmills and hogging 10 lb dumbbells 5-6 days a week. Margie created programs for herself, culled mainly from magazines, but sensed that there was more out there in the world of fitness that she was missing.
As her interest in fitness grew, and her interest in theater waned, Margie began to approach food in ways she never had before. Always a bit on the chubby side, Margie’s classic diet consisted mainly of a mix of pizza, chicken sandwiches, muffins, chinese food, and french fries. Chicken sandwiches in particular were Margie’s calling card, and became a bit of an inside joke among her friends. What else would someone who had never eaten fish, ate no red meat, and was basically “half a vegetarian” turn to for sustenance? Slowly though,
as she read more and worked out harder, Margie began to expand her culinary repertoire. If it all began when she realized she liked broccoli (!!!), the piece de resistance was a meal at Nobu, the chic Tribeca mecca of sushi fusion. Margie had a meal of foods she had never had before- rock shrimp, lobster, cod, and more. The meal poked the final holes in Margie’s definition of herself as a picky eater, and she began to harness an adventurous and “cavalier” spirit in regards to trying new foods.
Still, Margie was looking for someone who could answer her larger fitness questions, and like most searches, this story involves some few dead ends. Margie met a trainer, a woman with a background in competitive bodybuilding, who agreed to help her improve her body composition. Starting by having Margie go into the bathroom at Slope Fitness, take her clothes off and pose, the trainer put Margie on a diet restricted to 1100 calories a day. This began a tailspin of sorts of disordered eating, issues with body image and self-confidence, and a general case of someone getting their “head all fucked up” by someone who should have known better (and saw Margie only once!).
Reeling from this experience, but committed to finding a fitness and diet lifestyle that worked for her, Margie was at Slope Fitness one day when another trainer sidled up to her. Maybe he recognized a diamond in the rough, a student in search of a teacher, or maybe he just wanted someone to torture. He taught Margie the elements of an air squat- weight in the heels, proper depth, a flat back. Soon thereafter, he had her do something he called Tabata Squats. They continued to train together, although for a while Margie didn’t realize that what she was doing was called Crossfit. Slowly it became more clear that there was a distinct method to this madness, and after the trainer left town, Margie dabbled in Main Site workouts, then finally made her way to Crossfit NYC. Through the (well-muscled) grapevine, Margie heard that there was “some guy in Park Slope” and promptly began to investigate.
It had only been a month after David had found CFSBK a home at the Brooklyn Lyceum when Margie and he began to exchange emails. Soon they met, and Margie was surprised to find David to be “small, and nice.” Margie quickly became a regular- one of the few consistent females. Margie began to hang out with some of the other “believers” – namely Alumnus Coach Extraordinaire Shane Williams, and some guy named Jeremy. They all grew close, with each other, with David, and with the community that became the CFSBK we know today. Margie began to take on some coaching responsibilities, and also acted as an ambassador, making her Crossfit Hajj to California (with Shane and then David) to meet and train with the likes Robb Wolf, Adrian Bozman, Jason Khalipa (reportedly a total bro) and Pat Barber, in an impromptu guest workout in Tony Budding’s infamous shed. Later, Margie also did media coverage for the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Championships in India and South Africa, contributing commentary and interviews of the athletes and board members. More importantly, she got to watch a LOT of people from all over the world lift a LOT of heavy weight.
As Margie progressed more and more as a coach and athlete, lifting weights and physical culture spurred an iconic evolution. Margie describes the transformation from a cigarette smoking, chicken sandwich annihilating, theater junkie to a strong and fit athlete, coach, and role model as “a path to self-possession.” As she began to understand more about her body, her physical capabilities, and her community, Margie also began to think more deeply about food quality, yearning for a deeper understanding of where her food came from, and how it was made. She began to visit local farms and thought briefly of farming herself. She dismissed that idea quickly when she realized that she was more interested in animal husbandry (probably because thats where they keep the deliciousness). Margie left NYFA as she became more deeply integrated with the gym, and after a year of “sitting around” had a revelation that she absolutely had to go to school. A year later, and she’s a happy resident of the greatest college town on earth, Madison, Wisconsin, once again chasing a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how the world works, and how to work with the world.
CFSBK is now on Instagram! find us at crossfitsouthbrooklyn
Happy Birthday to the best Coach and Admin in the world, JESSICA M. FOX!!!!! <3