January 17, 2017
Television is about to "get real" out on the Main Line.
Longtime personal trainer Toni Filipone says she will star in an upcoming reality TV show set in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Filipone, known for training "Real Housewives of New York" star Sonja Morgan, is currently filming a reality series featuring her and a team of life coaches helping people navigate life's struggles.
Filipone says she cannot reveal many details about the show, dubbed "Get Real Main Line," because it has not yet been formally announced. But she says it will air on a "major national network" that people will recognize. Depending on production, it could debut as early as April or as late as September.
Filming for the pilot episode wrapped up earlier this month.
"It's really a life-coaching show about women's empowerment," Filipone says. "And the issues can be anything. Sometimes we're dealing with suicide. Sometimes we're dealing with the death of a child or a loved one. It's not a weight-loss show at all. Actually, we're probably going to stay away from weight loss completely."
Filipone, 41, of Berwyn, Chester County, began her personal training career by helping people lose weight. But she transitioned into life coaching as she began searching for resolutions to the root causes of her clients' challenges – in careers, fitness, spirituality and image, for example.
Through Get Real Coaching, Filipone accepts clients struggling with any number of difficulties — grief, relationships, parenting, confidence and health, among others. With the assistance of specialized coaches, including her wife, Meridith Coyle, Filipone seeks to help her clients resolve their hardships.
"Get Real Main Line" will focus on that process, chronicling the progress of several clients as they work with Filipone and coaches specializing in nutrition, fitness, image, spirituality and career building.
"We're here to give this area a good light and not humiliate anybody and to bring people to their best self," Filipone says. "It's all going to be in good taste. It's all going to be good fun."
Filipone describes her coaching style as energetic, encouraging and open-minded. But she does not deny her intensity and willingness to give her clients a necessary push.
That dynamic played out during a workshop filmed for the pilot episode.
As cameras rolled and an audience of about 100 people watched, Filipone says she began "grilling" a woman who was being considered for the show. Through a series of questions, Filipone says she gained a sense that the woman was ready to make the changes necessary for overcoming her hardships.
"When people are ready for change, they come," Filipone says. "They're ready and they come. I don't have a secret that I can't tell you, 'This is what I do.'"
But Filipone says she typically takes a hard approach up front before softening later.
She recalls helping a woman who had sustained significant injuries in a car crash. The woman's speech had become slurred through minor brain injuries, Filipone says. She also did not expect to walk again.
Filipone simply had been hired to lead the woman through a series of stretches designed to keep her body moving. But Filipone sensed she wanted more. So she asked the woman about the type of life she envisioned.
An hourslong "heart-to-heart" conversation followed, Filipone says. After 12 weeks, the woman was not only walking but also doing three minutes of jump rope. She had regained her driver's license. And she was reading full sentences without a stutter.
"The doctors didn't tell her she would do it," Filipone says. "This woman felt so low and so horrible about herself that she gave up on herself. It just took one person to say bulls***."
That's the type of uplifting story Filipone says her reality series aims to highlight.
"This is not a reality show where we're fighting and there's gossip and drama," Filipone says. "It's not like that. I would never sign up for a show like that."
But to showcase such uplifting stories, Filipone needs people who are willing to let her dig deep as the cameras roll. They'll need to open up about their most personal struggles.
Or, as Filipone puts it, "get real."