First Bikini Competition Take Aways
Standing backstage in a cramped, starkly-lit dressing room lined with warped mirrors, I stared at the other women. There was so much waiting time, I couldn’t fight the urge to take a hard look at everyone. We were all deeply, sadly orange, nervous, and not interacting. The room smelled of hairspray and sour-patch candy. And spray tan, of course. I squatted in heels near my stuff, careful not to unglue the bikini bottoms from their exact place; no longer self conscious about anything, and I sipped water. I thought, “What the f*ck am I doing here?”
The expeditor yelled for my class to get ready. I walked to the side of the stage and watched the women before me sparkle in the blazing lights, smiling brightly when they flexed facing the crowd. They grimaced and breathed hard when they turned away from the audience to flex their back sides. This glamour flexing was tough business. I was ready.
I had practiced my walk and posing so many times. I put in a ton of reps. I wanted the ability to go on auto-pilot when the inevitable nerves might make me forget my own name. I treated posing practice like shooting free throws. I used to take one hundred shots a night back when I was a baller. Same three dribbles, same set up in my hands. Same follow through – nothing fazing me. You want to be automatic from the line. And I wanted to be automatic in my strut.
“Number 20. You’re up!” Jolted with excitement, I smiled. “One job left,” I thought. “Here we go.” I stepped out from behind the heavy curtain. The stage was small, but the space in which I walked into seemed so vast, and only made of light. I felt amazing. Without thinking too much, I clicked into my well-rehearsed routine. Good thing because though I tried to remember all my cues, I mainly basked in the blinding stage lights; my eyelashes shielding me a bit. I loved the feeling of walking into this all-consuming light; knowing there was a crowd, but not seeing them. It was almost like doing the routine alone. Until I made eye contact with every judge — the head judge especially — like I was burning my image into their memory. I was so, “MmHmm, that’s right” while staring them down. I laugh now that the most automatic thing on stage was my confidence. That was encouraging.
I placed 3rd in the 40’s Masters and 5th in Novice Tall. Placing in the Novice class — which is an open age class — was a surprise. Not placing higher in the 40’s was a bit of a let down. Listen, no one preaches It’s About the Journey more than me, but just like when I played basketball when the last second drained off the clock and my team lost, I wasn’t quick to say, “Nice journey, Rivera!” I was bummed at first when I lost games, and then I was over it. I was never devastated about it. I was simply back at the free throw line to practice more.
One of the best things of my experience was hearing about how other people were inspired by my training. My brother in law, who is a sixth degree black belt in karate and one of the toughest guys I know, had gotten out of shape in recent years. He told me Saturday that all my progress posts inspired him to start training hard for Spartan races. He’s lost 10lbs already and feels tremendously better. I can’t knock that the power of being in motion moves other people, too.
I have to say that I’m pretty proud that I was able to execute a plan exactly how I wanted. But the only way I was able to do it –and it’s taken me 47 years to figure this out — is with self-love, self-acceptance, and from a platform of compassion. Being vegan is often my most obvious avenue of compassion, but I also mean toward myself and those around me simply doing the best they can.
I figured out how to mine the joy out of this experience especially when things got hard. Because, really, joy and love are the mothereffing gold of all things no matter what you’re pursuing or doing.
**I competed Feb 14, 2015 **