Al Sharpton Explains Why His Thirst-Trap Selfies Might Steal Your Great-Auntie

The Rev. Al Sharpton via Instagram screenshot

Listen, if you’re not following the Rev. Al Sharpton on social media, what are you doing with your life? Lately, the civil rights leader has been posting selfies like the one above, and while he thinks it’s just a harmless promotion of a healthy lifestyle, the internet, namely black Twitter, thought it was hilarious meme material.

“The Rev said, ‘I want y’all to catch this entire ’fit!’”

The selfies not only became a topic of discussion in The Root’s office, but rapper Nelly wanted to know who Sharpton was sending these images to, and jokingly suggested the legendary actress Cicely Tyson. So we got a bit of the Rev’s time and asked him why he’s posting these questionable selfies, is he indeed sending them to Tyson, why he thinks we’re all so concerned with his photos and so much more.


The entire conversation was lighthearted and hilarious, and we basically found out that Sharpton has no plans to stop snapping selfies; he even wants to use the influx of attention to focus on education. Sharpton told The Root: “I want to contribute not only to exercise but to study. I study a lot. I read a lot. I’m going to be sharing on Instagram my reading materials—a lot of books people ought to be reading that they’re not.”

He continued: “You take life seriously. I do a lot of morning meditations and reflections and prayer. I’m going to start putting all of that—since people are so interested in what I am doing, I’m going to do more!”

Check out the full chat with Sharpton here:

The Root: Did you know people were going to care this much about your gym selfies?


Al Sharpton: No. I had no idea. I’ve been posting for a while. I’ve got, like, on Twitter, 530,000 followers, and on Instagram, like, 65,000, so, I mean, I talk to a lot of people. A lot of the stuff that people are retweeting were done weeks and months ago.

But it seemed to have caught on this weekend when I did the Father’s Day posting. People went through the back history of stuff. What happened was, I’m up on Father’s Day and I said, “Let me show everybody I’m healthy.” I’m going to the gym and I’m going to do PoliticsNation live, and then I do a syndicated radio show live—I have a radio studio there in 30 Rock—and then I preach twice. I want to let them know that at 62, I can do that kind of tough schedule on Father’s Day.


I got up, I took the selfie and I went out of the gym and went on to 30 Rock, went to do my television show and radio show live, and then headed to Newark[, N.J.,] to preach twice—the mayor of Newark was there, the whole thing. I never thought anything about it. The next day, I wake up, it’s viral. [Laughs.]


Frankly, I thought a couple of posts I’ve done in the past—I did a thing one time in the studio where I showed I can still do the James Brown—I thought that was more viral than somebody wearing their workout stuff. I don’t know if was a slow media day or what!

TR: How does it make you feel, knowing people are so concerned?

AS: I think that it’s flattering at one level. It shows how society has too much time on their hands. Who should care what I’m doing? I don’t know many other civil rights leaders or even talk show hosts that they would even care about, but I guess that’s the flattery part.


The other thing about me saying they have too much time, I mean, are we really talking about [how] somebody going to work out is funny? It reminds me of last Thursday night: I went to join Michelle Obama, our first lady—or former first lady, I guess I’m supposed to say. She spoke at the Toigo [Foundation Annual] Gala. We were chatting backstage, and she said that we’ve become such a poison atmosphere that it’s controversial that she was really recommending healthy food for kids. Can you imagine that being controversial?

That’s how I felt! Is it really funny that you got a guy in his 60s telling people we ought to be healthy? That’s funny?


TR: Do you run your own social media?

AS: I am my manager. What would disappoint my trolls is that I don’t read a lot of the responses. But I post and do most of all my social media. Unless I’m hacked. If it’s in Russian, it wasn’t from me. [Laughs.]


TR: Nelly said something about the selfies and said we need to boycott Instagram until we find out who’s leaking your pictures.

AS: [Laughs.] Tell Nelly I support that. I don’t know who’s getting the old pictures. They don’t know what they’re talking about because they been up there for months.


TR: He also said, who are you sending them to, Cicely Tyson?

AS: I don’t know what he’s talking about. They would be surprised if Cicely also has Instagram and social media. In fact, she’s on mine. Me and her took a picture together not too long ago.


TR: We saw a video of you doing pushups against your desk. Can you explain why you decided to share that video? Because it looked like you were about to struggle through a one-armed pushup …


AS: What happened was, one of the people in my PoliticsNation staff said to me, “You work out every morning?” This was way before I did the workout post. And I said, “Yeah, I work out every morning.” They said, “You actually stay in shape?” And I said, “I can show you!”

I started doing pushups, and then I started to do the one, and I said, “No, I better not do that; I don’t know how far I can do that.” And then they were taping that. I didn’t want to try something I didn’t know if I could complete. I can do one-armed in the gym, but only about five to 10.


TR: What’s your diet regimen?

AS: I don’t eat any meat. I eat fish twice a week—Saturdays and Sundays. Other than that, all I eat is one large salad a day. I drink tea. I drink a fruit juice, freshly squeezed, that I get from Juice Press, and that’s it. I have one meal a day. I’ve lost 181 pounds, and I’ve maintained that. I work out about a half hour every morning. I do some weights. I press about half my weight, about 70 pounds, and I will do the elliptical stair-stepper for about 20 minutes while I watch the morning news. That’s research for me.


I have to be in shape! I’m not a guy that just does one thing. Most people my age are getting ready to retire. I need to work out; otherwise I’d be a nervous wreck.


TR: So you’re saying, “Get like me”?

AS: [Laughs.] I’m inspired by another New Yorker older than me who stays up all night. I stay up all morning into the night. I am fighting in every way against him—that’s Donald Trump.


I am saying get like me. I’m saying I started preaching as a little boy. I started early and I’m healthy late in life. I’ve defied both ends of the age spectrum, and I told TMZ that if Donald Trump, who is nine or 10 years older than me, can tweet in the middle of the night, I can selfie early in the morning. At least mine will be spelled correctly.

TR: What do you say to the people out there who tried to drag you on social media about your posts?


AS: I would say, thank you for your attention. Thank you for contributing to getting up my social media numbers, and you might have too much time on your hands managing my life, not managing your own. May you be as energetic and productive as I am at 62 years old.

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Danielle Young

Pretty. Witty. Girly. Worldly. One who likes to party, but comes home early. I got stories to tell. Prince (yes, that Prince) called me excellence. Achievement unlocked.