Armond Rashad is living his American Dream. He’s young, intelligent, handsome, physically fit, a fitness model, an entrepreneur, and now a reality TV star. Born and raised in Inkster, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit his road to success wasn’t always paved with gold. In his young life, he’s overcome some challenging things that changed the trajectory of his future for the better. He’s now on the right path, and he’s taking his entire squad along with him.
Rashad was recently cast in the original Oxygen TV series, “Last Squad Standing.” The show is about three groups of friends from around the country who live together, compete and ultimately vote each other off the show for a grand prize of $100K and the title of “Last Squad Standing.” The show premieres Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 9 p.m. EST on the Oxygen network.
Rolling out caught up with Rashad to discuss all of his success, from becoming an entrepreneur to now becoming a reality TV star. We talked to the young star about his road to success and his rise to fame. Check out the interview below to see what else he endured on his way up. Rashad is definitely a millennial to watch in the near future. So, be sure to check him out, along with his Detroit team on the new show.
Who is Armond Rashad? Briefly tell us about your journey and where you came from.
When people talk about the American Dream, I’m probably a small crystallization of that coming true. I came from a truly lower class family in a city where the average person makes $22K a year. Born and raised in Inkster, Michigan, and at 18 I went into the Bizdom U program with Dan Gilbert. I was recruited by that program to become an entrepreneur and I was there for two years. After that, I went to Wayne State and played college football then I pledged Kappa, Alpha Beta chapter, a prestigious Black fraternity. And from there, I teamed up with one of my fraternity members, Terrence Thompson-Reeves, and Shawn Blanchard and we created a fitness movement [Run This Town and Networking Out] in Detroit, a city that’s designated as the fifth most unhealthy city in all of America. After working in corporate [America], I realized I wanted to do my own thing. And now at this point, I’ve successfully transitioned myself all the way into fitness arena. After only spending a year in the fitness arena, I’m actually buying my own facility. In the grand scheme of things, I think that’s what America is actually all about, opportunity.
Describe two game changers of your journey.
I can think of three big game changers for me. The first is when the incident happened when my best friend shot a guy on my baseball team multiple times in front of my mom’s house in Inkster, and he got sent away for a very long time. It was a very pivotal time in my life, and that was the moment when I decided like, look I’m just going to be the athlete that I am. Prior to that, I was fascinated by guns early on, I was in this rebellious place in my life. And that was when I determined I was going to be the athlete guy, the jock. I used to try to get out of [baseball] practice early and go hang out with the guys who were “living the good life” because at the time that’s what I thought it was. But after that, I changed the direction of my life for good. Sports essentially changes my life.
Another big highlight was being able to go into Bizdom U Program, which was Dan Gilbert’s Entrepreneurship Academy. I was one of two people to ever get in straight out of high school, and it was the second year of the program. So, at that time there were only about maybe 11 or 14 people in the entire program. And what it did, on a very high level, is it let me interact with a billionaire, which most people never get the opportunity to do. At 18, it let me see how he conducted business, how he conducted himself, his work ethic, and even the idea of being able to receive emails directly from him, have conversations with him, have dinner with him, all these different things with him I think shaped my trajectory and shaped what I wanted to become. So, really seeing how Dan Gilbert had that crazy “motor,” and how he worked tirelessly, even with a billion dollars, and that’s when I realized that success is not necessarily a thing you accomplish, success is just habits. What are you doing day to day? That decides if you’re successful or not.
You’re now a co-owner of one of the most popular gyms in Detroit, JABS Gym in the Eastern Market. Why did you decide to purchase the business and why now?
Success in the fitness industry is ranked on your ability to keep people active and get them in great shape. I think what JABS has is real human interaction. So, the reason why people have a gym membership and don’t go is because it lacks human interaction. When you go to those different gyms, no one really cares if you don’t show up or not. There’s no real relationship exchange. After you get your membership, you’ll probably never talk to the person who sold you your membership again. Unless you’ve paid for a personal trainer there or you get a personal trainer there, you don’t really have a person that really has an interest in you coming. That person [who sold you your membership] is just an hourly paid person. There’s no real relationship there. I think what JABS has is that every class you come to here, there’s a trainer or someone there waiting on you. The hugest part is the accountability and the personal touch. So, if you missed a class, we would know. What happens is you have a person that’s here every day that’s like “Oh, hey Porsha. Good to see you. Where were you last week?” That way, you feel like somebody’s in it with you.
That’s very understandable. But why purchase the gym? Why not just work there?
Jay Z had a cool line in the [DJ Khaled] song “I Got the Keys.” He said, “N—as always ask me the key. Until you’re on your own, you can’t be free. Until you’re on your own, you can’t be me. How we still slaves in 2016?”I really want to be somewhere where I can really affect the way business is handled. And I can’t do that without being an owner. You just can’t.
Got it. So, you’re not only this fitness guru who came from the bottom up, started a fitness movement with some other motivated brothers, purchased a gym and is changing peoples lives on a daily basis, you’re now a budding TV star. Tell us how your reality star role came about.
The “Last Squad Standing” reality show is a show that brings together teams for the ultimate “squad on squad face off.” It’s a competition to see which squad wins the $100K grand prize. It came about when my friend Mike Merrill, who I knew from college, came to the gym and shot a short film here. He asked me if he could use my gym to shoot a short film, and I said sure. He’s an actor, he lives in Atlanta now. So, they shot a scene here [at JABS] and I was the trainer in the scene. And when we were interacting, he says, “Man, I forgot how electric your personality is. I’m trying to do this show, and you need to be one of the people.” And I was like, “I don’t know about this TV show, I’m just a fitness guy, I’m a business guy, I don’t know.” So, he was like, “Just hop on the conversation, and let’s just talk. OK?” And the people we talked with were NBC and the Oxygen network. And we’re doing these Skype interviews and they fly us out for more interviews. All the while, the networks are interviewing teams from all these different cities, but who ends up making it are the teams from Detroit, Baltimore, and New Jersey. Originally, there were three guys and two girls on the Detroit team. I added Charmaine in there, which was Mike’s ex-girlfriend because I thought it would make for interesting TV. They had this kind of interesting relationship where they clashed all the time. So, I lobbied for Charmaine to come on the show. And as we’re doing these interviews, NBC and Oxygen pick up on the fact that Mike and Charmaine had this interesting kind of animosity toward each other. As a result, they end up switching the teams, two guys, three girls: Mike and I, Charmaine, Nastashia and Nikia. And before we knew it, they were like can you guys be out here by this date, and they sent us flight information and after a bunch of interviews and photo shoots, we were in Agoura Hills near Calabasas and L.A., doing the TV thing.
Photo gallery credit: Porsha Monique for Steed Media