Select Page
How ‘Healthpreneur’ Yuri Elkaim Went From Making $80 a Week to Building Million-Dollar Businesses

How ‘Healthpreneur’ Yuri Elkaim Went From Making $80 a Week to Building Million-Dollar Businesses

Content Partner

Where brands share their insights.

Image credit:

Yuri Elkaim

9 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Yuri Elkaim’s childhood was plagued with health issues, from asthma to eczema and chronic fatigue. Although he was a star athlete, he was always tired after soccer practice. One night, just days before his seventeenth birthday, the exhaustion was almost too much to bear.

Elkaim stepped into the shower and began lathering with shampoo. When he looked down at his hands, they were covered in clumps of hair. Panicked and confused, he jumped out and looked in the mirror. A bald patch the size of a quarter stared back at him. “What is happening to me?” he wondered.

The next morning, he woke up to a pillow covered in hair. The rest fell out within weeks — including his eyebrows and eyelashes.

The hair loss marked the beginning of a lifelong health journey, which started with finding answers to his own questions and led him to helping others do the same. Elkaim eventually built a seven-figure health and fitness empire, stumbling through years of trial and error along the way.

At the pinnacle of his industry, he decided to help other “healthpreneurs” find the same financial freedom he had by scaling their businesses the right way. Yet again, Elkaim proved that when he finds the secret to success, it doesn’t stay secret for long.

A disappointing dream.

After that fateful night in high school, Elkaim was diagnosed with alopecia universalis, an incurable autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. Faced with bewildered stares from his classmates, he felt as if he went from “hot athlete” to “alien” in a matter of weeks. 

Elkaim at 16 years old, shortly before losing his hair.

Image credit: Yuri Elkaim

Elkaim consulted with various specialists who had no answers to the cause of his alopecia or how to treat it, so he vowed to find them on his own. He enrolled at the University of Toronto for kinesiology, which is the study of body movement and how it can promote health, but still couldn’t find answers.

Despite his asthma and fatigue, he played for the school’s soccer team while working as a personal trainer. Elkaim also played as an amateur on the Toronto Lynx professional team.

Some of his hair grew back, but his shaved head had become his claim to fame, so he kept it that way. Missing eyebrows and eyelashes, however, still plagued him.

When he graduated, Elkaim was snagged by the reserve team for the Lille OSC professional soccer club in France. Playing professionally was his childhood dream, but living his dream wasn’t as glamorous as he had imagined.

“I was on a stipend of about $80 a week, which I kept in a cup on my kitchen table. There would only be a few coins left at the end of the week,” he recalls. Although he loved the sport, he didn’t like the politics involved or the inability to decide where he would play. His inner entrepreneur craved freedom and control over his future. After one season on his probationary contract, Elkaim decided to return to Toronto and began to work as a personal trainer again.

He earned around $20 an hour working long days at the gym followed by volunteering as a soccer coach at his alma mater. “I felt like a slave to my job, trading time for money and struggling to make ends meet,” says Elkaim. “I wanted something bigger and freedom to live on my terms.”

Exhausted and underpaid, the 25-year-old knew this wasn’t the life he wanted. So when his then-girlfriend, Amy Coates, decided to visit an open house at a holistic nutrition school, Elkaim tagged along. What he learned would change his life.

From nearly broke to the peak of his industry.

At the open house, Elkaim realized that his health issues could be linked to his diet. “Growing up, I mostly ate processed and fast food. I might’ve been fit, but I wasn’t healthy.”

Elkaim enrolled on the spot and adopted a much cleaner diet for several months, flooding his body with vegetables. Soon, his asthma and skin problems vanished and his energy increased. Within two months, most of his hair had returned, including his eyebrows and eyelashes.

“When I learned to eat properly, I remember thinking, ‘No wonder I lost my hair,’” says Elkaim. “In four years at a top university, I never learned this information. I realized others must also be in the dark.”

He created his own approach to eating and exercise by combining his diet with his athletic and fitness expertise. In 2006, while he continued working as a trainer, he began building an online health business to reach more people with his message.

Elkaim struggled with frustration and overwhelm as he slowly mastered online marketing. For three years, the earnings from his health business were below the poverty line. In 2009, he was able to quit personal training and support himself with the business, but he still wasn’t where he wanted to be.

Elkaim decided to attend several live events where he could learn from others, such as Yanik Silver’s Underground Online Marketing Seminar and Ryan Lee’s Continuity Summit. “I didn’t have the money, so I bought the tickets on credit cards. That was the best decision I ever made.”

Those events led Elkaim to find the mentors who would help him achieve success. Today his health and lifestyle site,, generates multiple seven figures while helping thousands. He has appeared on national TV shows like “The Doctors” and “The Dr. Oz Show,” and his YouTube videos have been seen by millions.

“I spent years trying to do it on my own,” says Elkaim. “I was working hard, but I wasn’t working on what matters: mindset, marketing the right way, monetization, and self-managing systems.”

Things were looking up. But they took an unexpected turn in 2012 — when he lost his eyebrows and eyelashes again.

A man with a makeup routine.

Elkaim had recently received a routine tetanus shot, which was the only explanation he could think of for the hair loss. Still, “I felt like a fraud,” he says. “Was there no truth to what I was teaching? So I did what any grown man would do: I started using makeup.”

He continued sharing YouTube content, though viewers occasionally commented on his funny-looking eyebrows, which he was filling in with brow liner every day. “I was crippled by fear that I would be found out,” says Elkaim. “It was exhausting.” This continued for almost two years.

Just as live events had changed his professional life, another changed his personal life. In 2013, Elkaim attended Mindvalley A-Fest, a personal and business development event that took place in the Dominican Republic that year. One of the exercises involved giving away something meaningful. “I knew I needed to get rid of the makeup,” says Elkaim. “I couldn’t keep hiding behind a mask anymore.”

The next morning, he threw the brow liner in the trash. When he shared his first YouTube video without it, he was flooded with support.

Becoming a ‘healthpreneur.’

Elkaim’s business continued to grow. As an act of visualization, he added the cover of his book “The All-Day Energy Diet” onto a mock-up of the New York Times bestseller list and looked at the image daily. Nine months later, the book reached the No. 2 spot on the list.

Other health professionals were asking for business advice, and he realized he had an opportunity to help a lot of people. He began doing workshops in 2014, and Healthpreneur was born.

Elkaim shared the marketing techniques he used to build his health business. But after about a year, he realized this wasn’t impacting his clients fast enough; after all, it took nearly a decade to build his brand.

Meanwhile, Healthpreneur had grown from zero to a million dollars. Elkaim compared what he was doing and what he was teaching. He had narrowed his focus to four steps: attracting leads with Facebook ads, driving them to informational webinars and an online application, and inviting the right people to have a phone conversation about potentially working together.

When Elkaim began teaching his clients this “Perfect Client Pipeline,” many went from selling $100 ebooks to five-figure coaching. He has an uncommon message: “First, build your income, then your influence. Most do that in the wrong order, which is why they struggle in business.

“You don’t need followers and ebooks to create dream-come-true results,” Elkaim adds. “People don’t want tips; they want transformation.”

Elkaim with clients and speakers from his event, Healthpreneur Live.

Image credit: Yuri Elkaim

Elkaim helps health professionals clarify and streamline their marketing, create results for their clients, and charge what they’re really worth, which he says is easier when you’re selling results instead of yourself.

Living the 9-to-3 life.

Today, Elkaim and his team coach a group of almost 300 clients through his Health Business Accelerator program. He says one-on-one coaching is “outdated,” and that groups benefit both the mentor and mentees.

Once they’ve built the foundation, those ready to exceed seven figures and make a bigger impact can join his Luminaries Mastermind, with around 25 members, or attend his annual event, Healthpreneur Live, where he caps attendance at 250 people to keep the community intimate.

Healthpreneur’s mission is lofty: to help 1,000 entrepreneurs 10x their businesses so they can collectively impact more than 1 billion people — while living on their terms.

Elkaim with his family of five, which became six in June 2019.

Image credit: Yuri Elkaim

Elkaim works between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., when he picks up his three sons from school. He and Coates, now his wife, have been together for nearly 15 years and recently welcomed their fourth child. They leave Toronto often and have taken the boys everywhere from Mexico to Morocco. 

Elkaim’s next goal is also ambitious: living to 144 years old. He may not have hair, but he just might have the health and energy to do it.

Connect with Yuri on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube or visit his website.

Read More

We fully support Sophie Turner dressing Joe Jonas up as Sansa

We fully support Sophie Turner dressing Joe Jonas up as Sansa

“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part,” are the typical promises one makes to their significant other when they get married. But, for Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas, a helping hand with wigs and makeup was also apparently among the vows. While on The Graham Norton Show, Turner revealed that Joe Jonas didn’t just pull off a near perfect Sansa Stark by himself, but that she—the expert, of course—guided him along the way.

Jonas’ Sansa cosplay was his Halloween costume last year, while Turner herself was an elephant, which actually might have been a bigger spoiler than fans knew at the time. There were pictures from October, but only recently did he post a video in all his Stark glory. The wig? On point. Regal demeanor? Check. Command of the room he was in, the camera his bitch? Double yes. Turner seems so proud to admit that she was the one to do his wig and pick out the perfect Sansa-esque dress. The couple that costumes together, stays together, of course.

With the way the camera was moving, no doubt Turner was also behind the camera trying not to pee herself with his straight, fierce stare. The dramatic head move and sleeve flick definitely did her in. “Doesn’t he look gorgeous?” Turner asked to Norton and her Dark Phoenix co-stars Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, and James McAvoy. Yes, he does, but could he diss out epic comebacks as well as Turner’s Sansa? Probably not.

Read More

Nikki Bella spotted leaving her former DWTS partner Artem Chigvintsev’s LA area home

Nikki Bella spotted leaving her former DWTS partner Artem Chigvintsev’s LA area home


Sarah Sotoodeh For

17:58 EST, 5 March 2019

01:36 EST, 6 March 2019

She split with her fiance John Cena for good in late July 2018 after six years together. 

And it looks like Nikki Bella’s romance with her former Dancing With The Stars partner Artem Chigvintsev is heating up.

The 35-year-old WWE star was spotted on Tuesday emerging from Artem’s Los Angeles area home.

Moving forward: Nikki Bella’s romance with her former Dancing With The Stars partner Artem Chigvintsev is heating up; she was seen Tuesday leaving his Los Angeles-area home

Moments after she was seen leaving his abode and getting into her car, the professional dancer, 36, also left as well. 

Nikki flashed major cleavage in her plunging black jumpsuit, which she wore with coordinating platform heels.

The Total Bellas star carried a red blazer in one hand with a quilted black Chanel handbag with silver hardware slung over one shoulder.

She styled her long brunette tresses sleek and center parted with smokey eye makeup and a touch of pink gloss on her pout.

Low key: Moments after she was seen leaving his abode and getting into her car, the professional dancer, 36, also left as well

Chic: The 35-year-old WWE star was spotted on Tuesday morning emerging from Artem’s Los Angeles area home

Soon after Nikki left, Artem was seen also heading out; he donned a graphic T-shirt with a plaid shirt – opting to cuff his sleeves; he added a beanie and black trousers.

The bearded dancer and the professional wrestler have been spending a lot of time together, since she split with her fiance John Cena.

According to TMZ‘s report last week, Nikki and Artem’s relationship is ‘turning serious,’ as the duo continue to spend a lot of time together.

The outlet revealed that one week prior, he flew to Los Angeles and took her to Wally’s in Beverly Hills for wine and meat and cheese boards. 

Having so much fun: According to TMZ report last week, Nikki and Artem’s relationship is ‘turning serious,’ as the duo continue to spend a lot of time together

Cheers to the future: The outlet revealed that one week prior, he flew to Los Angeles and took her to Wally’s in Beverly Hills for wine and meat and cheese boards

They were first spotted out together on December 23, 2018 at an LA-area farmer’s market.

Nikki and Artem were partnered up during season 25 of Dancing With The Stars, which took place during fall of 2017. 

TMZ also noted that Nikki is done with ex John for good as she does not see a future with him anymore. 

Happiness: Nikki and Artem were partnered up during season 25 of Dancing With The Stars, which took place during fall of 2017; pictured on September 25, 2017 after the show

Not looking back: TMZ also noted that Nikki is done with ex John for good as she does not see a future with him anymore; pictured June 18, 2017 in Toronto at the iHeartRadio MuchMusic Video Awards

Nikki was in a relationship with John, 41, until July of last year – when they called off their wedding for the second time.

They went on their first date in 2012 to a steakhouse dinner, where they ended up chatting for hours.

Nikki and John moved in together the following year; his commitment issues were talked about on the reality show – he did not want to get married again or have children.

She eventually accepted she wouldn’t be a mother or get married, however, John surprised her by proposing to her on April 2, 2017 during Wrestlemania 33.

When they were happy: Nikki was in a relationship with John, 41, until July of last year – when they called off their wedding for the second time; pictured on July 12, 2017 in Los Angeles at the 2017 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater

They called off their wedding in April because of his stance on not having children, but they reunited the following month when he changed his mind.

John had proclaimed on the Today show with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford in May: ‘I love her. I want to be with her. I want to make her my wife. I want to be the father of her children. I just want us to work.’

Following their rekindled romance in May, Nikki and John split again and this time for good in late July.

Nikki and her twin sister Brie star on their hit reality show Total Bellas; the series airs on Sunday nights on E!. 

Talented duo: Nikki (left) and her twin sister Brie (right) star on their hit reality show Total Bellas; the series airs on Sundays on E!; the siblings pictured on February 20, 2019 in West Hollywood at the Fighting With My Family Los Angeles Tastemaker screening


Read More

Lifestyle Barometer: Your guide to what’s hot and what’s not

Lifestyle Barometer: Your guide to what’s hot and what’s not

Going up:

Karl Lagerfeld

The fashion supremo died at the age of 85 on 19 February (AFP/Getty)

On Tuesday, luxury fashion house Chanel confirmed its creative director Karl Lagerfeld had died at the age of 85.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

USD 0.27
a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.

Reports claim the designer passed away at the American Hospital in Paris. The news came after speculation regarding Lagerfeld’s health began circulating in January when he did not attend Chanel’s haute couture show. 

Tributes to the late designer subsequently poured in from a number of famous names including Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele, US first lady Melania Trump and Donatella Versace

Virginie Viard, dubbed Lagerfeld’s “right hand woman” has been named as the designer’s successor at Chanel.

She previously held the role of fashion creation studio director and has worked alongside Lagerfeld for more than three decades. 

While the fashion world mourned the loss of the designer, it wasn’t long before attention turned to Lagerfeld’s famous pet, Choupette.

According to French newspaper Le Figaro, Choupette might be entitled to Lagerfeld’s multi-million pound fortune under German law if she had been nominated as his “heir”.

Brit Awards feminism 

Beyonce and Jay Z accepted their Brit Award in front of a painting of Meghan Markle (Instagram)

As well as celebrating the most talented figures in the music industry, Wednesday’s Brit Awards delivered an indisputable feminist undertone

Among the standout moments was a short clip that showed Beyonce and Jay Z accepting their award for Best International Group. 

In the video, the couple could be seen admiring a painted depiction of Meghan Markle looking like the queen. 

Beyonce since explained that the painting was in honour of Black History Month

The 1975 frontman, Matt Healy, also used the band’s award for Best Group to speak about misogyny in the entertainment industry, while singer Jorja Smith dedicated her award to aspiring female artists. 

For her performance, Jess Glynne took to the stage with a legion of women, all of whom removed their makeup using hand towels in front of vanity mirrors. 

London Fashion Week

Vivienne Westwood staged a political protest for autumn/winter 2019 (PA)

This week the fashion crowd descended on London for a week-long celebration of British design.

Over the course of the week, a range of designers showcased their autumn/winter 2019 collections from established brands like Erdem, Roksanda, Simone Rocha and Burberry, to emerging names like Matty Bovan and Halpern.

While the clothes on the catwalk certainly captured the imaginations of fashion fans, it was the unexpected political theme that really got people talking. 

On Sunday, Vivienne Westwood delivered a show that saw actor Rose McGowan give a speech about consumerism. Then the executive director of Greenpeace, John Sauven, gave an impassioned address about the environmental consequences of oil plants, before the show concluded with Westwood herself skipping down the catwalk singing. 

Hundreds of activists also swarmed the Victoria Beckham show for a protest organised by activism group Extinction Rebellion, while Justice4Grenfell activists, including models Adwoa Aboah and Clara Paget, took to the stage to demand justice for the 72 victims who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

Interval training

Interval training is thought to be more effective as a weight loss tool than moderate workouts (Getty)

Doing small bursts of high intensity training can be more effective for weight loss than moderate workouts, new research has found.

The research, conducted by scientists at the Federal University of Goias in Brazil, analysed data from more than 36 studies, analysing the data of more than 1,000 men and women of varying levels of fitness. 

The scientists noted all participants had lost weight from working out, whether they had been regularly doing interval training or moderate exercise.

However, those who did high intensity training had a 28.5 per cent greater reduction of weight.

According to the study’s findings, sprint interval training was the most effective form of exercise for weight loss and was noted as being even more effective when combined with regular moderate exercise.


‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ is coming to the UK this year (Getty)

Following the news that RuPaul’s Drag Race is set to launch in the UK on BBC Three this year, it has now been revealed that television hosts Graham Norton and Alan Carr will be appearing on the show as celebrity judges.

BBC Three confirmed on Thursday that the two TV personalities will act as rotating resident judges, joining RuPaul, Michelle Visage and a celebrity guest judge each week.

“Becoming part of the Drag Race family makes me ridiculously happy,” Norton said in a statement. “I can’t wait to see what the UK drag queens bring to the party, but they better weeeeerk!”

While drag pageantry has become a popular phenomenon in recent years, the practice of men cross-dressing as women and vice versa has occurred for centuries.

You can find out more about the history of drag and the creation of RuPaul’s Drag Race here

Going down:


A new study found parents are struggling to help children with homework (Getty)

The majority of parents are struggling to help their children with homework, new research has found.

The study, conducted by Oxford Home Schooling, asked a group of 1,000 mums and dads with children in year three to answer questions from core subjects English, maths and science. 

Only one in 16 of the participants were able to answer all three of the questions correctly with nearly a quarter admitting they feel “pressurised” when asked by their child to help with homework.

More than three-quarters also revealed they often use the internet to help them answer any questions they’re struggling with.

The study found that men are more likely than women to feel confident helping their children with homework, with 39 per cent of the fathers tested feeling confident, in comparison to 28 per cent of the mothers.

Toxic masculinity 

Barack Obama has spoken out about the dangers of toxic masculinity (AFP/Getty)

From Gilette’s divisive advert to Donald Trump telling Jimmy Fallon to “be a man”, conversations surrounding toxic masculinity have skyrocketed in recent months.

So much so that former US president Barack Obama recently addressed the dangers of toxic masculinity during a conference for his My Brother’s Keeper initiative – a foundation launched by Obama in 2014 to “unlock the full potential of boys and young men of colour in America” through mentoring and educational programmes. 

During the conference, the former president spoke candidly about stereotypes of masculinity and the need to create spaces where young men of colour don’t feel the need to “act a certain way” in order to be respected. 

“All of us have to recognise that being a man is first and foremost being a good human,” the former president said.

“That means being responsible, working hard, being kind, respectful, compassionate. 

“If you’re confident about your strength, you don’t need to show me by putting somebody else down. Show me by lifting somebody else up.”

Fast fashion

Kim Kardashian West has called out fast fashion brands for copying high-end designs (AFP/Getty)

Kim Kardashian West has criticised fast fashion brands for copying high-end designs, describing the issue as “devastating”.

Earlier this week Kim Kardashian West tweeted about high street brands who “rip off” the designs of clothes she wears, expressing her disdain over companies who profit from the practice.

“It’s devastating to see these fashion companies rip off designs that have taken the blood, sweat and tears of true designers who have put their all into their own original ideas,” she stated.

“I’ve watched these companies profit off my husband’s work for years and now that it’s also affecting designers who have been so generous to give me access to their beautiful works, I can no longer sit silent.”

On 17 February Kim Kardashian West wore a vintage dress by French fashion designer Mugler at the Hollywood Beauty Awards.

Referencing the look on Twitter, she explained that in less than 24 hours Fashion Nova were selling a copy of the dress online.

Fashion watchdog Instagram account Diet Prada shared its own theory, suggesting that Kardashian West was involved in secret collaborations.

Imposter syndrome

Zoe Sugg has spoken out about dealing with imposter syndrome (YouTube/Zoella)

YouTuber Zoe Sugg has opened up about dealing with imposter syndrome, admitting it often leaves her “constantly doubting” her achievements.

In a post on Instagram the 28-year-old wrote: “I have major imposter syndrome at the moment!

“I’m constantly doubting everything I’ve achieved, everything I’m working on business wise and everything I’m working on in my personal life!”

“It’s such a peculiar feeling and nothing I do seems to make it ‘less so’,” she added, asking her followers whether they shared her anxieties.

“Be honest, we’re a happy, encouraging and very considerate bunch over here. A problem shared is a problem halved after all.”

Last year former first lady of the US Michelle Obama revealed she also dealt with imposter syndrome on a regular basis, explaining the feeling “never goes away”. 

“It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know?” she said at a sold-out event at Royal Festival Hall in London.

“I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.

“If I’m giving people hope then that is a responsibility, so I have to make sure that I am accountable.”

Lack of breastfeeding facilities 

More than half of breastfeeding mothers have been forced to express in an unsuitable place (Getty/iStock)

A third of breastfeeding mothers have had to use a toilet cubicle when expressing milk at work, according to new research.

A survey, conducted by law firm Slater and Gordon, found that more than half of the 2,000 female participants said they been forced to express in an unsuitable place such as the staff room, their car or their desk.

As a result, almost a third said they have experienced problems while trying to express, including infections, anxiety and issues with their supply. 

What’s more, these difficulties resulted in 30 per cent of mothers stopping breastfeeding earlier than they would have liked. 

law specialist Paula Chan called the findings “concerning”, adding that “no mother should feel forced to express milk for her child in a toilet”.

“People would be horrified at the thought of food being prepared in such unhygienic conditions so it’s unacceptable that we are in a situation where that is considered to be an option when preparing milk for a baby,” she said.

Read More



Even by the Academy Awards’ standards, this has been a run-up marked by laughable missteps (RIP “popular” Oscar), judgment gaffes and scandal (Kevin Hart?!) as The Hollywood Reporter takes a forensic dive into how things went so far off the rails in a season dominated by political issues.

Last October, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reached out to a man it believed could save the Oscars from a ratings nosedive and a growing sense of cultural obsolescence. A proven box office performer with a giant social media following, appeal across the political spectrum and enough of a sense of showmanship to pull off a blue velvet tuxedo jacket with a 50-inch chest, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson seemed like just the man for the daunting job of hosting the Oscars in 2019.

“We didn’t campaign for it, but the call came, and I was over the moon,” Johnson says. “Immediately my brain started going, ‘We’ll do this kind of number and that.’ We were going to turn the Oscars on their head and make it something special and unique and different and start a new era of how Oscars are going to be enjoyed. That was the goal — audience first.”

For all of Johnson’s enthusiasm and seeming fitness for the task, the Academy’s conversations with him stalled over timing, he says, with the actor committed to shoot two movies, the Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw and a Jumanji sequel, in the period when Oscars planning and rehearsals would take place. Asking the highest-paid actor in Hollywood to clear his schedule on a few months’ notice, it turns out, was not a winning strategy. Neither was the Academy’s overture to a second seemingly promising host, Kevin Hart, which devolved into a public contretemps over the comedian’s homophobic tweets.

The Oscars is now set to go forward without any host at all for the first time in 30 years and only the second time in its 91-year existence. Even by the clown-car standards of the sprawling, 54-member Academy board, which has ridden out embarrassing scandals like #OscarsSoWhite and Envelopegate, this has been a horrendous awards season, as a group of professional storytellers can’t seem to get it together enough to tell a compelling story about their own biggest night. Going hostless means the Oscar show’s most appealing pitch to audiences may be the possibility of watching a slowly unfolding, three-hour, black-tie trainwreck.

The road to hostlessness began the morning after last year’s telecast, when ABC learned it had been the lowest-rated Oscars of all time, with 26.5 million viewers and a 25 percent drop in the key 18-to-49 demographic. According to one Academy board member, there was a realization that a variety of factors were impacting the show: “There’s Hollywood producing fewer awards-worthy movies. The artists’ desire to be more political. People turning from TV to streaming. The middle of the country rejecting us.”

For years, ABC and parent company Disney, which pays an undisclosed amount to air the Oscars through 2028, had been asking the Academy to make changes to the show, including shortening the run time and ensuring that more of the movies audiences actually see make it onto the telecast. The Academy collects more than 80 percent of its $161.9 million in annual revenue from the Oscars, mostly from the telecast rights. After the network shared that low ratings could impact the organization’s advertising revenue bonuses, ABC found the Academy leadership was suddenly much more open to fresh telecast ideas.

In a lengthy August meeting, the Academy board approved a series of controversial measures, including the now tabled “popular film” Oscar, which would have been tied to box office returns or audience voting. When critics blasted the idea, the board backed down. Still, it pledged to move ahead with another contentious plan, to deliver four of the night’s 24 prizes during commercial breaks and edit those honorees into the show later. Six months later, just 10 days before the show, a high-profile membership revolt would force the Academy to reverse this decision as well.

To pioneer all of its ratings-driven initiatives, the Academy sought producers with bold ideas and strong backbones. It settled on film producer Donna Gigliotti — who is best known for making awards movies like Silver Linings Playbook and Shakespeare in Love but has no live television experience — and awards show stalwart Glenn Weiss, who directed the Envelopegate Oscars and made what was probably that night’s best artistic choice, to zoom the camera in on the envelope in question. By November, when the Academy still didn’t have a host, it was clear Gigliotti and Weiss had taken on an even trickier show than they expected. One option the Academy and the producers weighed after Johnson passed was inviting three separate hosts. “One host for each hour, and it becomes not such a terrible burden for the talent,” explains a source familiar with the Academy’s conversations.

Ultimately the producers invited Hart to take over the show in early December, and the Oscars seemed to have found a host whose humor transcends politics. For a few hours anyway. Social media sleuths quickly surfaced Hart’s tweets from 2009 and 2010 in which he used homophobic slurs and old stand-up bits in which he talked about not wanting his son to be gay. As a firestorm built, the comedian dug in, posting a groggy shirtless Instagram video in which he said he was “in a great, mature place where all I do is spread positivity.”

In a desperate bid to stop the PR damage, sources say Academy CEO Dawn Hudson called Hart in Australia, where he was on tour, and begged him to apologize for the old tweets. The Academy’s request — or demand, as Hart saw it — only further annoyed the comic, who then tweeted that he was resigning from the gig, before making the very apology Hudson had requested.

As the Academy headed into the new year, still hostless, one of its old Oscar emcees resurfaced with a ploy to save the day. In January, Ellen DeGeneres had Hart on her talk show in an appearance booked to promote his movie The Upside but used the moment to conduct an interview in which she defended the comedian and advocated for his return to the Oscars. The interview played poorly on social media, but at the time, at least one LGBTQ member of the Academy’s board told THR that she was open to the possibility. “We all can make mistakes,” director Kimberly Peirce, an Academy governor, said in early January, stressing that she was not speaking for the Academy. “Let’s all assume that he made a mistake in the past. I’m not saying he did, but if he did and he thinks he did … is there a chance to honestly approach that? That’s what the culture has to look at.”

The culture may have been ready to look at it, but Hart was not, and by the Oscar Nominees Luncheon four weeks later, the Academy had resigned itself to a hostless show. The producers, meanwhile, were playing whack-a-mole with a new controversy nearly every week over other attempts to make the show shorter, like a plan to have only the best known of the original song nominees perform, which frontrunner Lady Gaga was able to kibosh by threatening she’d walk. The producers’ efforts to prevent actors from also presenting at the SAG Awards backfired, too, when SAG-AFTRA issued a statement blasting “the Academy’s graceless pressure tactics.”

All of the noise has led to an anything-could-happen atmosphere around this year’s show, which ABC is attempting to spin into a virtue. “Ironically, I have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept them in the conversation,” ABC president Karey Burke explained to the Television Critics Association. “The mystery is really compelling. People really care.”


Oscar hosts may get credit or blame for their show’s ratings, but it’s not clear they have much to do with it. Billy Crystal presided over the most-watched Oscars, in 1998, when 57.25 million people tuned in to see the box office sensation Titanic win best picture. He also hosted the year before, when 17 million fewer people watched as The English Patient won. If it’s the nominated films that pull in viewers, 2019 should be a ratings winner, with three best picture nominees — Black Panther, A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody — having earned more than $200 million domestically and a fourth, Roma, available to millions on Netflix since Dec. 14.

In lieu of a host this year, Gigliotti and Weiss will rely on a starry list of presenters, including Daniel Craig, Brie Larson, Chadwick Boseman, Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy and Jason Momoa. One stunt the producers hope will appeal to young audiences is uniting several of Marvel’s Avengers onstage, just two months before the release of Avengers: Endgame.

In that sense, Gigliotti and Weiss will be deploying a strategy used in 1989, the year producer Allan Carr opted to go hostless by design. That show is best remembered for a disastrous 11-minute opening musical number starring Rob Lowe and Snow White but less remembered for the story Carr hoped to build around his presenters, teaming performers who had something in common, like married couple Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, or the James Bond actors Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

“A host slows you down,” says Jeff Margolis, who directed the 1989 Oscar telecast. “You’ve got to give them something to do during the opening and give them at least three spots during each hour. So we decided we would try and do a show where we made our presenters be the hosts.”

Hosts serve key functions, however, lending both their promotional muscle and their pacing skills. “Sometimes you need a policeman,” Margolis says. Historically, hosts also have served as the proxy for the home audience, reacting to the events in real time, as when a bewildered Jimmy Kimmel stepped up to the microphone after the best picture mix-up in 2017 and said, “I blame myself for this.” Repeat hosts like 19-timer Bob Hope and nine-timer Crystal lent a comforting continuity to the show.

But as pop culture becomes ever more politically aware — and social media provides a way for audiences to vent — the Oscars hosting gig comes with more potential controversy than it did in Hope’s day. Host Chris Rock had to tackle #OscarsSoWhite, and Kimmel the Trump presidency and #MeToo. Focus groups conducted by the Academy indicated that audiences had begun to find Kimmel’s increasingly political persona to be a turnoff, says a source familiar with the research.

For 2019, the Academy hoped to get ahead of any outrage about its plan to deliver four prizes during commercial breaks by showing representatives from various branches a video demonstration of the proposed format. The strategy failed. On Feb. 11, when the Academy announced the categories affected — cinematography, film editing, live-action short, and makeup and hairstyling — membership rebelled. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee signed an open letter calling the move “an insult to those of us who have devoted our lives and passions to our chosen profession” and effectively lobbied the board to reconsider. Four days later, the plan was abandoned.

It’s just the kind of awards-season snafu you would expect the Oscars to address with a tension-alleviating joke in the monologue … if only it had a host to deliver the punch line.

Chris Gardner contributed to this report.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Read More