It’s never too late to pursue a latent dream. While Tatiana Boncompagni Hoover had a successful career as a writer – and her hands full with three kids at home – she could never shake her passion for fitness. After Hoover’s story about spending two weeks on a “Victoria’s Secret Diet” went viral, she used it as a jumping off point to launch a second career. The Model Trainer Method was born.
We spoke with Hoover about success, struggles, career change, social media, and how networking has helped propel The Model Trainer Method into fruition.
Full Name: Tatiana Boncompagni Hoover
Location: New York City
Current Title/Company: Co-Creator, The Model Trainer Method
Educational Background: Magna Cum Laude, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Your latest writing endeavor can seem on the surface like somewhat of a departure for you. Can you backtrack and tell us a little bit about how your career got started and your ambitions early on?
I became a journalist right out of college. I had an internship with the Wall Street Journal that led to a job with the paper in Brussels. After a brief stint working for a small newspaper in DC and a magazine in New York, I went to freelance and had my first child. After he was born, I kept up with my lifestyle writing and started working on my first novel. I liked the balance of the freelancing, which was entrepreneurial and kept me “out there” talking with people, and working on my novels (I’ve written three), which allowed me to really focus on the craft of writing and retreat or escape a little into another world of my own creation.
What were some of the hardest things about starting you career and how did you work to overcome those struggles?
Definitely balancing motherhood—I have three kids—with establishing myself as a writer. It’s a theme that’s come up a lot in my work—both the fiction and nonfiction—and why I think I’m a tiny bit obsessed with empowering women to go after their dreams. It’s so hard doing EVERYTHING day in, day out, and writing takes a lot of persistence and self-motivation. It’s emotionally draining! There’s a lot of rejection, too. What I’ve learned is that you have days when you are a great mom, you have days when you do great writing, but you can’t rock both at the same time. I’ve also learned not to take the rejection personally—that comes with confidence in yourself and your talent. There’s no mantra that will magically give you that. I think you have to earn that over time.
What did you learn from writing your fiction novels and the process of promoting them?
Writing your first book is like running your first marathon, at the beginning the task seems so daunting and impossible. But then you realize that it’s all just creating a schedule and putting in consistent effort. Like I would try to write 10 pages a day or something like that, and on my training schedule, I would do one long run a week and every week add a couple miles. Really not rocket science! Just consistent effort. Then you finish and you think, wow, this wasn’t so hard at all! In terms of promoting my books, consistent effort was also key. It’s a lot of work and 70 percent of it doesn’t get you anywhere, but you never know what is going to come through and what isn’t.
How did the Self story about training like a Victoria’s Secret model come about?
I was working at SELF as the food and lifestyle editor but also helping put together fitness stories for the team. I read about Heather on a designer’s website and was immediately intrigued by her bio. I asked the designer to put me in touch with Heather and she and I met one morning. We did one session together and, knowing her background working with Victoria Secret models, I came up with the idea of doing the classic two week “I tried it” story with her. It went viral and led to us partnering to create The Model Trainer Method.
Did you ever plan on getting into the fitness space beyond just interviewing professionals in the field?
It was my secret dream for a long time, actually. I was an athlete growing up and being good at sports was just an integral part of my identity as a child. I burned out when I was young and lost my taste for competitive athletics but I continued to exercise, running mostly, and discovered yoga right after graduating, so at a fairly young age and before it caught on the way it has now. I also started cooking for myself in high school, and was obsessed with watching cooking shows, even as a young girl. So long story short, doing what I am doing now actually makes more sense to me than anything I’ve ever done before now. At Self, when I would have meetings with healthy cookbook authors and trainers, I just felt in my gut that I should be doing what they do.
Can you tell us about The Model Trainer Method and starting Tone and Style? How did it come about? Who approached who with the concept? What were the early stages like?
Well, after I left SELF I decided that I wanted to start my own website. From the beginning I wanted Heather to come on board so we could offer women a “blueprint” to follow to get healthy. I was able to convince her to work with me—she and I have similar work ethics and very high standards—and we were off and running.
It’s not always easy to work with partners. Were there ever disagreements along the way and if so how did you go about solving them?
Of course, but what’s great about Heather (and I think me) is that we say what we mean at all times. We’re both straight shooters, hard-working, pragmatic. We’re doers. I think that’s what makes us work as a team. Plus, now we are also actually incredibly close friends.
How did you initially market The Model Trainer Method/Tone and Style? What platforms have been helpful in spreading the word?
We don’t spend any money on marketing or advertising. We market it through our site and on our Instagram and other social media channels. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to get some great press and that has been instrumental in spreading the word. Now we’re starting to see sales from word-of-mouth, which is what really excites me.
Most challenging part of running the company?
Time. There is so much to do and so little time. My goal this year is to be able to find more freelance writers to write for the website. Heather and I also plan to create another book this year. Four more weeks of workouts and more recipes.
How is your day-to-day life different since adopting The Model Trainer Method and starting Tone and Style?
My diet is more structured. The plan is built around 5 meals vs 3 meals and a snack, so I am better about eating intelligently. Thanks to my workouts, I’m stronger and leaner than ever and I have more energy, which is obviously important as a business owner and mom of three. I do work more and harder than ever now, but it doesn’t feel like work, it’s my passion. What’s gotten harder is shutting my brain off and stepping away from the computer at night and on the weekends.
Networking and mentorships are a huge part of most people’s success stories. Can you tell us about how each played a role in your career?
Networking is everything. The friends I’ve made over the years as a journalist have been instrumental in creating The Model Trainer Method. I worked with a photo director I’d met at SELF, for example. She found my graphic designer and our photographers. I also used a copy editor I worked with and a web designer I’d met through a publicist. I had a mentor when I was younger and would love to find another one, but I also get a lot of satisfaction from advising younger girls who are just starting out in their editorial careers.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Listen to your heart. It’s trying to tell you something.