The History Behind the Gunz: Danielle Tolbert Finds Strength After Abuse

By Jill Farr
Danielle Tolbert, @danigeturgunz,


Dani Tolbert is best known for her chiseled arms (the inspiration for her website name, and willingness to be real with clients and the world; the GORGO photo shoot that showcases her stretch marks is routinely the most popular post on her site.

But there’s a part of Dani’s past that isn’t so well known. A segment of her life that she believes prompted the drive to build strength in her life, both inner and outer.

“I was in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship,” Dani says. “Before I met my now-husband.”

While in college, Dani was involved with a man who abused her; it’s a segment of her life that drove her to the depths, and challenged what she thought she knew about herself.

“As strong as I am, as a person, that weakened me,” Dani says. “In so many ways. It tore me down and I had to start over. People who know me now would have a hard time thinking of me as an empty shell, but I was.”

Surviving that abuse gave Dani a heart for people who are struggling, in many different areas.

“I have strong feelings about this; so many people don’t talk about it. It damages your personality. It stripped away my personality. I had to find myself again.”

Finding herself involved getting fit, and as her physical body got built up, Dani could see a correlation with her inner strength.

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“I think that when I was able to set goals and do something just for me, it kicked in…a sense of accomplishment,” Dani says. “I think it was something I could do for myself, after getting out of that abusive situation. Finding out that I have things I can do, and do well.”

There was also a redemptive feeling to actually getting physically strong, that Dani believes she needed.

“When you’re a little person like I am, and someone is four times your size and doing this to you…you do have a desire to be strong,” she says. “You feel like, being strong inside and out is a valuable thing to have. It’s not just a look, it’s not just about having biceps that pop, it’s about feeling good about yourself. So many people feel like they’re not worthy.”

Showing clients and others their worth involves a certain amount of transparency for Dani. A hallmark of hers is the willingness to share the reality of her life, along with the achievements.

“GORGO’s pictures of me and my stretch marks are my most shared, and my most related-to posts,” Dani laughs. “People think I’m perfect, that I have it all together when they see certain photos; these are the whole truth. What is the goal of trying to be perfect? I want people to see me and think, “I can do that, too. She’s posting pictures of herself, and she has stretch marks…I do too!””


That willingness to share the not-so-perfect side of her physical reality is mirrored in Dani’s desire to be open about the struggles she’s had inwardly, as well. Her site contains her stories about the battle she’s had with postpartum depression, and it’s her hope that sharing some of the darkness of her past can inspire others to persevere, and overcome their own.

“I want people to know that I’ve been through hell, too,” Dani says. “Things from my childhood, that early relationship…there are a lot of things that caused struggle in my life.”

Dani’s heart for helping others is transmitted mostly through her online fitness presence and the personal training she offers, but she sees that as a vehicle for the inner healing that can take place when you take charge of your health and fitness.

“I want to help people figure out why they’re having problems, why they can’t do this or that,” Dani says. “I feel like if you don’t feel good about yourself, a six pack won’t help you feel better.”

Although her business is helping others transform their physical bodies, Dani keeps the focus on the inside, and the proof of that was tested recently, when she suffered a serious dog bite on one of her famous arms.


“When I came home with my arm all wrapped up,” Dani relates, “My 12 year old son said, “Maybe we should get those guns insured, Mom!””

While his comment was good for a laugh, Dani uses that example to reiterate that the outer manifestation of her hard work isn’t the real reason she does it.

“This is just a part of me,” she says, of her physical image, “It doesn’t define me.”

“It helps me feel strong, and helps me feel good about myself, but it’s not my life. If my biceps had been torn up, I would have made it. I would have been okay.”

The focus on inner strength is something Dani hopes comes through in her training, and is the reason behind her honesty and openness about her not-so-perfect life.

“I feel like I help people by showing them that I’m not perfect,” she says. “I’m an open book, and if it helps, I’m happy. I have a strong heart for women in abusive relationships, and I want to prove that I’m not superhuman, like some people think I am.”

“I just want people to be healthy inside and out. Emotionally as well as physically.”