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Photographer Thomas Guaghan recently spoke with Bikini Competitor, Maricela Lemus about competing this year. He decided to share that interview with MuscleBombshell. We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did.
Maricela Lemus is 27 years old and currently a Graduate student working towards her Masters of Science in Higher Education at California State University Fresno. She is working to complete her internship as an Advising Intern. She is going to school full time as well as training in the gym 5-6 days a week.
She became very intrigued with the world of bodybuilding back in 2007 when her boyfriend Cesar Martinez won the overall in the Fresno Classic Bodybuilding competition. She learned a lot from just watching him and using him as her guide. She began competing in 2011, but did not place in her first competition.
She decided to take a year off to train and put on some muscle. A year later she entered the Muscle Shoot out in Clovis, CA and took first place in the bikini “A” class. She then proceeded to prepare for the NPC San Jose in July, where she took 4th place and finally the NPC San Francisco, where she took 2nd place.
TGP: After finals you didn’t place as high as you would have liked, what were the judge’s comments?
ML: After pre-judging I had the feeling that my placing was not going to be top 3 because of where the judges had placed me in the lineup. I was able to talk to the head judge following pre-judging and asked him what he thought of my physique now compared to the previous show in Clovis (where he happened to be the head judge as well). He commented that I was too hard and defined; emphasizing the hardness in my shoulders and abs. According to Jim Reyes (who was part of the panel of judges), the judges preferred the bikini girls to be softer and fuller for this particular show. According to them, I stood out like a bullet next to the softer bodies versus my hard conditioned look. I felt somewhat disappointed, not in myself, but in knowing how hard I had worked and how well conditioned my body was, it just made me wonder whether all the hours at the gym and diet were even worth it. I started asking myself “What are they really looking for?” I began to reflect back to the Clovis show and how I looked then and what I could have done for the San Jose to come in softer and fuller. My goal with the San Jose was to try to take the overall and I thought by coming in tighter and more conditioned the judges would see the work I put in to improve my physique, but that was not the case at all, instead of getting recognized for my tight and hard physique, I got scored down for it.
TGP: So having this in mind, what were your thoughts on competing going forward?
ML: Although I felt a bit disappointed, in the back of my mind I was not content with the results of the San Jose show, so I was debating whether I should give it one more try before the end of the year. I was not planning on doing anymore competitions, but I wanted to figure out what the judges really wanted and if softening up would change their perceptions of my physique. A week before the NPC San Francisco I made the last minute decision to register for this show and give it a shot.
TGP: I was shooting the NPC SF show as well and was glad to see you back on stage. You made obvious changes to your physique, tell me about that process.
ML: Honestly, the process was easy, but frustrating at the same time. I pretty much had to do the opposite of dieting in order to soften up and put on some weight. The most frustrating part was that it is really hard for me to put on weight. I have to intake a high calorie diet in order to gain a good 3-4lbs. I would say it took me about 2 months to gain 2 lbs. I had to cut my cardio back to 15 minutes a day and just try to maintain focusing on my glutes and legs. This process was difficult because I am use to working hard when it comes to getting ready for a competition; it was tough.
TGP: I know some girls would love to not be able to put on weight but that is equally frustrating to deal with. How did you feel going into that show, how you felt on stage and finally taking 2nd in your class?
ML: Like I mentioned before my decision of competing for the San Francisco was last minute and was not really planned. I did not feel as confident as I felt going into the San Jose show where I felt prepared and had really put in the work, but at the end of the day I was more than happy with my placing considering the different approach I took for this show.
TGP: Sounds almost bitter – sweet. Which physique do you prefer, the more conditioned Maricela you presented in San Jose or the one that landed you a second place trophy?
ML: Although I did not land a 2nd place trophy like I did at the San Francisco show I do prefer the more conditioned Maricela that came in the San Jose show. For me it’s about putting in the work and to know that I was able to transform my body in less than a month was impressive and that pushes me to work even harder.
TGP: So when are you going to be competing next?
ML: Now that I qualify for a national show, my thoughts at the moment are to do the USA’s next year in July. I want to step on a national stage and see how I do there. I do know that doing a national show is different from doing an amateur show. The judging seems to be different and from what I have seen, bikini competitors come in a bit more conditioned for a national show. I know that I will be ready to put in the work when that time comes and I look forward to it.
Overall, I have learned a lot with every competition. I take everything in as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow, but at the end of the day I do realize that I have to be happy with my physique and the way I look regardless of what the judges prefer.
I want to thank my boyfriend Cesar Martinez who has supported me through the process as well as Jim Reyes (Cesar’s coach) for being there and giving me tips. Also A special thanks to Matt Stephenson and his wife Sophi Stephenson who coached and prepped me for the NPC San Jose show. To all the friends I made along the way, thank you for your support and lovely comments and thank you all for believing in me! Watch out for me next year!
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