I met Juliana Malacarne in New York City at a Chelsea coffee shop on a blustery October day. As I was texting her to let her know I had arrived, I looked up and saw a woman. She took off a heavy maroon sweatshirt to reveal a green and white baseball shirt, grey sweatpants with just enough definition peeking through her clothes to let the world know that she trains hard. Since I didn’t have my glasses on, I had to squint a bit as I looked up from my notepad. “Juliana,” I called out in the hopes I wasn’t embarrassing myself. “Derek, hi!” the woman exclaimed with a big smile full of white teeth and a Brazilian-Portuguese accent. Thankfully, it was Juliana. I kissed her on the cheek because that’s apparently that’s how Brazilians greet each other and we sat down to begin our chat. Of the few other people around, no one else looked up.
It’s amazing to think that I am sitting with a woman who was just crowned Ms. Olympia for the second year in a row not a few months prior, and nobody around gave it a second thought. That’s kind of the amazing thing about her: you wouldn’t know she was Juliana Malacarne if she wasn’t Juliana Malacarne. She is humble and soft spoken. Her physique is not overpowering, and doesn’t have any airs about her. “No coffee for me,” she tells me. “It’s not a diet thing, it’s that I just don’t like it. I like Diet Coke instead. It’s a little sweet. It’s nice after I’m done competing for the season.” After having gone through the rigors of yet another competition season, Malacarne reflects on improving, constantly trying to make the best in the world better. “I’m just trying to bring what the IFBB is looking for. I don’t think it’s my personal best but I want to win.“ Juliana has a fiery competitive spirit and an indomitable will do what it takes to become champion. Of course she does what it takes to succeed at the highest level of her field, but to sacrifice the physique she personally wants to achieve for the privilege of Arnold Schwarzenegger presenting her with the Olympia trophy speaks volumes about Malacarne’s exceptional commitment to the sport. In the many ways she is exceptional, she is actually, dare I say, normal.
Juliana’s exceptional fortitude is best exemplified in her fitness journey itself. She has been competing for 15 years and lost 15 competitive figure shows before making the move to physique. The 2005 IFBB Amateur World Championship is the show closest to her heart. “I came out of nowhere and beat 145 girls. I was the first South American girl to win. That was big,” she beams. “Olympia was big too, but people knew me. In 2005, to beat that many girls…that made me proud.” Since making the move to physique, Juliana has become the standard bearer of the IFBB women’s physique division. Of the three years that Physique has been offered at the Olympia, she has won the division twice in a row. “The first time was much harder, because I had to prove myself. The second time there was a different kind of pressure. I realize everyone works hard to catch up to me, so I work just as hard to keep being the best. I know they’re coming, and every year they get better. I just work my butt off.”
For competitors trying to make it to her level, she over surprisingly simple advice: “Keep it consistent. I try to do my best in everything that I do, so that should be the expectation. Make that choice to excel.” Despite the Olympia’s location in Las Vegas, Juliana is all business: “I think of a competition as work. From the moment I step off the plane to the moment I leave the airport to go home, I am there to work.” She and the other Olympia physique competitors did have a party after the show to celebrate their accomplishments. “We brought pies and cakes…so many cakes,” she laughs.
Despite the occasional wild night in Vegas with baked goods, Juliana realizes that there are distractions everywhere but just tries to keep it simple. Between the thrill of being at the Olympia and the social media hype surrounding the event, she says, “it can be a distraction, but it’s not for me. I know there are things that I have to do. I take care of the most important things.” Now that she is off-season she tells me, “I still eat more or less the same way I always do, but I’m able to sneak in a bad meal here or there to not only allow myself that flexibility, but also to enjoy it.”
Oddly enough, for a person so revered in the fitness community, she doesn’t like to be the center of attention. “In spite of my job, I don’t like the spotlight. I much prefer being ‘Juliana at home’ than ‘Juliana Malacarne, Ms. Olympia.’” To get away from the hustle and bustle of the bodybuilding life her diverse interests and hobbies keep her busy. “I like to hang out with my family, dance a little bit, eat of course, bake cookies, try new restaurants, read, sit at home and watch movies…I’m a normal person. I’m ok hanging out and doing nothing sometimes. Every once in a while we all need that.” Juliana has been especially busy this year so she really hasn’t had all that much down time, so she’s enjoying it while she can.
They say you should never meet your idols, but whoever said that never met Juliana. She is effervescent, warm and friendly. She defies many of the stereotypes traditionally held about bodybuilders. Her home gym Bev’s Powerhouse in Syosset, NY is one of the best known bodybuilding gyms in the country, but she insists that doesn’t limit her social circle “It’s great and rewarding when people recognize me. I’m usually surprised when it happens, because I don’t have that ego and I don’t seek it out.” As a personal trainer, she actually “prefers working with people who may not automatically gravitate to fitness, especially older people. “I love that I can help people achieve healthy fitness goals. It takes me out of the ‘bodybuilding’ life for a while.”
When talking about the bodybuilding life she tells me “a lot of the new girls are good… the harder the competition, the better.” As an athlete, her competitive spirit cannot be denied. We all have an idea of great athletes in our heads, our Jordans, our Tigers, our Rouseys. They all have the fearlessness and the mental fortitude to be great. What a lot of athletes don’t have however, is a human side. Juliana has that love of competition and will to win, but she is exceptionally human in her approach to other competitors and fans that makes her approachable, one of us, normal. “Personal interactions and getting to know people are really important. I’m all about feeling good, looking good, being friends with everybody… those are life goals. Those are things we need in society.”
To see more on 2x Ms. Physique Olympia Juliana Malcarne see videos below:
EXCLUSIVE RX MUSCLE COVERAGE - JULIANA MALACARNE - Posing routine from the 2014 IFBB Dallas Europa Games
More on Juliana Malacarne - EXCLUSIVE - LIVE WITH JULIANA MALACARNE ON RX TELEVISION - 8/25/2015