Can you briefly tell us about yourself (where you were born, how it was like growing up, profession, education, where you live, etc.)?
I was born in Chicago, Illinois, with my father a doctor and my mother a nurse. I had a great life, a big home with a beautiful yard, a car at age 16, and my college education paid for; things so many of us take for granted. I took ballet, tap, and jazz from age 4 until 13. I then auditioned for high school and college poms and was even on our first pom squad in 8th grade. I later auditioned for and was hired to cheer for The Luvabulls, The World Champion Chicago Bulls in 1994-1995. I graduated from Iowa State University in 1994 with a B.S. in Fashion Merchandising. I worked for Nordstrom for 7 years in various capacities and then I was hired to work for Claire’s in their corporate buying offices. I was later hired to go with a buyout to California with a cosmetic company, so I commuted back and forth for about a year and later was hired by Conair, based on the east coast, where I worked from home and traveled to corporate as needed. So as you can see, I have had several opportunities in other parts of the country, but for me, there is no place like Chicago.
When did you first find interest in the fitness industry? What and/or who inspired your decision to go into fitness modeling and compete?
I have worked out since college, but not like I do today. Meaning, I lift 4-5 times a week, whereas I was doing cardio 4-5 times a week back in the day. What a difference steel makes! Upon graduation, I joined Bally Total Fitness and worked out after work. I loved it. It wasn’t until my mid-late 20’s that I started to focus on lifting vs cardio. BTF had a performance team, I auditioned, made it, and was hired to perform at various club grand openings, charity events, city events, and more. While on the team, some members competed, which sparked my interest. I entered my first fitness competition in 2001 for my passion and love of performing dance and the stage. The industry is so different today, almost a bit toxic. Many people are stepping on stage for the wrong reasons. I guess a better way to put it is for narcissistic reasons. What’s in it for me? I want to go Pro, I want to get sponsored, I want to be a model. Modeling fell into my lap in 2003 with my first paid photo shoot for AT&T and then with various photographers at fitness competitions. Who would have thunk that over 10 years later I would have a world title, my IFBB Pro card, in TV infomercials, commercials, shows, and traveling the world competing and touring while representing industry giant, Bodybuilding.com. I got into the industry for my love of fitness health and dance, and I stayed because of the amazing opportunities I worked hard for and to be an ambassador for many.
You hold several titles as a fitness competitor, such as IFBB Bikini Pro, Ms. Bikini Classic Universe 2009 Champion, Ms. Fitness Illinois 2004 and 2007, and Midwest Fitness Festival 2004 and 2007 Champion. How has it been being able to achieve these titles?
Not easy. I have wanted to give up many times. I am so glad I didn’t. So my message to each of you reading this: Hold on one more day, one more week, one more month, or even one more year. You’ll be amazed at what happens with a lot of perseverance.
Apart from being a fitness model and competitor, you are also a NASM CPT for LifeTime Fitness, a Chek Holistic Lifestyle Coach, a group exercise instructor, an author-in-progress, and a soon-to-be radio host. How has it been having the opportunity to work with different clients and have any of them influenced you in regards to your own health and fitness?
My clients are better than any textbook! They have taught me so much; I know I have taught them as well. My clients’ stories inspire me daily! I love my job and the people I work with. We influence one another, it’s great.
With multiple careers in fitness, how do you make time to juggle everything and also workout? What is the most challenging part?
I juggle just like everyone else and make it happen. At this point in my life, I don’t complain much. I lost my father in 1996, my mother in 2012, and went through a divorce in 2010. I have lost a lot, so I do not get stressed easily. If I miss a workout, I don’t stress over it. I know I will get back on track, plus, sometimes that day off is exactly what I need. Same thing with eating…I rarely go off track, but if I do, I get back on it and am consistent.
With living a healthy and fit lifestyle, what does your daily diet look like? Do you give yourself “cheat days”? What are some of your favorite clean recipes that you would like to share?
My book comes out later this year, and it will discuss my health history and how I turned it around with proper consistent nutrition and supplementation. The gym is great, but it wasn’t until 2006 when I stumbled upon my Integrative Chiropractor that my health turned around for good. I was sick for over 3 decades and getting sicker and sicker on Rx and OTC. I got off all my meds, started eating the right foods, took the right supplements, and my health has never been better. I rarely cheat because of the repercussions and yes, I do have my favorite healthy cheats. Here is one:
Raw Coconut Date Bars
• 1 bag pitted dates
• 1 cup raw pecans or almonds
• 1/2 cup raw coconut flakes
• 2-3 scoops of your favorite chocolate protein powder (I use Olympian Labs chocolate pea protein)
• 3 tbs coconut oil
• Add all ingredients into a Vitamix or food processor
• Mix well until smooth, not chunky
• Scoop into dish and press flat, sprinkle top with coconut flakes
• Put in fridge for a few hours, cut into bars and serve
What does your training routine consist of? (Please include a few details – training split, sets/reps, exercises, types of cardio, etc.)
I always mix it up! I weight train 4-5 times a week hitting different body parts, mixing up reps and sets, and using a variety of tempos and equipment. I only teach 1 hour of cardio kickboxing a week. I teach Pilates Reformer with my clients and I also take 1 hot yoga class a week. As I have gotten older, I wish I would have started mind/body classes in my 20’s. Everybody needs them and can benefit since we beat ourselves up daily in life and in the gym.
In addition to your diet and training, do you believe in supplements? If so, which kinds do you use and what results have these given you?
Yes, I believe in supplements. However, I am particular about the brands I use. I am now sponsored by Olympian Labs, they are sold on Bodybuilding.com. In 1992, two health-conscious bodybuilders started OL looking for safe, effective health supplements that lacked artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives. When they realized how difficult it was to locate such products, they decided to start their own company, which became Olympian Labs. Over their 20 year history, Olympian Labs has expanded dramatically. They produce more than 200 products, expanded into the professional sphere with our Prescribed Choice Line, and worked to bring targeted formulas to the national stage. OL’s reputation for using innovative formulas and ingredients has made us a leader in the supplement industry.
Looking back to when you were a cheerleader for the World Champion Chicago Bulls, is what you have accomplished now what you envisioned back then?
Well yes and no. I always said I was going to cheer for the Bulls in college, people asked me all the time. SMS was not around back then…I went to the auditions making several cuts. I came home and told my parents I made it, I never told them I was going to audition. I guess I am still like that in many ways. I don’t like to toot my horn until things come to fruition. I also know that my mindset is still the same and is why I have accomplished so much. I always believe and know I can before I do. That’s half the battle. So many doubt themselves.
As a personal trainer, what advice would you give someone who wants to transition their life towards a more healthy and fit lifestyle, but don’t know where to start?
I guess I have no advice to give, just questions to ask…the main one “What are you willing to change to transition to a fit and healthy lifestyle?” Many people want it and that’s great, but not everyone is ready to make those changes, that’s OK. Timing is everything. One more question: “What obstacles have gotten in the way or would get in the way of transitioning to this type of lifestyle?” Many people hit the same walls for decades. A healthy lifestyle has a lot to do with having a healthy relationship with oneself and many do not have that. I often suggest therapy in consults if people share with me walls in life that they keep hitting.
What are your future plans and goals? Do you have any competitions coming up?
I retired in October of 2012. Bodybuilding.com flew me to Prague to compete where I placed 5th and won prize money. Then the Sheru Brothers flew me to Pune, India a few days later, which was officially my last IFBB bikini competition and ironically my deceased father’s birth city. So bittersweet ending my career there and placing 5th again with prize money!
So, now that I accomplished all I set out to do and more, it’s time to continue to focus on my personal training business at LifeTime, my book, and my radio show.
Lastly, any shout outs and where can we find you on the Internet?