SI Swimsuit’s rookie is fitness legend Denise Austin’s daughter Katie

SI Swimsuit’s rookie is fitness legend Denise Austin’s daughter Katie

Like mother, like daughter. 

Katie Austin, the 29-year-old daughter of legendary ’80s aerobics instructor Denise Austin, 65, is following in her mom’s fitness footsteps starring as Sports Illustrated’s Rookie of the Year in the 2022 Swimsuit Issue, one year after winning its coveted Swim Search.

But unlike the VHS and DVD heydays of her mom, Katie has leveraged TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat to build her fit fam following of more than 700,000 on social media. And she’s taking a more unfiltered approach to toning and sculpting on her popular Katie Austin fitness app.

“It was surreal. It’s been such a life-long dream,” Katie, who grew up in Virginia, told The Post of being featured in the glossy mag, recalling the early days of her mom’s fitness career and meeting the likes of Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons.

Katie Austin is following in her mom Denise Austin’s fitness footsteps.
Getty Images for Sports Illustra

“I was an athlete my entire life. I played lacrosse at USC and I never really thought about following in my mom’s footsteps. I traveled with her for the workout TV shows, the DVDs, I was there almost every day watching her do choreography for her shows and videos. Maybe subconsciously I had the idea that I liked being in front of the camera teaching workouts, but I never really thought about it.” 

Katie recalled encountering dozens of women who’d stop her mom to share their personal stories after watching Denise’s workouts.

“When we were traveling, people would come up to my mom and say, ‘You’ve changed my life.’ These women would sob to my mom in the airport, the grocery store and really tell her how much confidence that my mom instilled in them and these crazy stories like ‘You helped me leave my husband’ or ‘You’ve helped me lose 100 pounds.’ Now looking back, I was like, this is one of the main reasons why I want to get into the fitness industry because you’re not only doing what you love, but you’re helping other women and so it’s such a rewarding business.” 

The mother-daughter pair teamed up in the early days of the pandemic to livestream workouts to fans from home, a first for Denise, who pioneered the at-home workout video trend in the 1980s and ’90s pre-social media. 

“The biggest difference about what I do with workouts compared with mom is I can see the feedback right away — I can fully engage with my followers. I’m making sure they’re fully immersed. I’m talking through the screen like they’re your best friend, like they’re your peer. I have 99% of girls on my app so making sure they feel comfortable is key,” she said, of posting content to platforms like Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram. “[Outside of that] it’s really not just plain old workouts anymore — it’s showing another side so they realize I’m a real person. Anyone can teach you how to do squats, you have to like the person teaching it.” 

“She’s [my mom] always very in awe of how much that I do. She cannot believe how many platforms I’m on,” Katie said. 

And while she may not be doing squats, lunges or mountain climbers in a leotard to ’80s music with neon lights blaring, everything old is new again when it comes to fitness fashion and choreographing exercises. 

“My mom has kept literally all of her [old] gear and activewear. She still to this day calls leggings leotards,” she quipped. “Fitness fashion from the ’80s and ’90s is fully back right now. Everyone’s rocking their leotards and legwarmers and my mom’s like, ‘Oh my god, I have all this still.’” 

When creating content for the masses, Katie said Denise has her finger on the pulse of what will be a hit and often takes her advice on what series to launch to her own fans.

“She’s been there and done everything,” Katie said, recalling a phone call with her mom suggesting she reprise her best-selling 1990s workout series “Hit the Spot,” a workout series focused on targeting “problem areas” like buns, thighs and the tummy.

“She’s like, ‘You need to do a toned thighs workout, that’s going to be your best.’ And she’s right. Fitness is evergreen, which I love. I create a workout that can be for any level or any year too,” Katie said.

Kate Bock, Katie Austin, Kamie Crawford and Josephine Skriver speak during an interview at Super Bowl LVI on February 11, 2022 in Los Angeles.
Kate Bock (from left), Katie Austin, Kamie Crawford and Josephine Skriver speak during an interview at Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 11, 2022, in Los Angeles.
Getty Images for SiriusXM

Growing up in the age of social media, Katie said, has shaped the way she’s built her own brand — and that means not putting on a full face of makeup to go live, or having her hair blown out to sweat it all off during one of her “lean leg” series. Plus, she said her followers will troll her if she so much as posts a video of herself in a sports bra.

“I never want to make anyone following me feel bad. I don’t want anyone to open up their phone and watch me and be like ‘Well I didn’t workout today’ and then feel bad about themselves. It’s making sure your followers feel motivated and empowered by your content. I’ve set boundaries on social media, making sure that I’m staying true to myself offline, online — realizing that it’s my business at the end of the day, so I have to make sure I can separate social media from real life which is tough. People say, ‘You make fitness not intimidating,’” she said of subscribers to her app, who are 99% women.

While mom may be an aerobics icon, sometimes she doesn’t always know best, Katie lovingly joked. 

“She’s like, ‘Why don’t you wear a leotard and go to the beach and then film the booty workout?’” she said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know if that will do well, mom, but thank you.’”

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