Montgomery Nicholas knew early on the importance of physical exercise and the benefits of getting healthy together—with the ones you love. He says his grandfather competed in the Olympic Games and began testing Nicholas when he was in grade school—and he loved it.

But growing up in an active family didn’t protect him from being bullied. What he learned next gave him the foundation for bold ventures into business and entertainment, and a social media presence that is candid and proud of his relationship with his husband, Noah Wright. Nicholas is featured in 24 Hour Fitness’ 2021 brand campaign, and we asked him about his formative experience that gave him purpose.

24Life: How did you start your fitness journey?

Montgomery Nicholas: Ever since I could walk my family had me very active. My grandpa went to the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland for wrestling. If we weren’t randomly tackling each other in the living room, my grandpa and I were having push-up contests. I learned pretty quickly that exercise would be a part of my life, and I loved it.

But, right before hitting my growth spurt, I struggled with being overweight. It was a combination of not growing yet and not having knowledge about nutrition—I would eat whatever I wanted. Kids in school weren’t kind to me and I was teased severely for my weight. People would grab my stomach, or say I looked terrible.

Being bullied had a huge impact on me mentally and I struggled to fit in. I stopped eating, because I hated myself, the way I looked, and I struggled with self-love. I ended up getting so thin (from anorexia) that I collapsed twice from malnourishment. My parents freaked out and didn’t know what was going on, until I finally told them what I was struggling with. They got me on a nutrition program and showed me more weight training and the healthy way to be fit and obtain my goals. They also encouraged me to love myself and not let others get to me. Lifting weights became a therapy for me. It became a safe place for me to focus on my weight in a healthy way.

24Life: You’ve poured your heart and soul into your social media presence and more. Tell us about that.

MN: I sing. It’s one of my passions and I hope to get signed by a label. I have my own anti-aging skincare line and I do all my own formulations. It all goes back to health, and skincare was just another part of health for me. I mixed creams in my mom’s kitchen and found a lab and started to formulate. I studied entrepreneurship in college and eventually kicked off my Magari skincare line.

24Life: We all get stuck at some point. What did you learn about yourself and what message would you share with others?

MN: Bullying is a serious issue with serious repercussions, which is why I take the anti-bullying movement very seriously. In my struggle with anorexia as a kid, the gym was a happy place. I could put my music on, and it always centered me and helped distract me from the other things going on in my life. When I first came out, dealing with not being accepted by certain family members and losing friends—the gym was the place I could go and distract myself, better myself and not focus on other things going on.

Now, I make it my top priority to always make anyone and everyone around me feel beautiful, loved, and enough. [My husband] Noah was extremely nervous about the gym, because he was always really skinny and would get intimidated by people who were further along in their journey than he was. He also didn’t have any idea of what to do or where to start. He was afraid of being judged and looking silly. When we started working out together, I put him on a program, and we also took advantage of the classes offered at 24 Hour Fitness. The gym allowed us to experiment with what we like and find our own way to achieve our goals.

Know that everyone starts somewhere, but that’s just it, you have to start. The people that you see at the gym also started at some point. Don’t be so hard on yourself, enjoy the process and love your body for the progress it makes and resilience it has. Love yourself, and let the past go—be gentle with yourself if you slip up, get right back on and keep going. You got this!

Photos courtesy Montgomery Nicholas