To celebrate and honor Black History Month in the month of February, we asked our fabulous women of color who represent our #PinkBoxSquad to send us their favorite stage shot, the one where they felt most beautiful, most proud, and most special, and to write a quote/caption about how they felt in that exact moment. Then, to elaborate- how do they feel like the sport of bodybuilding needs more color? Have they ever felt discriminated against/or placed differently at a show because of their race? Lastly, to give us a word or phrase that sums up how they feel they represent women of color in the sport. Here is what they have to say!
“If this moment has taught me anything it would be this… Always believe in yourself and always stretch yourself beyond your limits. Your life is worth a lot more than you think because you are capable of accomplishing more than you know. You have more potential than you think, but you will never know your full potential unless you keep challenging yourself and pushing beyond your own self imposed limits.” ~ Roy T. Bennett
When I first started competing, I was told that the bikini category favored women who looked like Barbie. That I shouldn’t expect to do well in shows. That I needed to wear my hair straight to look professional and compare well to the other girls. This past year, myself and other women of color have proved those statements to be false. 6 of us made it to the most prestigious stage in the sport. Showing that we can achieve great things in the sport. Hopefully this year we will continue to further diversify so that there isn’t a stereotype for the sport.
The green suit was December 2018, and the blue suit was March 2019. This was the most meaningful and most special preps I’ve ever done. Usually, I prepare for a competition by myself and it’s very lonely-I’m the only one in the whole house dieting. This time, Frank prepped with me and we competed TOGETHER. We hit 3 shows and it was the most fun I’ve ever had! Frank hadn’t competed for 12 years before this, so I like to think I had a hand in him ending his “12 year bulk” and getting his “stuff” together to make it to the stage :)
In these particular moments on stage, I felt the best I’ve ever felt. I felt so powerful, and so confident. Maybe because in those moments, I realized the journey that took us to get to these moments. There were days where Frank had to pick me up, and vice versa. We had to literally be strong for one another.
Even though I felt magnificent for my own journey and stage time, it was a different kind of feeling-a better kind of feeling-when it was my turn to sit in the audience and cheer for my man, who had just finished cheering for me! That feeling is indescribable!
I absolutely love working out, living a healthy lifestyle, and competing! However, I do sometimes notice that there’s not as many of my ‘sisters’ getting it in the gym, let alone competing. One of the things that discourage Black women from working out: their hair. Our hair IS special, our hair IS delicate, and our hair IS work. But it shouldn’t be the catalyst for not working out. Maybe being an African-American athlete...shining on stage, in a teeny bikini, with glamorous makeup, and in sky-high heels...I can show others that you CAN workout and still be fabulous!
I think there’s also the notion that you have to fit into the industry standard of having long, flowing locks in order to be successful. THIS IS NOT THE CASE! Dee Cannon rocked a gorgeous natural Afro and won her pro card! IFBB Pro Natoshia Coleman now sports a pixie cut and kills the game! I’ve seen all kinds of hairstyles on stage from locs, to weaves & extensions, to shaved heads and guess what-they’re ALL Beautiful! Rock what you got, mama!
If I had to sum up in one word how I feel I represent the African-American community in bodybuilding, I would say “with dignity”. Because I have children, It is extremely important to me to remain respectful and classy (even though the suits are revealing lol) not only do I hope to be a positive and authentic role model to women and other moms, at the end of the day, I have 5 little ones that look up to me and watch my every move. I am proud to be a strong, black woman!
“In this moment I realized I had accomplished a huge dream of mine and no matter what happened at the end of the day—I was so proud of myself for pushing through all obstacles it took to get me there.”
I do see more black women entering the bodybuilding industry and I think its a beautiful thing. What I don’t see much of in particular is the equal representation of black women in bodybuilding industry (and media in general). I think that there can be more exposure highlighting black female athletes and I’ll go as far to even say in the bikini division in particular. For the most attainable, achievable, dare I say “desired” look in women’s bodybuilding-black women are not nearly as celebrated as their counterparts for example.
The best way I can explain this is using this example: Look at the cover of a magazine (Cosmopolitan) and flip through it. Look at who is on the cover and who is represented within it. Then I ask you to look at another (Elle) and a third (Vanity fair) to compare. I ask anyone to do the same watching one hour of basic television; who is the lead character? What stories/experience do they share? Can you relate? Have you ever noticed that we are subliminally taught that black skin is not beautiful or worthy of recognition? Have you ever noticed We are subliminally taught that Black skin is not worthy of the opportunies lighter skin tones are— think about it-movie leads, magazine covers, interviews, photoshoots, and if you can imagine—this reality extends to real life situations aswell—job opportunities, livelihood etc.
The issue of representation speaks to individuals Being/ feeling seen— and feeling EQUAL is a huge part of anyone’s identity..I believe there is so much power in story telling and I feel like black stories, experiences, proof our success in industries is missing— with the influence small companies and large corporations have to promote their brands to the masses using these stories to help people connect-lack of diversity reigns today in 2021. I hope I can be part of the change one day...
“Instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you. Let them inspire you. Let them make you even hungrier to succeed.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
After being away from the stage for almost 3 years. The fear of the unknown ran through my mind. Not knowing if the physique I brought to the stage was enough even though I put my heart and soul to get there. When I realized that all the work was done and I no longer could worry about things not in my control I was able to breathe again. I knew that my past did not define me and my placings from my previous competitions was just another part of my journey to get here. It inspired me to just go on stage and give it my all and that’s exactly what I did. I love competing and every time I step on stage I never want to forget that and every time I get off stage I want to leave knowing I did my best. Leaving no stone unturned.
I feel as though the bodybuilding community is very diverse. I’ve personally never dealt with discrimination or placed differently because of my race. Every competition I’ve done the place I received I earned it and it was solely on my physique and not my race. I love this sport because regardless of color we all come together as one to do something we love. Something that people outside of the bodybuilding community will never understand. I’ve met a lot of amazing people through this sport and have never experienced any discrimination.
I feel like I had conquered a goal I wasn’t sure was ever going to be reached. 2020 was an overwhelming year, especially as a nurse, and taking one day at a time truly earned a new meaning. Hitting the stage with my strongest pose was euphoric.
I feel I’ve earned every placing on stage regardless of what the judges might take a guess at if they attempted to guess my race. My physique is all that matters in those moments, the work I’ve put in is confirmation to me, and the placing are absolute.