DRAPER, Utah (ABC4) – Although she recently just became a grandmother for the first time earlier this year, Utah resident Michele Wilson isn’t resigning herself to the typical lifestyle of someone her age.
In fact, Wilson believes the best is yet to come for the 60-plus-year-old, who declined to divulge her actual age, calling it “just a number.”
“I feel in my gut that this is a stepping stone for something,” she explains to ABC4.com.
The reason for her excitement: she’s on the verge of becoming a finalist to appear on the cover of Muscle and Fitness HERS magazine.
“When I was first entered in the contest, I thought it was a joke because I’m older,” she says. “But 33,000 entries came in worldwide and I’ve made it to the semifinals.”
Currently sitting in fourth place in the online voting competition, Wilson has beaten out nearly every other female in the polls, most of whom are at least 20 years her junior. What also sets the Utah grandmother apart is her fitness approach. The majority of the other women in the cover contest compete as bodybuilders, whereas Wilson says she simply enjoys working out in the gym, eating properly, and maintaining a natural, healthy appearance.
With Jim, her husband of 30 years in the room, she jokes that she is occasionally approached by younger men at the gym.
“I’m very flattered,” she says of her would-be suitors. “They say they like my energy.”
A fast talker with an excitable personality, Wilson says her secret to maintaining a look and lifestyle that some find surprising for her age is thankfulness. Her attitude of gratitude begins with her daily ritual each morning.
“I wake up every morning and before I get out of bed. I lay there and say thank you. I am blessed and grateful for everything I have, no matter what I have or don’t have.”
What she does have already is a lifetime of amazing experiences.
Growing up in Pasadena and Wilson moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah with dreams of ultimately working in the skiing industry. One day she got a call on the phone from a friend back in Southern California, with an unusual series of questions and a surprise.
“Are you free this April,” the friend asked.
“Yes…” Wilson answered, unsure of what was to follow.
“Well, we got you in this contest here, you have to be here,” the friend stated excitedly.
As it turned out, the contest was an audition for the original Los Angeles Rams cheerleading squad. Wilson made the team and was one of the NFL team’s first cheerleaders.
“It was amazing,” she recalls of her time on the sidelines from 1978-79. “I loved, loved, loved it.”
While working in L.A., she was able to cheer, not only at games but at other major events around the Hollywood area. A photograph of Wilson cheering in front of tens of thousands of fans at a Rolling Stones concert in Anaheim graced the front page of the Los Angeles Times. Movie and television studios also reached out, giving her credited appearances in popular shows like Starsky and Hutch and the 1979 film, North Dallas Forty.
Looking at old photos and videos of her days in La-La Land, Wilson laughs with a mixture of mild embarrassment and overwhelming pride.
“These clips are beyond hysterical,” she says of videos of her first audition on a soundstage at Universal Studios. “We had to get on the stage and it was freelance. It was just like ‘shake it.’”
As the years went on, Wilson moved back to Utah and made staying in shape a priority. Her two sons, Hunter and Wyatt, both became accomplished athletes themselves. The team she cheered on as a teenager left Los Angeles for St. Louis in 1995, but returned to California in 2016. Wilson actually donned the team’s signature blue and yellow on the sidelines at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the Rams’ Monday Night Football game at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2019.
“We got the routine, we got to cheer at the game, but the Ravens killed us,” she laments of Baltimore’s 45-6 victory on national television.
It hasn’t been all roses for the cheerleading, karate-kicking (she’s also a blackbelt, by the way), actress-slash-ski instructor who grew up in the shadow of the Rose Bowl. The pandemic was been especially hard on her and her family, as both she and Jim lost work and fell into depression, straining their home life.
Wilson found comfort in losing herself at the gym.
“I started working out. I put my headphones on and I’m in Michele’s World, you know? I love training and being fit.”
If she’s able to pull it off and win the cover contest, her goal is to use the platform to work with battered and abused women, as well as children who have been involved in human trafficking. She feels that exercise and a positive mindset would do wonders for people who come out of a difficult situation, struggling with their self-worth.
“It’s time to give back,” she states. “I just love that, there’s no greater joy in my heart.”
That’s one goal. Her other goal is to build an audience of fitness fans on social media. She just needs to figure out how Instagram works.
“I need someone to help because I don’t know how to do it,” she admits with yet another laugh.