“The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.” 
-Osho, Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously

Being a competitor since 2012, I’ve received plenty of feedback from head judges, panel judges, show sponsors, show promoters, as well as my inner circle of friends and coaches. At first, all I heard was that I needed more conditioning, should work on my posing, and had to develop bigger glutes. Now, my feedback can change vastly from one show to the next faster than you can flip a light switch. I used to hang on to every single word from the judges and those around me in an attempt to make everyone happy. At the next show, I’d bring what they wanted, but I would then receive completely opposite feedback from what I was told at my last show. Once again I would go back to the drawing board. Show after show I repeated this tail-chasing cycle. I beat myself up mentally over this dilemma, trying to figure out what the judges wanted my physique to look like. 

I thought maybe other bikini competitors would have the answer since I most definitely did not. When I asked for advice from a wide cross-section of amateur, national, and pro bikini competitors, I found that they were just as lost as me. Some were at the point of wanting to quit, others were driving themselves crazy dealing with the feedback, and others felt defeated. All of us felt like we were in a never ending quest to find this unrealistic look that each and every one of us dreamed of achieving. 

In 2016, I came close to retiring. I was tired of beating myself up over the fact that I couldn’t bring the look that the judges wanted. I pretty much gave up and decided to train the way I wanted in order to sculpt my physique the way I thought it should look. I would give a national level show one more shot before I hung up my heels for good. That show in July 2016 was supposed to be my last show, but I came to a realization when I won my class unanimously and walked away as an IFFB Pro. I realized that the judges’ ideal bikini shape were opinions, not facts. At any show, there are usually 5-7 judges, each with a different opinion on what they think that category should look like. There are also anywhere from 5 to 50 plus competitors in that class, each with a different look. If the majority of the women are lean, then a leaner physique usually wins. The opposite is also true if the look is full and round. You may be too soft or too lean for one show and place almost dead last, but bring the same exact look to another show the next weekend and win the whole thing. 

The bikini division is one of the hardest divisions to judge because it’s not just based on your physique. The judges are looking for the whole package which includes a great physique in addition to hair, makeup, skin complexion, suit color, posing, and poise. It’s basically a muscle beauty pageant. I’ve realized that if you bring what you feel is your best physique to the stage, then your confidence will make you stand out to the judges. While being overly lean or carrying too much muscle can hurt your overall placing, a wining physique comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, the current Miss Bikini Olympia, Angelica, is very curvy and has very full muscle bellies. Compare her to another competitor, Casey Samsel, who is rather tall and streamlined like a model. Both bring very opposite physiques, yet both are very successful in the bikini division. 

I used to obsess over some of the reasons why I didn’t win or place higher, but now I just laugh because I’ve gone farther than most would have imagined. Some of the comments from judges over the years included:

  • You’re too tall, your height throws your symmetry off on stage as you don’t blend in with the other girls.
  • Your blond hair hurts you, maybe try going brunette to make you look different and wear red lipstick.
  • You have an all-American look which doesn’t make you look unique.
  • I don’t like your suit color, it blends in too much.
  • Your suit color is too bright and stands out too much.
  • Your waist is too wide, try bringing it down a few inches.
  • Try posing more sideways to hide your wide waist.
  • You lose your overall physique shape when you pose sideways.
  • Your abs are too lean, but your glutes are too soft. Soften up your abs and tighten up your glutes.
  • Your upper glutes are too full up top and it makes you look too wide and box shaped from the back.
  • Your upper glutes are not full enough and you need to develop them more.
  • Your blonde hair makes you look like you belong in an 80’s rock band.
  • I don’t like your straight hair, try curling it to soften up your look.
  • Your curled hair makes you look not as polished, I suggest wearing it straight.
  • Your upper half is too big and doesn’t match you lower half.
  • Your shoulders are too small, you need to bring them up to balance out your symmetry.
  • You’re tall, own it and stand straighter. Don’t be afraid of your size.
  • Wear lower heels to make you shorter so you will look more like the other girls height.
  • You just don’t have what it takes to go pro, but you’ll be competitive at the amateur level.
  • Your abs are too prominent on stage.
  • Engage your abs more on stage especially your outer oblique.
  • You look great and I would bring the same look to the next show, don’t change a thing.

A lot of my feedback contradicted one another from show to show or from judge to judge. Now, I still ask for feedback, but I take it with a grain of salt. I no longer lose sleep over it or let it stress me out like before. I placed 14th, 13th and 7th in my rookie year as a pro, and placed 6th, 6th, 4th and 10th in my second year. Coming from an all-American girl who is too tall, has blonde hair, blue eyes, no team, and no big named trainer with a wide waist, I’d say I’ve done ok. I’m here to tell you that anything is possible if you’re willing to put in the work and keep at it.