Celeb Trainer Isaac Calpito's Free Instagram Workouts Are Tough: 'You're Sore,' says Kelly Ripa
Thousands of people —including celebrities — tune in to the daily Torch'd sessions, helping Calpito raise over $1 million for No Kid Hungry
On a recent Monday morning, inside his 65th floor apartment in downtown Manhattan, Isaac Calpito had plans.
First the former Broadway dancer-turned-celebrity trainer worked out a few clients via Facetime. Then at 11, as he's done just about every day since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, Calpito set his iPhone on a chair, turned the lens on himself, and started streaming over Instagram Live (@Isaacboots) the start of his highly entertaining, butt-and-stomach burning workout he aptly named Torch'd.
"Good morning," booms the broadly smiling Calpito, 40, clad in very tiny shiny black shorts, moving his shoulders back and forth to the rousing beat of Latin music.
And across the world, thousands of viewers aiming for a toned body and the entertaining sass of Calpito are tuning in to this pandemic body-conditioning diversion — including his celebrity clients Jessica Chastain, Kelly Ripa, Vanessa Hudgens, Lisa Rinna and Gwyneth Paltrow. The day he shared the screen with Hudgens, 250,000 people tuned in. The 45-minute classes remain on his Instagram, with a daily average viewership of about 35,000.
The fierce workouts, a combination including repetitive planks, push ups and leg lifts are free. But Calpito, who jokes and laughs through each session, asks one thing from his participants: consider donating to No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org), which provides free meals to children.
The day he live streamed with Ripa, they raised $125,000. Rinna and Hudgens have also appeared live to promote donations; on Nov. 27, he plans to share the screen again with Hudgens. So far, Calpito has raised over $1 million for the non-profit.
"We're all there to not only make our bodies fit and have this beautiful human connection, which is great for your mental health," he tells PEOPLE, "but also we're doing something big for kids who actually need it."
Those who have know Calpito admire his big heart and fun workouts. "He's just been an excellent person for all these years and he really deserves this attention," says Kelly Ripa, also a private client who has known Calpito for almost 20 years.
"Aside from the excellence of the workout, aside from the soreness and really being just an effective workout, he is entertaining," Ripa tells PEOPLE. "He connects with people and he somehow moves through whatever device you're watching him through and he is talking just to you, and you are having a one-on-one training session with Isaac, even if you've never met him, even if you don't know him."
Calpito had been doing in-person training in New York City, the Hamptons and Los Angeles when the pandemic hit. He left Manhattan and moved into an East Hampton home of a friend.
On March 17, Calpito live streamed his first Torch'd workout, with about 100 viewers. As it grew, he reached out to No Kid Hungry and created a link for participants to donate, if they could, rather than pay him.
"My first goal was $1000, and within 24 hours, we were at $10,000. And it was really, really cool," he says. "I thought, 'Why can't I just do something every day to help in some way.' I did not expect it to grow this much, but I am so happy. It's a beautiful way for me to meld what I do with where I came from, you know, I come from really humble, humble means."
Calpito grew up in a very small town in Hawaii with a single mom who worked three jobs, and a supportive grandmother. "We had no money growing up," he says. "There were times where I didn't know where that next meal would come."
He also loved to dance, but felt he didn't fit in with his "very Catholic, very religious" family. At school Calpito was bullied. With no money to take dance lessons, he watched Madonna videos and pretended to be her.
"I think, as a young gay gay boy and in very sort of conservative environment, it felt like she was sort of speaking to me, saying it's okay to be different," he says. "It's okay to be you, it's okay to follow your dreams."
The day after high school graduation, Calpito moved into the New York University dorm room of a friend, auditioned daily and after seven months landed his first show, the national tour of Mama Mia. By 2003 he was in the show's Broadway run. He then went on to the 2009 revival of West Side Story, working with its legendary writer, Arthur Laurents.
"It was a really special experience," says Calpito. "I feel that was the pinnacle, the quintessential Broadway show."
It was during the musical's almost two-year run that Calpito developed Torch'd, as way to way to stay fit for the physically demanding show.
"I would do it on the stage with my little boom box blasting, and the cast started joining in," he says. "And I was calling up orders and people are screaming and I'm laughing. And I really caught the bug then."
He then started choreographing, working with Brooke Shields, Hugh Jackman and Ariana Grande. From there, he grew his A-list Hollywood clientele. His current gig, he says, "feels like a beautiful combination of everything I've done."
Each Friday night at 9, Calpito live streams what he calls Torch'd After Dark. He pours himself a bourbon and meets people who take his class. "I did it because I didn't want it to feel like I was only shouting out my celebrity clients on Torch'd," he says. "I didn't want anyone to feel unheard, unseen. I get to hear their voices and see their faces."
One of those people is Kelli Kash, 49, who lives in a small Kentucky town and tunes in every day. A single mom who cares for two adult daughters with autism, Kash has found not only a physical challenge (she has lost 88 pounds from her highest weight of four years ago) but an emotional respite from the Torch'd community and Calpito.
"He's just so authentic. He is so genuine, but yet he's got such an incredible witty and snazzy humor about him and he just brings so much light," Kash tells PEOPLE. "He makes working out enjoyable. He's just made this whole pandemic more doable because you just sometimes just go stir crazy sitting in your house all day. He just brings so much light and love."