You may not know her face, but you've surely seen Tamilee Webb's buns. Not to mention her arms, abs, and thighs. They grace the covers of the best-selling Buns of Steel tapes, which have sold nearly 10 million copies. Eight of the titles currently dominate Billboard's Health and Fitness Video chart.
In the flesh, the thirtysomething Webb looks not just athletic but downright sexy in cutoff overalls with a backless exercise top underneath. She's sporting a top-of-the-head ponytail, inspired by Pebbles (the only doll she owned growing up in Rio Dell, Calif.), and she's getting ready to teach a class at San Diego's Del Mar Workout. It begins this way: ''Hi, this is the 12 o'clock step class, and if you like it, my name is Tamilee. If you don't, you can call me anything you want.''
When it comes to moves, Webb knows her abs from her elbow. After receiving a masters in exercise science no kidding at Chico State in Northern California, she moved to San Diego, where her headquarters are still located (Webb lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, a plastic surgeon). ''When I moved [to San Diego] in '83, I lived in my car for about three weeks with my dog,'' she recalls. ''I was thinking, 'Okay, I'm as low as I can go.' Ever since then I kept focusing up.'' Over the ensuing decade Webb trained clients at the exclusive Golden Door spa in Escondido, Calif., wrote Tamilee Webb's Original Rubber Band Workout, and appeared regularly on the workout show ESPN Fitness Pros. But it's her first Buns video, released in 1991, that made her famous. ''On video,'' explains Webb, ''I offer so much in body parts that they can do what they choose, when they choose, in the privacy of their home.''
In her own home, Webb indulges in something that might surprise you. ''My absolute favorite thing,'' she says, ''is to lie in bed with my husband, my dogs, and my cat and watch movies. But I don't get to do it very much.''