What Turning Pro Meant to Me

My first bodybuilding show experience was nothing short of overwhelming. I felt completely out of place and was in awe of all the incredible physiques I saw around me. Not only did the competitors look good, but so did many of the spectators. When it was time for the bikini division, I was absolutely mesmerized by the girls on stage. They looked fearless and powerful. Although I was too shy to talk to them after pre-judging, I was sure that the bikini division was meant for me. I promised myself that I would be on that stage within a year and I would take home the overall bikini title. I knew this was an ambitious goal, but I was never one to back down from a challenge. From that day forward, I was determined to train every day until that show.

I kept my word and trained as much as I could. Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to see changes in my physique. I decided to do a warm up show a year later which was about a month out from my “goal” show, the Oregon State. My first show didn’t go as planned as I walked away with third place. I felt incredibly disappointed and defeated, but I took the judges’ advice and continued to push for another 3 weeks. The day of my second show—the show I had seen a year prior—was both amazing and absolutely terrifying. This was the best I had ever looked. After pre-judging, I was told that I was probably going to win my class, but the person to beat in the overall was tough. The night show came around and when my name was announced as the overall winner, I was shocked. I knew at that moment that I had fallen in love with the bikini division as well as the process of working hard to improve for each show.

The 2013 NPC USA in Las Vegas was my first national show. While I was glad I placed (5th), I was once again disappointed in myself because I wanted so badly to be good enough to be a pro. As soon as I got home, I threw my trophy into the dumpster. I regret doing this now, but at the time it was the push I needed to light a fire beneath me. I took some time off and didn’t compete until mid-2014 at the Emerald Cup where I won my class unanimously. I then decided to take a few more months off and head east for my second national show in November at the National Championships in Florida. I walked on stage feeling confident as this was my best physique and was the first time I had a ham-glute tie in. My expectation of walking away with a pro card was shattered by a 4th call out and a 25th place finish. The feedback I received after my show was the hardest to swallow, but the best thing I could have heard. The judge didn’t like my hair, makeup, suit, posing, or physique. I walked away from that show feeling deflated and partially embarrassed. However, I knew anything worth having wasn’t going to come easy.

Once again I went back to the drawing board and didn’t step on stage again until the following year in July 2015 at the NPC USAs, where once again I took home 5th place. This time I didn’t throw away my trophy. The judges at this show didn’t like my look, especially my blonde hair. They also thought that my physique didn’t have what it took to go pro. I began to doubt myself as many of my friends who had been competing less than me were turning pro while I was still chasing my tail getting nowhere. It certainly didn’t help that I didn’t have a big team or a trainer to promote me and I lived in a small town in Oregon where national judges were scarce. I spent many days pondering what I would do or if I would ever compete again. I decided to give it one last go, but this time I would do it for me and have fun. If I earned my pro card, I wasn’t going to buy my way in by joining a team or hiring a big name person to promote me.

I kept to myself the following year as more and more people doubted my chances. In July 2016, once again at the NPC USAs, I got a first callout with a huge line up of seven competitors. I knew I got top 3 after pre-judging, but had to wait the following day until finals to know my final placing. It was an absolute bittersweet moment hearing my name as the winner of my height class and earning my pro card. I was beyond ecstatic and laughed the whole night. The reality of it didn’t hit me until the next morning when I woke up to an avalanche of texts, voicemails, emails, and messages and posts on social media from so many people. Reading every single message, I sat in my room crying, feeling so thankful for the love I was receiving. I came into this prep focused only on the negativity from the people who doubted me—I didn’t realize or see all the support from everyone who were rooting for me for so many years. That moment taught me several very valuable lessons: 1. Never ever give up on your dreams; 2. Don’t listen to the negativity around you; 3. Most importantly, we see what we want to see. I saw myself in the same light as my doubters, which was in the form of not being good enough. This affected how I saw myself and, ultimately, my results. Once I got rid of the negativity, I started to see changes.

Since turning pro, I’ve competed four times and will compete three more times this August. So far I’ve improved in every show. I work twice as hard now, but my attitude is a lot more positive. I’m not trying to prove to anyone but myself that I can do this. I’m not blessed with the best genetics and posing is not one of my strengths on stage, but I am progressing. Everything after earning my pro card is just icing on the cake. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to compete at the Olympia or the Arnold, but the shows I do don’t validate me.

If you have a dream, don’t give up on it. You will face obstacles and setbacks. You’ll have many moments of doubts and shed a few tears. You might feel alone in your journey and misunderstood by the world. But don’t give up on your dreams because nothing is worse than the regret of quitting or letting someone convince you that you’re not good enough to achieve it. I felt alone many times during my journey and I also shed many tears. Remember, it’s always the darkest before the dawn. You’re probably closer to your goal than you realize. When you think you can’t go any further, take a deep breath and take one more step and keep doing this until you achieve whatever it is that sets your soul on fire.