My Journey: Bikini Competition

We are so proud of Shawnie! She completed her second bikini competition and placed in both her divisions. All her hard work over the past six to eight months paid off. However, no challenge comes without setbacks and trials. CaCera interviewed her about her journey to the stage and all the feelings in between.

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What was the biggest lesson coming out of your first competition that you took with you into this second competition?

  • Lesson One: If you need more time to train, take it. When I did my first competition, everything was new, and I didn't know what I was doing or how to ask for the help I needed. I had a coach to help with the workouts, but every other part of the training was a bit of a mess. I didn't anticipate the emotional roller coaster, the days that I wouldn't feel like working out, or how I would get tired of eating the same thing over and over. I spent a lot of time trying to go at it alone. To be honest, I needed more time to train.

  • Lesson Two: Take Stock of Your Resources. This time, I utilized all the resources available to me, and I was more in tune with the type of support I needed to succeed. While a lot of women have virtual coaches, I knew I needed a physical coach who would give me the push I needed, especially close to the show. While I love working out, I needed someone who was going to make me pick up the heavier weight, do the extra reps, and hold me accountable weekly even when I was exhausted. 

  • Lesson Three: Find Supplemental Workouts You Love. I also incorporated more functional workouts by taking additional classes at F45 in Los Angeles’ Arts District. One of my biggest concerns was changing my body in a healthy way so that I could better maintain my progress after the show. Going to the classes and sharing my journey with the trainers helped me get in the extra cardio and strength training sessions I needed when I didn't feel up to working out on my own. Again, it was about knowing where I may fall short and finding the resources to help.

  • Lesson Four: Prioritize Nutrition. I used a lot of hacks when it came to nutrition. I learned more about the macronutrients needed to get my body to change and used that information to help me choose foods that I actually like. When I knew I had a crazy week coming up and didn't have time to cook, I ordered from Kettlebell Kitchen, a delivery service that caters to athletes. I also incorporated healthy energy drinks like Celsius into my meal plan to give me an extra push at the end of the day.

2.     What was your biggest barrier or challenge for this competition? What did you feel most confident about?

Doing Way to Much

I had two major barriers: my work schedule, and negative self-talk. Earlier this year, I was doing the most. I was working my nine-to-five at a foundation, taught my first college class as a professor, I had a side gig as a wedding bartender, and our blog. To make it all work, I had to get up at 4:00AM to get in my cardio, and sometimes work out as late as 10:00PM to get in a lifting session. Most days, I was overwhelmed and tired, which took a physical toll on my body. Let's just say my body did not respond well to high cortisone levels caused by stress or the extra snacks I needed to stay functioning.

When my body wasn't changing, and at some points, I was gaining weight, the negative talk kicked in. I had feelings of self-doubt. To top it all off, I broke my finger halfway through training, and was ready to give up. Luckily, my coach, my friends, and my therapist all helped me push through those incredibly tough moments. Everyone was so supportive of my dream to get on stage that they wouldn't let me stay down on myself. I am forever grateful to those people for believing in me and lending me their positivity when I needed it the most. At some point, everything started working together, and I'm so happy to say I made it to the stage.

But I’m Stronger

Although my body wasn't changing as quickly as I would have liked, I was getting stronger and was in better shape than I had been in years. I made some tangible lifestyle changes to help maintain a healthy body from the inside out. We are all human, and there are always ways to improve. Even now that the show is over, I know that I can maintain healthy habits, although with a few more treats.

3.  As you hit the stage this time around, what was on your mind? What did you say to yourself to pump you up for this moment?

“Just have fun and the hard part is over. You are a winner because you made it to the stage and you look good, girl! I've invested so much, now is not the time to fall apart.”

4.  What is the best part of being on stage? 

Sashaying on stage and hearing my friends in the audience. They were the true definition of black girl magic, and the power of the "Yasss" was in full effect. It's hard to not feel like a baddie when your friends are yelling, "Yeah, she fine!" and "Come through melanin!" (Shout out to Ms. Andrea)

5.   What is one piece of advice you wish you had been given before you started this journey?

  • Preparing for a competition is mental, more than anything. It's a lot of fun but does require sacrifice, especially if you are a social person. For example, when I would go to a girl's night, I would bring my own food and sparkling water.

  • Be confident about sharing your journey and know when to ask for help. You may be surprised how many people will support you along the way.

  • Be kind to yourself. You are embarking on a path the average person would never attempt to do, so love on yourself and the body God gave you.

6. What is one song that embodies how you felt walking off the stage?

Rockstar by Rihanna

7.  Now that you've made it through your second competition, is there anything you would have done differently? What are you thinking of making your next challenge?

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, so I'll always feel like I could have done more. But, overall, I gave it my best shot, and I'm thrilled with the results.  As far as a next challenge, I may compete again and go for my pro card, pick up a new sport, I'm even considering doing a Spartan race. Whatever I decide to do, I'll definitely keep my Fit with Finesse family posted.

8.   What advice would you give regarding going the all-natural route? How would you describe the difference between the larger fitness competitions and the smaller/niche choice you made the second round?

One thing I learned is that every show is different, so for me, the size of the competition, more than anything else, made a difference. I was less overwhelmed, and I felt like I had more opportunities to connect with the other competitors. I think smaller competitions are great for beginners or practicing for bigger shows. Knowing that the competition was all-natural made me even more impressed with the other competitors.

9.  What do you hope others will take away from your journey?

I hope other people take away that you can truly do anything you put your mind to and that confidence comes from within.

10.   What changes could be made to make this a more open/welcoming/diverse experience? Or, do you feel the space is already diverse?

It's an interesting question. Competing is not a mainstream sport, but I think more people of color are considering it as an option. As I mentioned earlier, every show is different, so politics and favoritism can play a role in a persons' experience.

Also, depending on the division (Bikini, Figure, or Physique), I've noticed that certain body types seem to win more or place higher than others. I think the key is to find the right promoter and company that fits best for you.