It happens at every show. A competitor seemingly comes from out of nowhere to give a scare to the veterans, putting themselves on the map in the process. At the 2014 Tampa Pro Show, that competitor was Kahla Bullemor. Kahla hadn’t done a pro show in years. Taking the time to perfect her physique, she knew a big show like Tampa would allow her to see if she could hang with the big girls, and hang she did. She place 4th in a crowded field and opened some eyes in the process. I spoke with Kahla some time ago to discuss her life as a female bodybuilder and what the sport means to her.
Q: Tell me about yourself. (Where you are from, what do you do, family, marital status, what you like to do for fun, etc.)
A: I was born in Townsville, Queensland, Australia on January 20, 1979. I grew up in a small mining town called Dysart and finished the remainder of my school year in Bowen. I have one older brother and a younger sister and two loving parents who are still happily married. We are a very close united family.
When I am not training I like to spend quality time with friends and family, time on the beach and in the surf, watching motivational/training DVD’s, researching and implementation on how to be a better person and athlete. There is not a lot of spare time, so when I do have that moment I cherish doing things that I love with those that I care deeply for.
Q: What is something about you that would surprise people when you told them?
A: I am very shy; I am an introvert and hate being center of attention.
Q: The obvious: how did you get into the fitness/bodybuilding lifestyle?
A: My love for bodybuilding and the lifestyle was apparent to me when I was about 15 years old. When my brother commenced weight training, I took upon an interest as well. I would look through his magazines and was overwhelmed and motivated by the physiques I saw and knew this was my ideal goal in life… to transform my physique into a masterpiece, a piece of art. This to me was a dream and something which I never thought would turn into reality.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to a former IFBB Mr. Australia who planted the seed in my head to compete. I always thought I was too small to compete, as I would compare myself to the female bodybuilders who I saw in the magazines, who were my idols… the likes of Lenda Murray, Cathy Le Francois, Juliette Bergmann, etc.
I decided to set myself the goal to get ready for my first show and take it from there. I commenced a training and nutritional plan in order to compete at the North Queensland Body Building Titles in September 2003. It was my intention to commence preparation and when the time came I would compete if I felt ready and competitive or wait another year. As it turned out I was more than ready, hence my first show and the obsession with the sport and competing set in.
Q: How many shows have you done? How do you approach contest prep?
ISSUED IFBB PRO CARD – NOVEMBER 2010
IFBB QLD Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Open Body Building – 1st
IFBB Australian Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Body Building over 55kg – 1st
IFBB Australian Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Body Building over 55kg – Overall Winner
IFBB Australian & New Zealand Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Body Building – Overall Winner
IFBB QLD Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Open Body Building – 1st
IFBB Australian Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Open Body Building – 1st
INBA QLD Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Short Class – 1st
INBA QLD Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Overall Physique – Winner
WNSO/ANB Queensland State Titles, Women’s Physique (U52kg) – 3rd
INBA Australian Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Short Class Physique – 1st
INBA National Body Building Championships, Women’s Overall Physique – Winner
INBA Natural Olympia World Titles, Women’s Short Class Physique – 2nd
North QLD Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Open Physique – 1st
INBA QLD Bodybuilding Championships, Women’s Short Class Physique – 1st
I have never stressed or been concerned with my contest prep as I have always had absolute faith in my coaches and have followed their plan 100%. This allows me to stay calm, stress-free and to focus completely on the plan in place.
Q: How does being on stage for a contest make you feel?
A: The whole stage experience petrifies and excites me all at once. I know that this is the opportunity to present what I have worked so hard and so many years for. It is petrifying having all of those eyes on me when I like to just hide in a corner (hard to believe) and at the same time present elegance, grace and confidence and present my physique in the best possible way. It is a feeling like no other, the goose bumps and the thrill of this moment you have been waiting for for so long. It’s time to shine and you have one shot to get it right.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a competitor?
A: Being a competitor gives you the hunger to do what no one else is prepared to do – to present a package on stage under the big lights and a large audience of fans, to give back to the sport, to show those in the audience that all dreams are achievable with the determination to keep fighting and never giving up. Competing is also a milestone in the journey of a bodybuilder’s life. It allows you to present your best physique possible and to analyze and reset for a plan for improvement.
Q: What is your least favorite part of being a competitor?
A: As silly as it sounds I am petrified of getting on stage in front of people. I have a fear of letting down the people who have supported me the most and not achieving the result we have worked hard for. In saying this, I will do everything to the letter and therefore the outcome is the best that I can humanly achieve. And, of course, the final stages of the dieting process, that’s not fun at all.
Q: Being Australian, is it difficult to find shows to compete in? Do you travel a lot for shows?
A: While competing as an amateur I completed at the state and National titles in Australia and was fortunate enough to compete at the World Titles which was also held in Australia in 2006.
Now that I am in the IFBB Professional League, unfortunately there are no shows in Australia for female bodybuilders and therefore competing overseas is the only option available to me. I plan to compete in my Pro Debut in 2014 and this will be my first show overseas, which I am both extremely excited about whilst at the same time very nervous. I will be looking at doing possibly two shows in 2014. This is yet to be confirmed.
Q: What is the backstage atmosphere like at a show?
A: For me I am in my own zone and not overly aware at the time of what is going on around me. In Australia you will be called back stage about 45 minutes prior to stepping on stage. During this time you will spend fixing up your tan and makeup and then start pumping up with your coach or a person you can trust and keep your eye on the prize and mind at ease. It is a very important role the person you have back stage with you plays, in order to keep you calm and make sure your tan is right and you are ready to jump on stage in perfect timing and condition.
I have always had a very positive experience back stage, people are always willing to help and support each other and give them things which they may have forgotten e.g. Bikini Bite, oil, weights, towels etc. It’s a great experience back stage with likeminded people and also observing others physiques.
Q: What is your favorite cheat food?
A: From a bodybuilder this may sound odd; however I don’t have a favorite cheat meal. I don’t even have cheat meals scheduled in my eating plan. It’s something I have never had and feel I don’t need it.
Q: What is your favorite supplement?
A: I use a range of supplementation including: BCAA’s, EEA’s, L-Carnitine, Beta alanine, glutamine, creatine, WPI, blend and casein protein powders, and a carbohydrate formula. I am currently using and love ‘Milos Sarcev’ supplement line, which has a massive range of high quality supplements.
Q: How do you approach your physical appearance (cover up, show it off, dress up, dress down)?
A: I am not one to show my physique off. I have a very professional and feminine image I like to portray. However it is quite difficult to buy clothing that suits the physique of a bodybuilder and therefore tights are the go-to, as well as comfy cargo pants and singlets or loose fit clothing which is comfortable. When I am training I wear whatever feels most comfortable and allows me to move properly with no restrictions. When I go out I like to get dressed up and have a bit of girly time which is rare spending so much time in the gym.
Q: What do you feel are the advantages of having a physique like yours?
A: To be able to change your physique and basically manipulate the genetics you were born with to create something that you want to look like is very empowering and gives you the belief that anything is possible. I believe having a strong, feminine physique makes a statement and people will generally stop and listen to what you have to say, as you portray confidence in your appearance.
Q: What do you feel are the disadvantages of having a physique like yours?
A: A physique such as mine is not considered ‘the norm’ which leads to intense criticism and judgment by those who don’t understand the sport, or simply don’t like the look. I have been described as ugly, masculine and offensive. A lot of people will stop and stare, which I find rude, however I smile back at those people as they are simply naive to the journey, determination and lifelong commitment to create a body builder’s physique.
Q: Do you find having a physique like yours empowering?
A: Yes, I do feel that having a strong physique is empowering.
Q: Do you think the industry is sexist?
A: No, I don’t feel the industry is sexist. I do feel men receive more sponsorship, coverage, exposure and prize money than women, however I feel this is based on the fact that Women’s Bodybuilding is not as well-supported sport by fans. This is an area I wish would change.
Q: Do you see yourself as a role model for those living a fit lifestyle?
A: Absolutely, without a doubt. I want to show people that:
1. You can turn a dream into reality.
2. The ability to transform your physique is extremely intense and takes a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication however the reward is well worth it.
3. The lifestyle consists of prepared meals, all inclusive of the right nutrients to fuel the body for the task at hand. Whether that may be working, sleeping, training, etc. the right nutrient source is required at the right time to produce a positive outcome for the activity you are ready to partake.
4. I live and breathe a healthy, fit lifestyle and that is what I would like others to take away when they meet/see me.
Q: Who are your role models?
A: My family. Their love and support is what gives me strength and hope to keep getting up when I get knocked down. We are a very giving family with strong morals and will do anything for each other.
Iris Kyle – for obvious reasons (the best bodybuilder on the planet).
Milos Sarcev – based on his own career achievements, his ability to mentor his clients and create the craziest workouts in this world and to get the best from his athletes. His passion for this sport and his athletes is infectious.
Q: How has your lifestyle affected your relationships? That can be with friends, family, significant other, etc.
A: My family could not be more supportive; they are very proud. When I go home to visit my family, my mother always does my grocery shopping to ensure I always have the right food on hand.
There is only really one day where I can spend time with others when I am not training (Sunday). I try to see friends on this day, however they are pretty good at understanding the limited time I have and chores that need to be done on this day.
As for partners, I have had partners involved in the sport, so their understanding is very good. For those who have not been involved in the sport, those relationships have been somewhat harder and not lasted.
Q: What do you think is the perception is of women in the fitness industry versus the reality?
A: If we are talking about female bodybuilders, people tend to believe we are strong and can take anything. I know for myself, I am like any other woman (or person for that matter) who needs to be cared for and protected. I think because we look strong, people assume we can take on the world. We may very well be able to do this, however it is nice to be loved, cherished and protected and have someone look out for you. I think this gets missed a lot in the sport.
I also believe there is a very large misconception about weight training and getting ‘too big’. You have to work extremely hard and consistently to develop muscle mass. This includes training and eating specifically for this particular goal. For women who would like to have a healthy, fit, active lifestyle and physique, weight training is essential and getting too big is not a fear to have.
Q: What do you think the future holds for competitions?
A: It is disappointing to see female bodybuilding shows be cancelled. The Arnold Classic is a perfect example of disappointment and the impact this has not only on the competitors, but I feel it sends a negative message to the sport – that female bodybuilding is dying. We need to keep this sport alive; we need to promote it for all it’s worth and show our fans inspirational role models, athletes and physiques to increase interest from our fans.
Q: What does the future hold for you?
A: I am 110% focused on my pro debut in 2014. I have a brilliant coach and mentor and we are shooting for a great 2014. My life is simply devoted to competing in 2014 after not having competed since 2010. It has been a while off stage for me and I am hungry to get back up there again. We have to train smart and hard to achieve the outcome we have set and I feel we are on track for that. At the moment, it is taking one day at a time and one step after the other.