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WPD to the O—In Their Own Words, Part 2

WPD to the O—In Their Own Words, Part 2


More interviews with top challengerskarinanas for the first Olympia Women’s Physique Showdown, set for next weekend in Las Vegas. This time out: Karina Nascimento, Toni West and Tamee Marie.


Karina Nascimento
Karina was a female bodybuilder who came to the physique world’s attention at the ’03 Ms. International, where she took third. After that, she said, “I just didn't want to get bigger, so I decided to retire and see what God had in the works for me elsewhere. I started building my family instead.” The advent of WPD brought her back to the stage. She qualified for the Olympia by winning the ’13 Optimum Pro.


Who among the female bodybuilders, fitness, figure competitors, etc., past or present has inspired you?
Cory Everson was the first poster I saw of a woman with muscle, and I loved it.


Define "feminine muscle." What's your favorite thing about being a "chick with muscle"?
I love having that look of strong, powerful women. I love that trophy look. Great lines with muscle. I find it sexy!


Where do you think the line is between WPD and women's bodybuilding? Between WPD and figure?
Somewhere in the middle, but because I stopped training hard with weights for about eight years, I needed to bring my body up to a physique standard.


What's your favorite look for your physique—how much size, how much conditioning?
Well I think it is a balance.


What do you think the WPD judges are looking for?
I think they are looking for a well-balanced physique, great condition and an overall clean and polished look.


How are you planning to come in at the Olympia, relative to your previous contests, and why?
I competed at the Optimum Classic and won that show and then went to the New York Pro and placed second. I felt I was a bit too conditioned by then and I could have been a little more full. At the Olympia I plan on being a bit more full, and we will see how my body comes in.


Are you getting a lot of advice from others about how you should look? How do you handle that? What's one thing you wish people would stop telling you?
I listen to the judges and my coach. To the rest I pay no attention.


A noticeable number of the top competitors are Brazilian. Is there some "Brazilian factor" or South American thing that gives a female competitor an edge, or is that just an urban myth?
It is a genetic factor and it is proven that Brazilians have the best structure in the world. And most Brazilians are very comfortable with our sexuality and embrace being a woman very much. It is a culture thing.


Seriously, though, there's so much talk about how the first Olympia Women's Physique Challenge being definitive for the sport. Your thoughts on that?
Well, it is the Olympia, the ultimate show, so they will have lots to choose from up there. We are all trying to be the look they are looking for. I know I am working hard.


Toni West
Toni competed in natural bodybuilding contests forToniwest years. When the NPC initiated women’s physique competitions, she said, the criteria the organization set seemed to be the way she saw herself.


“My judging feedback for bodybuilding was, ‘Needs more conditioning, could be harder, looks to be holding water,’” she recalled. Though she knew she needed to make certain improvements to her physique, “the extremes that are to be met for bodybuilding were not the best fit for me.” She got to the O by winning the ’13 Toronto Pro.


Who inspired you?
Corey Everson, Monica Brant, Bev Francis, all for providing women a presence in the industry for the love of the sport. They remained true to being seen as athletes all while moving the feminine-muscle-mystique to a very popular and mainstream era.


Your thoughts on "feminine muscle" and being a "chick with muscle"?
My definition of  “feminine muscle” is the natural muscle a female athlete carries by way of training. There is a “je ne sais quoi” aspect for what is found feminine in general. You really can’t put your finger on exactly what it is, but you know it when you see it. The genetic factor is a huge advantage onstage when comparing how people carry their muscle and what it looks like when displayed in a lineup. The femininity of muscular balance head-to-toe on a woman will rely greatly on the bone structure, height, muscle bellies and the individual’s overall put togetherness… and [different athletes have much different muscular structures]. The years of training and pushing the body through movement are what dictate the look of their muscularity, maturing their natural shape and genetics. 


I have never been a chick without muscle [laughs]. I have always been described as athletic looking, even as a child. When I was in junior high and high school, I took it to mean I was not skinny or thin and really didn’t think it was a flattering description of my body. It was more of a verb in my book—athletics are something you do, athlete is what I am, fit is what I look like.


Where are the lines drawn?
The lines are best seen in the group overall shots from ’12 Nationals. The difference between myself and the other divisions is obvious. Physique has more muscle than figure head-to-toe and is well-balanced and tightly conditioned to show muscularity. Figure has a fit and slim overall appeal while being judged highly on the symmetry of three main focus pieces: the shoulders, waist and hips. WP and bodybuilding symmetry are based more on pieces, if you will: Shoulder width, waist width and hip width, but also the shoulder size compared to the biceps and triceps size, compared to the fit of the back and leg development and size…[however] the standard in bodybuilding rewards massive amounts of muscle and ultimate conditioning. 


What's your favorite look for your physique?
Funny enough, my size has not changed very much in the 10 years I have been competing. My conditioning is the main focus of how it all looks onstage, and I strive for better conditioning at each show. I have pieces that I feel I need to work on, but overall I am completely happy with my size and shape. I have accepted that it doesn’t change very much [laughs]. So if they want bigger, I’m in trouble; if I’m already too big, I’m in trouble… I just do me.


What do you think the judges are looking for?
I think they are looking for a balanced physique that displays muscle and an overall stage presence that is pleasing. Yes, to some degree I feel that beauty will play a part—suit color and fit, hair and makeup will all complete the overall package. And I do think the smile is very important.


How are you planning to come in at the Olympia?
I hope to come in just like I did the past three shows. I have worked on conditioning and hope to better myself in that, but displaying my best out of the contest prep is always a work in progress. I have a few parts that I will continue to work on like glutes, hamstrings and abs, but my body is a result of years and years of consistent training and diet, so I do not expect to grow giant Brazilian butt muscles in the 16 weeks I have between shows.


How do you handle advice from others? What's one thing you wish people would stop telling you?
I don’t get too much advice on how I should look, but I do get the comment, “I am sure you will do great.” Depending on the day and my mood, I take that comment like, Meh, they have no idea how big of a deal just walking on Olympia stage is period… or that it is almost out of my scope of reality. People outside of the industry do not understand the magnitude of the show, the importance of this year’s Women’s Physique Showdown in particular, or how this could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and the other athletes. When it comes off as being minimized with, “I’m sure you will do great,” it can open a can of crazy.  I really cannot wait to take in the moments.


The "Brazilian factor," real or urban myth?
[Laughs] It’s an easy way to draw attention to the division for sure, as the Brazilian women are identified and notorious for their exotic beauty and curves. Even if it is in their DNA, I believe that it stems from what their culture finds as attractive and beautiful. Their beautiful body types are not what typical mainstream Americans are told through the media is beautiful. They are curvy, thick, muscular and oozing some sex appeal that comes with embracing what genetically is feminine. Our American media idolize a much different standard of a tall, thin, waifish, size-zero mind-set. They are pumping up those legs and butts; we are doing fad diets.


Will the decision at the Olympia be definitive for the sport?
I definitely think that it will send a message of some sort as to what the professionals will be judged on. It will set the stage for what will be too big, too conditioned, or not enough of either. It will set a standard for the size and shape of “feminine muscle” and how it should be displayed. Defining what is the best is always left, ultimately, to the athletes.


Tamee Marie
Tamee’s journey to physiqTammemarieue started in figure, in 2004, but “in my heart I was a fitness gal,” the former gymnast admitted. Earning her card in fitness, she quickly learned that in the pros, thanks to her taller frame, “I stuck out like a sore thumb next to the shorter gals.” On the advice of her current coach, Kim Oddo, she embarked on revamping her body, trying figure and, finally, women’s physique. “Kim talked me into putting some of my muscle back on and trying one physique show just to humor him,” she said. “I fell in love with the new division. It was a much better fit for my physique, and the routines allowed me to express a little personality and helped pacify my love of fitness.” She qualified for the Olympia last year, at the late-season Greater Gulf States Pro.


Who inspired you?
Just prior to starting off for my first competition, I recall seeing pictures of Mia Finnegan and Monica Brant onstage. I was in total admiration and thought their bodies were insane. As I continued to compete over the years, I’ve met so many more that I admire and look to for inspiration for a multitude of reasons. Initially, it’s just about obtaining the physiques you see onstage; however, after a couple years you learn there is so much more that comprises an icon or inspirational figure. Things like winning with class, losing with grace, good sportsmanship to all athletes and fans, tenacity in the midst of defeat, rolling with the punches from the sidelines after a win, and longevity in the sport throughout it all… For someone to be truly inspiring to me, it’s 80 percent offstage behaviors and 20 percent results on the stage.


Your thoughts on "feminine muscle" and being a "chick with muscle"?
“Feminine muscle,” in my opinion, is about having curvaceous, full, round muscle bellies while still maintaining the beauty of a woman that modestly knows she’s got it going on. I love feeling strong, confident and comfortable in my own skin. I love asking a man if he is done with some dumbbells only to take them and crank out twice the reps he just did [laughs]. Seriously, though, for me it’s not about the amount of muscle as much as the shape and conditioning of the muscle. Combine that with the aura of confidence, and I think that’s WPD.


Where are the lines drawn?
For me it’s such a fine line—I would NEVER want to be a judge at a high-level pro show. I’d say that bodybuilding is more about the larger, tighter and harder muscle, with conditioning that illustrates striations and vascularity. Figure places the emphasis on curves, stage presence, poise and grace—it morphs the worlds of bodybuilding and beauty pageants. So how do you take the two similar divisions and make a third? That’s where we are now with WP. The judging is 100 percent subjective, and the changes in look from one show to another reflect just that.


What's your favorite look for your physique?
I would like to have a little more muscle, maybe five pounds, with some added symmetrical balance, while coming in tighter than I ever have in the past. I’m not there yet and haven’t “nailed it.” The best combination of what I envision is the 2011 Monica Brant meets Cory Everson. I haven’t seen that exact combination yet but look out when she steps on stage.


What do you think the judges are looking for?
Oh, boy, it’s the million-dollar question going intp the first WP Olympia Showdown. This is where the subjectivity of the various judges comes into play. There definitely seem to be two different visions, but I’m not quite sure which will prevail… [and] we won’t know the “look” until all of the athletes are on onstage and that first callout is standing there doing turns.


How are you planning to come in at the Olympia?
As I previously mentioned, I’d like to be a few pounds heavier and tighter than my past couple shows… and a lot tanner than I was in New Orleans [laughs]. That’s the feedback I received [from Kim], and it’s what I’m going with.


How do you handle advice from others? What's one thing you wish people would stop telling you?
You always get advice.  Some is direct, while other times it comes off a forum or article you read about the division. I like to smile, listen and then let it go in one ear and out the other. I will only listen and retain from my coach and the judges. If you try to sort and evaluate all of the other info, it’s overload, and you begin to doubt the people you should be trusting.
Because so much of it just passes though, I don’t really mind any of it. At the end of the day everyone is just trying to help. If I would want to have anything stopped, it would be the verbal bashing of a division or another competitor. I NEVER want to hear things like, “That was total bologna,” or, “She didn’t deserve that,” or, “Division XYZ is a joke.”


The "Brazilian factor," real or urban myth?
All I know is, I need to head down there and figure out what they are putting in the water, ’cause the girls are hawt down there! The ones I can think of have the sexy, feminine muscle I mentioned earlier. Coincidence? I don’t know, but again please feel free to ship me a case or two of their water.


Will the decision at the Olympia be definitive for the sport?
There have been rumors about women’s bodybuilding being phased out. Looking at some changes over the last year, I think that may be the case; however, I don’t think this one show will redefine the sport. It will likely help competitors better understand the direction for the divisions going forward, but I don’t feel it is the game changer.

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