Wowza. It’s been four days and I’m still at a loss for words that truly describe the experience. While I spent nearly 16 weeks preparing for my first bikini competition at the Brooklyn Grand Prix, the surprises I faced throughout the process and particularly on the big day made this journey all the more amazing.
I’ll start with show day. As you can imagine, I barely slept Friday night. Still, I was up and raring to go early Saturday morning equipped with my base coat of spray tan and a rolling suitcase filled with everything from a pillow and blanket to rice cakes and peanut butter. Arriving at the venue before 8 am, I met three women in the gymnasium that served as backstage. We were all first timers competing in the novice category, and three of us also signed up for the 40 and older masters’ division. As the day wore on, I didn’t look at these women as my competition. I got to know them as fellow warriors who shared the same ups, downs, cravings and jitters I experienced through the prep process. Thanks to the tanning and “glamming” process that takes place in an open space with very little privacy, Stacey, Kelley and Melissa saw more of me than some of the friends I’ve known since grammar school. By the time we lined up to take the stage for pre-judging nearly six hours after we arrived, we were practically holding each other up – both literally and figuratively.
Once on stage, I put on my biggest smile and truly had a blast. Nearly four months of posing practice came down to less than 20 seconds of doing my thing in front of the judges, which you can see in the video below. The extra boost was having my fiancé, James, in the audience along with my coach, Jen, and a whole row of friends whom I’ve known from various stages of my life. They cheered, they clapped and even held up signs. To my show squad: James, Jen, Elisa, Keith, Jeannine, Barry, Molly, Jim, Rita Joan, Adam, Sue and Andrew – a huge thank you. Your presence, along with all the texts, emails and messages I received that day and those leading up to it from family and friends near and far still overwhelm my heart. My eyes are actually tearing up thinking about it as I write this post. As I regain my composure, you can check out my stage swagger:
After pre-judging ended, there was nearly a three-hour break before finals. During that time, I happily enjoyed every morsel of my first hamburger in four months and some downtime with some of the squad. The day ended around 9:30pm, and when it was time to go home, I didn’t want treats. I simply wanted to take a long shower. Sweat mixed with two coats of spray tan, glaze and bikini “bite”(the glue they use to help your bikini stay in place) had my skin feeling like a potential biohazard. After the shower and one glass of bubbly – which went straight to my head – I slipped into a blissful sleep and woke up to the most amazing realization: I had nothing on my agenda for the first time in 16 weeks. The only thing I had to do was rest, enjoy a couple of cheat meals and get to Church.
During Mass, I had a major emotional moment as I acknowledged how blessed I was to make it through this journey. Back in May, I set my mind to attacking the prep process like the other projects and assignments I’d tackled as a journalist and producer and followed through on the directives to meet my deadline. I pushed on through the cravings for wine and chocolate; the pain of a few injuries and less-than-optimal workouts and more than a handful of days of potential mental sabotage when self-doubt threatened to get the best of me. The hardest part of it all was how I missed spending time with family and friends and skipping all the usual social outings that define my favorite season of the year. However, it was those same friends and family members who checked in on me – some every single day – to offer words of love and support.
So now for one final and heartfelt thank you. To my parents, family, friends, readers, followers and fellow “fitfam” members: while this journey was extremely personal, I couldn’t have made it without a strong community behind me. I know some of you never understood why I wanted to be in a bikini competition, but you respected my decision to turn a dream into reality.
I am beyond happy to have crossed this item off my bucket list. Will I be back on that stage again? Probably. I’ll share more about post-show life next week. For now, I leave you with the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience: if there’s a goal you’ve had on the back burner for too long, stop making excuses and take a first step toward making it happen. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, so go big today. Taking a chance can be a game changer in this ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!