By Matt Sayles/AP/REX/Shutterstock.
Earlier this week, inside the Mirror showroom in Manhattan, Tracy Anderson was doing her best to stir my inner Gwyneth Paltrow. (It’s in there somewhere, like a set of keys at the bottom of an overcrowded bag.) Dressed in a muted two-tone unitard by Goop’s activewear label, G. Sport, Anderson bobbed through a series of dance-cardio moves: elfin heel taps, lateral chassés, the occasional finger (the index one) extended in the air. Instead of standing her usual five feet tall, though, the superstar trainer was shrunk down to the size of my palm, her tiny body beamed out of a rectangular L.C.D. panel. This was the Mirror I’d heard so much about, the streaming service that just might revolutionize home fitness (to the tune of $1,495, plus a monthly $39). Anderson—announced this week as the start-up’s first content partner, with 30-minute workouts rolling out through July—is the proverbial non-dairy icing on the cake.
Since September 2018, when the first 70-pound Mirrors began arriving via white-glove delivery, the futuristic device has had a polarizing effect. High-profile fans include Ellen DeGeneres, Alicia Keys, and Reese Witherspoon; with equal and opposite enthusiasm, a recent New York Times piece declared it “the most narcissistic exercise equipment ever.” It is, after all, a Mirror mirror on the wall (or, if you prefer, propped up on a carbon-steel stand). And, like all shiny surfaces, it’s a selfie magnet—one that not only reflects but refines what you see, thanks to a deep catalog of classes ranging from boxing to Pilates. With well-being increasingly marketed as the ultimate luxury good (a shift helped along by Goop’s Paltrow, who is also a partner in Anderson’s fitness empire), where does a big-ticket, albeit slimline, workout system fit in?
Mirror founder and C.E.O. Brynn Putnam, a former New York City Ballet dancer and Harvard grad, understands her audience—which dovetails with Anderson’s—because she finds herself among them: a crowd of “very busy, successful people who prioritize health and wellness, and really don’t want to sacrifice quality for convenience,” she says by phone. But it’s more about practicality than anything else. “To me, the best fitness program is the one that you do,” she stresses; during her own pregnancy wracked by morning sickness, “working out at home became essential, not optional.”
Seeing Mirror described in press materials as “democratizing the fitness experience” might make your pupils dilate; this is not the Y.M.C.A. But, Putnam points out, a payment plan spreads out the cost to a monthly $164; later this year, a longer-term program will make it $75. When private training arrives by the end of 2019 (utilizing the camera and microphone already embedded in the hardware; there’s a “lens cap” if that sounds unnerving), sessions will start at an approachable $40.
Anderson is no stranger to virtual workouts; she has been live-streaming her own sweaty, cultish group classes since late 2014. But she’s happy to become one of Mirror’s avatars, in part because she believes in spending quality time with your reflection. “It’s about people getting down to the root of being able to speak straight with themselves, to cut the bullshit,” she says, decrying a kind of everyday camouflage. “People hide behind super-tight Lycra pants, they hide behind filters, they hide with the lights off.” Yes, a mirror can help sharpen that triangle-pose alignment. But can it also inspire not discomfort but its opposite? “There’s so much beauty in this world,” Anderson says (however much she’s associated with the lithe-limbed kind), “and beauty is not in a size. It’s not in this kind of butt or boob, wrinkle or no wrinkle.”
That kind of talk is a welcome shift from the long-reigning “I’ll have what she’s having” mode of exercise—as when, a decade ago, Anderson encouragingly told a reporter mid-workout, “I’m giving you Gwyneth’s legs right now.” But it’s a message best seen, not heard. That, in truth, might prove to be the fitness platform’s secret weapon: by tapping a wider sweep of instructors, could mirroring body positivity come as easily as mirroring cardio choreography? When I think about future avatars for Mirror, it’s hard not to think about the musician Lizzo, whose Instagram feed of unabashed moves redefines the term “back catalog.” This is a woman who needs no camouflage, a woman who knows how to crank it out on the dance floor. Maybe someday—shrunk down to palm-size and beamed into the living room—she will show us just what to do to get the party started.