#ThrowBackThursday

When I first started putting this website together I wanted it to be a place where I could show people who didn't know me and who stumbled across my website exactly what I have been doing for the past few years really and the standing I have gained within my industry.  Hence my home page being laid out as it is.  But there are some things which a picture and a couple of lines of text don't really explain very well and so when I developed the site to include a blog, the Instagram phenomenon "#ThrowBackThursday" seemed to be the perfect vehicle for social proof.  So each Thursday you will find me recounting tales of days gone by and/or videos of my classes. 

This week I wanted to reminisce about the time when I entered a fitness competition/beauty pageant and donned a swimsuit and heels... all in the name of body confidence!  

I'm also a huge believer in not making life difficult for one's self and repurposing work where possible.  So I have dug out a couple of articles I wrote for Rachel Holmes's Choreographytogo Newsletter.  One was just prior and the other was just after so they give a nice snap shot into my thinking at both stages.  Have a read....

Miss Galaxy Universe: Miss Monroe International

"So I’m doing this thing…  And I’m a bit nervous about it!  But only a bit.  And I will be strutting around in nothing but high heels and a swimsuit on stage in front of hundreds of people, with judges… judging me - but I think I’m going to do ok!  Let me tell you about Miss Galaxy Universe and why I’m taking my clothes off!

What is it?  Well, the tagline is “Bullet Proof Beauty” and you could describe it as a body building competition mixed with a beauty pageant, neither of which I would usually enter but this particular competition caught my eye because of a NEW category which was introduced in June 2014 which I will tell you about in a moment.

I became aware of these competitions a couple of years ago as many of my female fitness friends got into lifting weights, seeing changes in their physiques and quite rightly wanting recognition for their hard work.  It was something I stood back and watched from afar, applauding with gusto at their efforts and doubting that I could ever have their mind set, dedication and determination to get the physique that some women dream of having.  I’m not one of those women, but boy, do I admire a muscular physique on a girl and know many guys who do too.

As I said I would not usually align myself with the world of body building as I’m all about being feminine and celebrating curves, as those who have read my articles for Rachel in the past would know.  Body building is so focused on aesthetics and dropping body fat, with long term effects leaving competitors at risk of over-use injuries and in some cases risking their cardiac health. According to livestrong.com a study published in ‘Cardiology’ in 2006 linked heavy lifting to the risk of tearing the aorta - eek!  BUT Miss Galaxy Universe is not really a body building competition, it’s fitness modelling.  Yes, aesthetics plays a part but 60 % of the marks come from the fitness test which I believe is a great message.  This is what the website says: 

“Miss Galaxy is an all female fitness show based around Performance & Functionality. Also offering the industry standard of Bikini rounds, but adding a touch of Miss World elegance to the stage.”  

Categories include Bikini Diva, Yummy Mummy, Beach Body and Fitness Model, all of which embrace different body types.  But in June this year, they took things to a new level of body shape acceptance by creating a new category which embraces ladies of size 12-16 called Miss Monroe International.  As the name would suggest, it takes inspiration from the curvaceous Marilyn who many consider to be the most beautiful and sexy woman to have lived during this age.  This will be my category and is inspired by the style and glamour of the 1940s and 50s.  

This is the perfect opportunity to practice what I preach through my dance concepts such as Raunch and Stiletto (I’ll be tapping into my Stiletto strutting experience extensively for this) which are all about learning to love the body you have, whether slim or curvy and realising that the insecurities that we have are completely unfounded.  I have always sought to teach women that how we feel about ourselves directly affects how others react to us, which is why confidence is such an attractive quality.  How you carry yourself, how you move and what you think about yourself has a huge impact on what others think of us - NOT THAT IT MATTERS WHAT THEY THINK!!  But regardless, I will be strutting on stage in perspex heels and a cute 1950s style swim suit to demonstrate that 5ft 2 inches and almost 12 stone can look good, but more than that, can FEEL good!  i haven't decided 100% on my dress for the ‘evening wear’ round I'm thinking of a cream sequinned number which is very Monroe/Jessica Rabbit, makes me wiggle nicely! 

Eeeek!  Of course I am nervous.  There are rules and regulations about where you walk, how you stand, when you turn etc, loads of opportunities to get it ‘wrong’.  And of course I will be being judged, but you know what, we get judged every day, rightly or wrongly.  It’s something we need to let just roll off us like water off a ducks back.  For every person who looks down on you there are more who look up to you!  As fitness instructors, in the public eye in our local area, it’s so important to be a role model- this doesn’t necessarily mean setting crazy high standards for yourself and freaking out about the carb grams of each meal, and burning yourself out.  It means being realistic and living a well balanced life.  I have been training for the fitness test, but not that hard as I want to continue this healthy regime on a permanent basis, not just for the show.  For my testimony to have an effect I really need to just turn up and rock that shizzle!

What is lovely about the show is that all the Galaxy Girls, past and present are so supportive of each other.  We have a secret Facebook group where we all post our fears and concerns, encouragement and praise and we’re all under the watchful eye of Sarah Donohue, the founder, who really helps to put things into perspective with some no-nonsense, straight talking, which is fabulous.  The women in this group are all amazing and many have incredible back stories of overcoming terrible life situations of illness and abuse and have come out the other end, often with thanks to Miss Galaxy Universe for providing such support and something positive to focus upon.  Any one of the ladies who takes part would be worthy of winning and I’m looking forward to meeting them all in person and sharing the stage with so many inspirational women!

Rocking a swimsuit and heels was very liberating

Rocking a swimsuit and heels was very liberating

I WON! 

Last week I told you about the fitness and beauty pageant I was taking part in at the weekend, Miss Galaxy Universe. Well, I only went and placed 1st in Miss Monroe International!  I am Miss Monroe International 2014 and I'm pretty blummin' chuffed about it! I set out to prove that sexiness has got nothing to do with body shape, fat percentage, dress size or age... And boy, did I have a blast doing so! 

As I said last week one of the things I love about MGU is that it doesn't just focus purely on aesthetics but function as well as form and we were all put through our paces at the K2 Sports Track in Crawley on Friday evening. The last time I raced or competed in anything like this was at school and it wasn't voluntary.  It’s safe to say I was bricking it. Thankfully we'd had beautiful weather that day and the forecasts of rain had been incorrect! 

We competed in teams of 8 and we had to run 800m followed by the long jump; 400m and a minute of press ups; 200m and a minute of squat thrusts (evil combination) and finally 100m and a minute of sit ups. We got extra points for doing a minute of 18 inch box jumps (I was most pleased with my 28 until I witnessed a machine of a girl do 68!!) plus there were bonus points for doing pull ups.  I avoided this station completely as there were no bonus points for dangling limply for 3 seconds which would have been my personal best.  The worst bit was the 800m; my lungs felt like they were going to burst and I couldn't feel my legs or feet, it was very surreal and I’m pretty sure I was running like Phoebe from friends by the end of it.  But on the whole it was a really enjoyable experience with all the girls being super supportive of each other. Again, one of the wonderful things about MGU is the friendships formed.  There's something really special about sharing out-of-the-ordinary experiences; bonds being created in a profound way and I felt a part of something special, even as a newbie.  When we all got back to hotel I was buzzing and could have done it all again (which means I could probably have tried harder)!

I was not last!!  

I was not last!!  

By this point I still had no clue which of the 3 dresses or 5 swimming costumes I had brought with me I would wear the next day.  Non of them were spot on but I had an idea of which one would be best and had been encouraged by the thought that it's not about the dress, it's about how you carry yourself in it.  There's only one thing for it when you can't make a decision yourself... Ask Mum!  Mum and Dad were coming to cheer me on anyway (as were my brother and his girlfriend and about 15 friends from the fitness industry- you know who you are, thank you for your support, I am truly honoured) so it was an ideal opportunity to get some good mum-advice.  Naomi, one of the girls who had taken part and placed 2nd in Miss Monroe in June had very kindly suggested I borrow hers.  I had admired her dress but I was unsure of how I felt about wearing one which had already been on stage on someone else.  When my mum arrived it was the first one I tried on as I actually thought it wouldn’t fit and I could discard the idea….  

Well, my goodness, the gasps from Mum, followed by ‘Oh Pete, come and see’ (I think her reaction could only have been topped if I were in a wedding dress!) - it was quite clear that after trying on at least 25 dresses this was ‘The One’!!!  Emerald green sequins with spaghetti straps, very low cut back and a train!!  It fit like a dream!!!  When Naomi saw it on me, she got emotional, it was adorable.  She’d had a hard time recently and I could see the dress held a lot of meaning in her heart and I wanted to do well for her and for whatever miss Monroe meant to her.  This category really does have something special.  During registration earlier that day, each time someone asked me to confirm my category the response was always ‘Ooooh lovely!!’  Now I just needed to master picking up the train sexily and not tripping over the dress whilst walking!

I actually used this image for my Christmas cards... I did!  lol

I actually used this image for my Christmas cards... I did!  lol

The next day we all arrived at The Hawth in Crawley by 9am and it was a whirlwind of hair extensions, curlers, make up, lashes, glitter, panic and excitement and I loved every moment.  We had dress rehearsals (I say ‘dress’ rehearsals but we all wore a t shirt which corresponded with the colour of dress we would be wearing).  The choreographer had the difficult task of organising 120 girls snaking around each other in dress colour order, quite a feat but expertly done.  And then all too soon we were being called for the opening of the show.  120 girls in bikinis (or swimsuits for Monroes) all entering from the wings, posing on 4 different spots about the stage in perfect unison, crossing paths perfectly to the beat of the Black Eyed Peas “Tonight’s gonna be a good night..”  The air of excitement was actually all a bit too much and I filled up a little bit.  I do that, get choked up when watching things like X-Factor or Tumble/Strictly etc when I know how much hard work has gone into something and then we see the accumulation of weeks or months of work and these girls had really worked their asses off- literally, for this moment!  

A drop of wine to steady the nerves!! 

A drop of wine to steady the nerves!! 

The audience were very excited and loud, blowing horns and cheering.  My good friends Donna Kissi who also placed (1st in Fitness Model and 9th Overall) and Jessica McKee who you will have met in #WCW a few weeks ago, both from the Fitness Presenting world, were both competing and had large groups of our mutual friends there too, which was great as they all cheered very loudly for all of us- I highly recommend Rent-A-Crowd (you know who you are!)  

In our rehearsed groups, we all dutifully posed and wiggled at our allocated time, in our allocated pathway, first in our swimsuits and bikinis, then it was the 'Showgirl' category, which I had entered (in for a penny, in for a pound) which I thoroughly enjoyed doing (it was a slightly gymnasticified Raunch routine, I didn't place, but I got some fabulous photos, dahling!) and then we all shimmied and strutted in our evening gowns and waited for the results.  By this time our feet were KILLING US!!!!

I had been really quite relaxed about the whole preparation thing - but as I said last week, for my testimony to carry any weight I really needed to just turn up and rock that stage!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, confidence is a mind set, a choice, not dependant on circumstances.  Confidence is key to having people respond well to you.  I wasn’t the slimmest, I didn’t have the perkiest boobs, I didn’t have the longest legs and I certainly wasn’t the youngest!  I’m not even sure if I was the most confident but when I got up on that stage I certainly acted like I was, I owned the stage and flirted with the audience… I even did the ‘bend and snap’!!!  It was all a bit of a blur… but, I WON I WON I WON!  Lol! 

I’ve been asked if I will do it again in May.  As far as I am aware, once you win a category you can’t be in that category again, at least not the next time.  So the logical ‘progression’ would be to enter the ‘Beach Body’ category…. Hmm.  I don’t think I would because I’m so in love with the message of Miss Monroe that even if I lost weight and toned up (and you know what, I seem to be doing that without trying, probably due to not putting pressure on myself and being happy and secure in my own skin and just being active and kind to myself) I wouldn’t want to dilute the powerful statement I hope I have made - but never say never.

So, ladies, I hope I’m getting through to you - the size of various parts of your body are UNIMPORTANT.  The shape of your bits and pieces are UNIMPORTANT.  Please, please, please, stop worrying about your bodies.  We are not getting younger, we can only hold back the years for a certain amount of time, and then what…?  Will you remain unhappy, forever in a state of ‘when I lose weight I’ll be happy’?  Please try to be happy with what you see in the mirror, be nice to yourself and nourish it well, have good posture and stand tall… and BELIEVE that you’re hot no matter what.  The sooner we get to grips with our figure being far less important than our health, the sooner we can start enjoying our bodies and everything we can do with them.  And I HIGHLY recommend strutting around in your swimsuit and heels in front of hundreds of people for a wonderful confidence boost."

So ladies, Miss Galaxy is 6th-7th November 2015.  If you want to set yourself a challenge or just want to try something new apply here!

My fellow Monroes Rebecca (left) and Aoife (far right) placing 2nd & 3rd

My fellow Monroes Rebecca (left) and Aoife (far right) placing 2nd & 3rd

Photography Credit: Lowell Mason

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