Top bikini and figure athletes reveal the truth about competing

Stepping on the competitive stage in the shape of your life has become a popular transformation goal for many women.

Based on all the amazing stories you hear and the glamorous pictures you see, it’s easy to get caught up in the allure of Bikini and Figure competitions, but it’s also important to have realistic expectations about the show day experience and the journey you need to travel to get there.

Your appearance on stage is, after all, just 5 minutes of glory that follows months of sacrifice, dedication and  hard work. To ensure you’re under no illusions about what you’ll face, so you can have the best experience possible, we spoke to seasoned athletes who have done it all before, to reveal the truth about competing.

How should someone prepare for their first competition?

MARCELLE COLLISON: Work with a great coach – listen to your coach and only your coach.

  • Don’t rush the process, trust the process and set realistic goals.

  • Choose a competition or federation you’d like to compete in and get clued up on the criteria for the divisions – costumes, shoes, registration, tan etc.

  • Train hard, eat clean.

  • Practice posing and stage presence from at least 12 weeks out.

  • Make sure you have enough time to prepare to avoid drastic measures for the sake of standing on stage.

How should athletes choose their categories and shows?

VICTORIA SETHABELA: Look for something you think you can prepare for. If your body doesn’t mould into the category you initially wanted, then find an alternative. Never take drastic measures to fit into a division you won’t do well in.

AMBER BLOM: Watching a show is often the best way to learn how important stage presence and posing truly are. I also recommend that first-timers sign up for a local show before doing a national show – they’re re smaller and you can learn how they run before dipping your toes into something bigger.

KARIEN VAN DER WAL: Although each category has different criteria, the presentation of a healthy, balanced & symmetrical figure applies to every athlete. Judges score competitors on aspects such as:

  • Femininity

  • Complexion

  • Hair and make-up

  • Poise and grace

  • Confidence

  • Overall presentation

  • Balance and Shape

  • Physical appearance

  • Symmetry

  • Personality

What guidance can you give a first-timers regarding posing, bikini, and overall look?

KARIEN VAN DER WAL: Your posing is very important – it has a huge impact on your final score. This is your opportunity to show off your hard work and present yourself to the judges in the best possible way. I’ve seen girls win competitions without having the best physique as her poise, grace and confidence scored her more points. Judges also look at skin tightness and tone, so ensure your skin is smooth and healthy, without cellulite. Hair and make-up should complete the ‘total package’. Your make-up must match your complexion and tan. Those bright lights can also make you look flat and white if your tan is not dark enough. Lastly, choose a bikini that suits your body and personality.

AMBER BLOM: The colour of your bikini is a big decision. Go for bright, saturated colours such as blue, red, purples or greens. The stage lights easily wash out colours.

What are the federation choices?

  • WBFF
  • IBFF
  • IFBB Pro League Qaulifiers
  • PCA

What tips do you have for competitors who want to go pro?

JENADINE HAVENGA: It’s hard! Don’t expect it the first time. Work hard, and don’t give up. Most Pros and World Champions competed for years before reaching their goal. It seldom happens overnight.

MARCELLE COLLISON: Different federations have different rules regarding Pro cards. Decide what federation you’d like to align with, then commit to it and work towards your goal every day.

How will competing affect your lifestyle, family and career?

SHELBY JESSICA NEVES: The demands of prepping and competing definitely impacts your daily lifestyle, at home and at work. Having a supportive and understanding family and friend structure makes the process easier, though. Proper time management and some semblance of balance will benefit you.

AMBER BLOM: This depends on your “why”. Competing can become all consuming, so make sure that you set boundaries before starting. Sacrificing relationships is not justifiable. This is a short-term hobby, so incorporate it into your life. Don’t allow your life to revolve around it.

Can competing affect a person’s mental and emotional health?

MARCELLE COLLISON: I believe there are positives and negatives to everything in life:

A positive is that you’ll discover an inner strength within yourself. You’ll develop discipline and confidence, and a sense of inner power through achievement.

Always comparing yourself and your process to others can be negative. It’s also a subjective sport, so if you define your self-worth based on your placing, or how many likes you get for a pic, you’re setting yourself up for a negative outcome. Any negative self-image or body dysmorphia will result in mental and emotional struggles, but working with a coach who offers an outsider’s view can be very beneficial in this regard.

Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.


Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You'll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.

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