Suffice it to say Celeste Bonin is an animal lover. We scheduled this interview a few different time, but I kept missing her. When she finally got back to me, she explained that she couldn't answer her phone because she was busy rescuing a pit bull from the side of the highway. Since the local SPCA didn't take pits, Celeste brought it home and is now nursing her fourth dog back to health. Compassionate and beautiful; a undeniably great combination! This is where our conversation begins.....
RX: Celeste, I hear that you are considering making a switch from figure to bodybuilding. How long have you been competing in figure?
CB: I did my first show right when I turned 19 years old, in 2006. It was the John Sherman Classic. I really didn't know what I was doing. I just decided to give it a try because everyone always asked me if I competed. I didn't even know what that meant, I was just super athletic so people always noticed my muscles. I prepped myself for that show and I didn't do very well. Then I came back the next year to the same show in 2007 and I won!
RX: What is your contest weight?
CB: I'm 5'5" and on stage I am between 140 and 145.
RX: You were still doing figure when you competed at the Arnold Amateur in 2008, right?
CB: Yes. I placed fifth at that show and I was thrilled because, I was the youngest competitor there, and it was a huge show. I felt like I was on a roll. The Jr. USA's was just 10 weeks after that show, and I decided to do it, too. This was right around the time, I think, that the NPC decided that they wanted the figure girls to be a little softer and less muscular. I think I got called out in the second to last group at that show. When I asked the judges for feedback, they told me that I looked like a bodybuilder.
RX: Really? What qualities do you think gave them that perception?
CB: Well, my legs, for one. I have really muscular legs. I always have. I'm kind of known for my legs. When people see me, they always notice my legs. It's always been that way.
RX: So was this your sign to turn to bodybuilding?
CB: No. I took a whole year off. I totally changed my training in an effort to take off some size. I did mainly high intensity training and never really trained my legs. I just had this thing in my head that I didn't want to look like a bodybuilder. I didn't want to look masculine and I didn't want to be "big." I don't want to sound like I think that's what female bodybuilding is about; it was just an obstacle in my own head. I actually think the female bodybuilders are absolutely AMAZING! Anyway, I think I took a little size off. Then I went back and did the Jr. USA's again.
CB: Same thing. The judges said the same thing, too. They just said, no way with my legs and shoulders. They told me that I should give bodybuilding a try. A friend of mine who also happens to be a judge told me that with the new ruling, the female bodybuilders are also "sizing down" a bit and that the judges are also looking for the femininity to be in place.
RX: So I'm guessing this gave you the permission you needed to embrace bodybuilding?
CB: It really tempted me, yes. I actually planned on competing in bodybuilding at a show this past October, in Texas, but then my boyfriend had a tragic accident that nearly took his whole arm off. So, my life went on hold so that I could take care of him. I even stopped training altogether. You know, when someone is used to being very active and providing, and then his whole life is turned around, it takes some strength to keep yourself from going crazy in your head! So, my main focus was making sure that he got his life back to normal. Now we're back to life as usual.
RX: Are you planning on entering your next show as a bodybuilder, then?
CB: My plan is to diet, cardio and train the way I like to and in the end, I'll figure it out based on how I look. In the past, I've dieted for 16 weeks, but I've stayed in shape since my last show, so I don't think I'll have to diet as long. I'll turn to my trainer for his opinion. He's had me doing "micro-diets" for a while now, and it seems to be really effective for me.
CB: Yeah....he'll have me eat a certain plan for about four weeks, and then take a week off. Then we'll do another four weeks, and another week off. It has totally changed my mind set.
RX: When you say it has changed your mindset, do you mean that typical bodybuilder extreme dieting for a show and then extreme off season weight gain?
CB: That's EXACTLY what I mean!! I was so unhappy for a while, I don't even know why I kept competing, actually. I never really liked how my physique looked on stage after that John Sherman show that I won. I mean, I felt like I always looked like I was a month out from a show. My body seemed like it quit responding and I was working my butt off! I got to a point that I couldn't really do any more in one day and I wasn't seeing any results! That's when my trainer told me we needed to change my mind set. He's the one who put a new spin on everything for me. The micro-dieting makes it so that I stay in shape year round, and I don't get that awful off season weight gain.
RX: Isn't it funny what a mind game it really is? So does your perspective allow you to feel more comfortable and happy with yourself?
CB: You know that cycle of super hardcore dieting and then gaining too much weight in the off season? That was me! I would gain too much weight after all that hardcore dieting and then I was awful to everybody in my life because I was so unhappy with myself. And in my head, the only way to get back to the condition I liked was to go in to that hardcore diet phase again. With this micro-diet strategy, though, it isn't like that. The week off allows me to relax with my cardio a bit, or maybe have a couple of cheat days, and then get right back to business for a few more short weeks. It really helps me to not feel like a mental patient. And it has affected my entire life. In general, I'm just a lot happier.
RX: What do you do for a living?
CB: Well, I'm all over the place. My main income is from bartending. I've been doing it since I was 18 and it is a really god income. The hours also work out great for anyone who wants to be involved in the fitness industry. I can get my workouts and my cardio in during the day when most other people are working and then I work at night. But, since I don't want to be a bartender for the rest of my life, I have started a spray tanning business with my best friend. We bought a machine and we do mobile spray tanning. I'm also really in to make up and I'd like to go back to school for fine arts. I went to school for aesthetics, that's how I got into the skin care thing/. But, I really like theatrical make up and I'd like to get in to that professionally someday.
RX: Tell me about the tattoo?
CB: (laughs) That was something one of my best friends and I did when I turned 18. We went to this seedy little hole in the wall . We didn't know any better. It was just on a whim. My friend has these beautiful, luscious, full lips. So I had her put some lipstick on and she kissed some paper a bunch of times until we got the perfect shape. Then the guy put it on my butt and I told him I wanted it exactly like the paper. Well, it turned out hideous, and I had to wait for it to heal and then have it re-done.
RX: It's gotten a lot of attention.
CB: Yeah....it was just me being silly, really. I just thought it was cute and kinda funny.
RX: Tell me something about yourself that most people don't know.
CB: Let's see..I talk a lot - but you already know that! Haha. Umm....well, I like to be a clown. I'm the one in a group of people who actually says what everybody else is thinking. You know - what nobody else will say- that's me. I'm always a jackass!
RX: What are you looking for in your fitness career?
CB: What I want most out of my fitness endeavor is for people to remember me from the me that I want to be. I haven't brought it to the stage yet, but the ultimate physique that my body is capable of, is the one I want people to know. Does that make sense? I don't want people to google my name and see all those pictures of me in contests where I wasn't my best. I want my best to be what stands out.
RX: Are you married? Single? In a relationship?
CB: I am in love.
RX: Do you have any advice for others who have struggled with bringing their best package to the stage?
CB: Yeah...don't get stuck in that mindset that competing defines who you are. You are so many other things than just a competitor. I've found that when I am happy with myself, then all areas of my life are better.