Greater Columbus Convention Center
400 N High St.
Columbus, OH 43215
Written and Photographed by Doreen Dawkins
This is my first year attending the Arnold Sports Festival. I heard horror stories of the lack of close parking, and the number of people who attend (over 200,000). I decided to park and walk. No issues. On Friday I stayed in the free area and on Saturday I bought a ticket for the Expo ($20).
I encountered several people of color competing and performing. Here is the order in which I talked to them.
Tell me about what you do.
I’m a Christian hip hop man. I love to be able to put this out for the family. There is a lot of music out there that isn’t positive. I decided to take this to the next level and put it out there for people to enjoy.
How long have you been doing this? Where do we buy your music?
I wrote my first song when I was 14. I attended a Christian camp and learned the basics of Christian hip hop from my mentor. I have been writing ever since then. I went national about five years ago. I have been performing throughout the city and across the states. I am the four-time Ohio hip hop award winner for best holy hip hop artist in Cleveland in the Ohio hip hop conference.
You can buy my music anywhere digital, i.e. iTunes, spotify, etc.
Advice for the next generation?
Stay original. There are too many copy cats, too many trendy things. Be consistent and persistent in what you love to do.
Anything you would like to add that I didn’t ask you?
Real Music Records is a Christian Hip Hop record label based in Columbus Ohio.
What did you just do and how long have you been doing it?
I have been a power lifter for about three years. I am in the 63 kg weight class.
Kg? How many pounds?
Powerlifting is squat, bench, and deadlift. You lift as much weight as you can for one repetition. You get three tries for each lift. You want the third attempt to be your best lift. The goal is for that lift to be the highest you have ever done in your life.
I have been doing this for three years. My biggest meet thus far has been this past June. I competed in the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) World Championship. That is where they take one person from each weight class from the country and you compete against other countries. I became a world champion this past summer. We competed in Calgary, CA.
Today I did my best squat thus far 358 pounds, a 182-pound bench press, and a 420-pound dead lift. That is almost my best. My best dead lift is 425 pounds.
Tell me about your workout and nutrition.
Power workouts take a long time. You lift a heavy weight and then, recover for three or four minutes. A typical workout is between two hours and two hours and forty-five minutes. I work out between four and five times a week.
There is some leniency for eating as a powerlifter. If you are not too much over weight, it is easy to make weight with a water cut. I count my macros. I am lenient. I have pizza and fried food, and I drink alcohol sometimes. You must watch what you eat; but, not be strict.
Sidebar: I had to look up macro. It is short for macronutrient. It consists of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Tell me about the weight fluctuation.
If you are over 138.6 pounds, you don’t compete.
Are you local?
No, I’m from northern New Jersey.
Do you work out alone, are you part of a team, a specific gym?
I workout by myself. I have an online coach that gives me the workout to do. He checks in on me. I send him my lifts via recording. I did used to work out at a gym called East Coast West Coast, then I moved to Powerhouse gym. I lift by myself but there are a lot of power lifters around me.
Is this an all-natural competition?
There are two divisions. There is a Raw division. You must be all natural. Raw also means all you have for equipment for the squat is knee sleeves (the thing covering our knees) and a belt. In the multi ply division, the shirt or the deadlift suit gives you assistance so the lifts should be heavier. USAPL (USA Powerlifting) in general is an all-natural federation. There are different federations that are not USAPL where they don’t drug test.
I love you mom. My mom has been the most supportive person my entire life, especially as it relates to power lifting. This is the first meet she hasn’t been to in three years. She couldn’t be here because she had to take care of my dad who had surgery.
If you came by yourself, you must at least be an adult. What is the age limit?
I am junior division and open division. The junior division is between ages 19 and 23. Once you pass 22 years old, you must be open division. Today, I won first place overall open in my weight class.
Sidebar: I didn’t realize she won. I watched different parts of the competition and came back after she was awarded first place. It is remarkable that a 138.6-pound young lady can squat 358 pounds, bench press 182 pounds and dead lift 420 pounds. Enough said.
What were you doing out there?
It is an actual deadlift. What makes an actual deadlift different than a regular deadlift is the actual bar deadlift is stiff. It doesn’t bend with the weights when you pick it up. That means you pick up all the weight at the same time. You must pull it quickly off the ground. We were doing reps at 450 pounds.
How do you train? Do you have a special diet?
There is no special diet. Anything put in front of my face, I eat. All the weight I can gain is a good thing.
I train heavy days; but, not too often. We do a lot of banded deadlifts to help with speed.
Tell me about the whole competition.
Yesterday we did two events, and we just finished the deadlift. Next we have the medley which is a malteser block (a big square block) that weighs 220 pounds. We will carry it 50 feet; then, we pull a rope that is connected to a 350 pound sled. That is a timed event. Then, we have two more events tomorrow (if you make it to day 3).
What is a good time?
A good time for the medley would be below 20 seconds.
How long have you been doing this? Any advice for the next generation who wants to do strongman?
I have been doing strength training for about 10 years. I was a track athlete in college. After college I went to a powerlifting gym. I was told that I was too athletic to do powerlifting and that I needed to do strong man. I have been doing strong man for the last two years.
My advice for anyone who is looking to do strong man is to get started as early as you can. The longer you can train, the stronger you will be. Stay healthy and eat well.
It’s a great event. Come out and have fun. It is a community. The athletes understand everything that you go through. Some of the competitors have been my best supporters all weekend.
What were you doing? How do you train for what you were doing? What do you eat?
It is called strong man, but we are strong women. I have been doing strong man since the summer of 2017. I started because my mom had a lot of health issues. I started training in the gym for powerlifting; then, switched to strongman. I train five days a week. Four of those days are a mixer of event and power lifting with accessories. The fifth day is more event work. My training cycles are usually fifteen to twelve weeks. My eating is a work in progress. It is clean for the most part. I try to get veggies in. I eat meat and cheese. I try to watch the sugar and alcohol. I haven’t had a drink since Christmas because I want my body to be in the best shape possible and for recovery. The biggest thing is making sure I get eight hours of sleep. This training cycle I learned for my recovery process to do more massages and stretching.
What advice would you give a young lady who wants to do what you are doing?
Do it at your own pace. We don’t see enough women of color doing strength sports. Andrea Thompson is one of the pro women from UK. She just won world’s strongest woman. She is dominating the competition at the Arnold. Seeing women like her doing it, inspires me. It is so easy to get caught up into the “so and so just got her pro card” in two years or three years. Have fun with it. When I am not having fun, that is when I over think things and make mistakes. Get to know your community. Shaun (Shanice Harriston) and I went to the nationals. We talked to people and made friends. Coming to the Arnold, we know a bunch of people. It made this competition so much more fun. If you can get a training partner, get one. Shaun lives two hours away from me. It has been great having Shaun as a training partner. I can call Shaun every week. With Shaun being a person of color too, it makes it easy to vent about things going on at the gym or in life. We hold each other accountable. We are like the dynamic duo. Which makes it so much easier to get in the gym. Find your community.
I compete at middleweight women. My normal division is 160 but for here I’m at 180. I had to clock in under 180 pounds which was nice. Normally, I must weight cut and that puts a whole another ball game on it.
How heavy was the dead lift?
It was 405 pounds.
How do you train?
At ten weeks out 405, was a life time PR (personal record) for me. Three weeks ago, I pulled 405 for the first time, and I pulled it twice. When you don’t know if you are able to hit a weight, you must do a lot of strength building. I do a lot of repetitions at lower weights. For example, 365, 375, 385 to get that volume. Once you feel like you are ready, you let loose. We did a lot of little things like deficit deadlifts, deadlifts on a higher platform to get the different angles. That way if you get stuck in a competition when you are pulling, you have practiced at those different heights and you will be able to push through it.
How long have you been doing this?
I have been doing strong man since 2016. I went to the nationals for the first time after my first competition and won that one. I went to nationals and placed seventh. I didn’t really know what I was doing; but, it was fun to be there. I took the whole year off in 2017 to get stronger. In 2018, I went to nationals again and finished in second place which punched my ticket to this.
Why do you do it?
I like to lift heavy. If I can empower other people to lift heavy, that is the best. People think you are going to get big and bulky when you lift heavy. That is not the case. Lifting also changes you on the inside. If you know you can lift 405 you can do anything. I channel that through life. It is also like therapy. My dad was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) a few years ago. He is my role model. I do this for him. He got me into this sport. It is nice to do the things I know he wants to do and show him his baby girl is still throwing down.
Anything I didn’t ask you that I should have asked you?
There are three total days. Each athlete is guaranteed two days. There are two events the first day. Then, they divvy up the points. On day two, they place you out for your heats. After the two events today, the top four ladies will go to day three. That is the stressful part of this. Everybody wants to go to day three. You must be able to edge people out and be smart throughout the entire process. It is important to stay as consistent as possible. The next event is a carry medley. We must pick up a block that is 190 pounds, run it 50 feet, drop it standing up; then, we stay on the mat and pull 290 pounds on a sled with a rope.
How do you prepare mentally?
I ran track at UDUB (University of Washington). I was a sprinter. I grew up with this type of mindset. You must believe in yourself. You must know you can do it. You must visualize you getting that trophy on day three. Five minutes before I go to bed, I visualize myself going through each event, the good, the bad, and the ugly, that way there is no surprises on game day.
What advice would you give the next generation?
Don’t be afraid to try. A lot of this stuff is functional fitness. If you do one trip with grocery bags, that is farmers carries. There is a big community in this space. If you have never done it before, go online (strongmancorporation.com) to find a gym. At our gym, we love it when new girls come in. Everyone becomes your best friend. You are throwing down with each other. You are going through the same stuff. It’s hard, but at the end of the day, everybody loves it.
How long have you been a fitness model?
I’m not a fitness model per say. I don’t compete or train for fitness competitions. Sad to say; but, unless I know I am going to be painted (I usually know a month in advance) that is the only time that I am serious about training.
How do you prepare for a body paint session/competition?
Preparing for a 6-hour paint day… The anticipation of being able to express the artist’s imaginary vision come to life… As a model, my job is to complete and deliver the masterpiece of 3D (three-dimensional) to life. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and every other world-renowned artists were only able to express so much because the vision was stationary.
What got you involved with body paint modeling?
I was comfortable in my skin and felt like I was expressing a living piece of art work. The 3D aspect mesmerized an inner tingling sensation that was quickly addictive! I was able to create my own art fantasy with two other female artists. Artistically.
What advice would you give a young person who wants to do what you are doing (model for body paint)?
Be comfortable in your own skin. Know that the viewer will typically appreciate and gaze 75% of the time over the artists transformational designs in admiration versus 25% of the time of your body/scape of the self/personal flaws (you) see of yourself. Body self-confidence is 75% and the other 25% is gained from the admiration from the viewers.
Sidebar: I bumped into Dyon briefly in the hall on Friday. He was “done” up and on his way somewhere. He gave me his contact information. I stopped by the body paint area several times during the competition (Saturday). Each time, Dyon was on display! I will include pictures of the process in a future article. Dyon is FULL of personality. After a while, I had to be creative to get pictures of him because whenever he saw me, he was making faces or sticking out his tongue (full of personality).
Sidebar: This is what is great about the Arnold. In the hall, I walked up to the following ladies and they allowed me to take their picture and Sammica Cash agreed to an interview.
How long have you been working out?
Since 1998. I have been competing since 2014. I became an IFBB (International Federation of Body Builders) Pro in women’s physique. In 2017, I went pro on my 46th birthday. I will be 48 this year.
Clearly you can’t eat everything you want to eat. Tell me the sacrifices you must make to look like this.
Clearly… This is off season; so, I’m not in stage ready condition. I can eat whatever I want right now. I still don’t eat bad because I try to practice a healthy lifestyle whether I am competing or not. When I am getting ready for a show, I can’t have any pizza, pasta, fruits or dairy products.
Well, tell me what you can have it seems like you have listed just about everything most people eat.
I eat a lot of fish. If you eat meat, it needs to be lean meat. My beef of choice is bison. I eat a lot of ground bison and ground turkey. My vegetables of choice are asparagus and spinach.
How long do you just eat fish and vegetables?
You might prep for 20 weeks. 20 weeks without alcohol would be the biggest thing for me. I like to drink. 20 weeks without tequila, that is the sacrifice right there. I can go without the pasta, and I can go without the spaghetti; but, that alcohol, that’s rough on me.
How many competitions do you do in a year?
I usually do two competitions a year. I haven’t picked a competition yet this year. I have been giving my body a rest. The body goes through a lot due to the deprivation of carbs. Getting ready for a show involves a lot of water manipulation and different things that you must do to get dry on stage.
Ok are you the competitors that do the poses?
We do a routine in women’s physique.
Are there many women of color that participate in Women’s physique?
Much more than when I first started. We kick cuss word and take names now. We command the stage. When I went pro in 2017 at the North American Championship, there was me and another black lady. We went one two the whole night. To be honest, it is more difficult for us as far as diet is concerned. I’m not racist but white girls have been eating salad all their lives. We have been eating corn bread and beans. Many times, we would get beat in the kitchen (meaning having a disadvantage due to diet). When you begin to understand the importance of our diet and want to live a healthier lifestyle, you incorporate that. When you are a champion, you don’t want to lose. You must win in the kitchen too.
Is there a weight limit?
Not in women’s physique. When you go pro, it’s everybody competing against everybody. In the amateur level it goes by height and sometimes by age. When I step on the stage at 47 years old, many times I am competing against younger girls.
Clearly, you are some type of body builder, tell me what you do.
Last night, I did the biggest competition in the world, which is the Arnold classic. I lost by one point. I am very happy with the achievement that I have made. That is not what the fans wanted; but, I still give respect to the champion. I felt great sleeping on my bed last night because I know the media and the fans had my back. The division is called classic physique. I have the smaller waist the V taper that everyone wants for the industry. I displayed well. I did my best.
Is there a weight class?
There is no weight class in classic. You get measured by height. I am 5’10”, my weight limit is 215 pounds. A shorter guy has a lower weight limit. All the guys were different heights; but, they were the best in the world.
How long have you been doing this, and what is your advice for someone else who wants to do what you are doing?
I have been doing it for two years. It is about taking your time and polishing your look.
My take: Seeing people passionately pursuing what they love is inspiring. It was clear all are dedicated and committed or else they would not have been invited to perform/compete at the Arnold Sports Festival. I observed a spark when each person explained their event or what they do. Watching the performance/competition is great; but, the connections/interactions are priceless.
Categories: Sports and Things