Milton Teagle Simmons (born July 12, 1948), known professionally as Richard Simmons, is an American fitness personality who promotes weight-loss programs, most famously through a line of aerobics videos and television programs. Simmons began his career opening a gym catering to the overweight, and became widely known through exposure on television and through the popularity of his consumer products. He became a striking cultural icon, often parodied, and a frequent guest of late night television. Today Simmons continues his life-long mission of promoting health and has broadened his activities to include political activism, notably in support of a bill mandating non-competitive physical education in public schools.
Richard Simmons was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Simmons was raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, and attended Cor Jesu High School (now Brother Martin High School). He was obese throughout his adolescence and by the time he graduated from high school, he weighed 268 pounds and suffered from gynecomastia.
His first job, in New Orleans, was selling pralines. Simmons also briefly considered becoming a priest. After starting college at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, he transferred to Florida State University. While enrolled there, he studied as an exchange student in Florence, Italy. He graduated with a BA in Art. After graduation, Simmons moved to New York City where he worked in advertising, as a waiter, and for cosmetics companies Revlon and Coty Cosmetics.