Standing in my bathroom in my swimsuit, I took a good look at my butt and thighs in the double mirrors, and said to my boyfriend, “What am I going to do?" Silence. Finally, he spoke: “They’re not going to let you compete.” It was Spring 2010, I was Ms. New York, and the National Pageant was fast approaching. He was right; I did not belong on that stage. I certainly didn’t have the body of a beauty queen; my thighs had significant, very noticeable cellulite, and my butt was flat and saggy. Pageant panic aside, it pained me to even look in the mirror.
My boyfriend added, “You better get in that gym.” But I was already working out with a personal trainer, as I always had; I had hired (and fired!) a small army of personal trainers over the years. No matter what I did, my butt still drooped down, hanging out of my bikini, like a 90-year-old life-long couch potato. I even flew to the famous Canyon Ranch Health Spa to see a top Exercise Physiologist - only to be told that I was in excellent physical condition, “almost all women have cellulite,” and, regarding my flat, saggy butt, I needed to learn to “accept my natural body type.” I walked out of there disgusted and furious - and scared. Did I really have to accept living in a body that I hated??
The pageant was now only a few short weeks away, and I was very close to giving up. I broke down in tears of frustration. Was there really no solution? Wasn’t there ANYONE that could help me?? In one, final, exasperated, random attempt, I googled, “How do I lift my butt?” And, just like that, there was my answer: “Leandro Carvalho, creator of Brazil Butt Lift…” I continued reading: “Trainer of Victoria’s Secret models?!?” Wow. “The Brazilian Butt Master?!??” Oh my! And he lived in the city! I thought to myself, ‘I think I have finally found my man.’ :-)
When we met, my first impression of Leandro was that he was an exceptionally gracious person, in the most sincere and heartfelt way, with a big, bright smile, and an adorable accent. I liked him right away. That first workout, Leandro showed me numerous exercises that I had never done before with any of my previous trainers. Next, he turned up the music in his studio, and unexpectedly began teaching me some Brazilian dance moves! (Not being a great dancer, I had some trouble, but later, with a little practice, I learned that dance!) He then sat me down and asked me, in a concerned and confidential tone, if I had “a problem with chocolate!!” What a character! I just loved him. But I was so stressed about the pageant… I asked Leandro, “The pageant is just over 4 weeks away. Will I be able to compete?” He replied simply, “Yes.” He said it firmly, with certainty, and I believed him. You know how some people wordlessly convey, ‘Give me the problem, I’ll solve it?’ Leandro is like that. I knew that if anyone could rescue me from my desperate situation, it would be this charismatic Brazilian fireball. I was finally in the right hands. I breathed a sigh of relief.
…But on the train ride home, I couldn’t help but ask myself, ‘Even if this guy is the best trainer in the world, how much can the body really change in only 4 weeks??’ The pressure was on, for both me and Leandro. I was excited, but nervous, and I knew Leandro himself felt exactly the same way; I saw the flash of concern cross his face when he took a good look at the back of my thighs, that first day. We really had a major challenge in front of us.
We both dove in and attacked it. During the month of June 2010, Leandro trained me 6 days a week, at the studio, in the gym, and in the pool. We trained full body, with a strong emphasis on lifting and building my butt.
Unsure of what to expect or hope for as an end result, I vowed to myself two things that first day: 1) I would do my absolute best, every minute of every day, for the next 28 days, and 2) I would not look in the mirror. I was scared to look, scared of getting discouraged. I knew well that the body does not change overnight, and that frustration can sabotage your success. So, I set my mind to take pleasure in the process itself, and to focus only on that. During a workout, Leandro once said to me, “Every rep counts,” and that reinforced my mindset even more. Some days I couldn’t wait to hit the weights, and some days I dreaded it, but either way, I poured all of my energy into every rep, of every set, every day. I got stronger and stronger, fast; I was lifting heavier and heavier weight, almost by the day. And each time Leandro increased my weights, added a new, more challenging exercise, or made my workouts longer, I smiled inside (even if I might not have looked so happy!). Each day, when I walked out of that studio, I relished the feeling of a job well done.
There were several instances where something Leandro said struck me, and changed my thinking. One example was when I pulled a muscle, Leandro had me recite positive affirmations and do healing visualizations, and I was not allowed to use the word ‘injury.’ I healed remarkably quickly, and was back in action in no time. It was through training with Leandro that I really ‘got it:’ Every workout counts. Every rep counts. Every meal counts. Every word you speak counts. Every thought you tell yourself counts. To reach an elite level of success, you have to pursue it whole-heartedly. (And, if you spend any time around Leandro, your definition of ‘whole-heartedly’ will change!) You must be driven, relentless… I had always greatly admired, even idolized, that type of person (don’t we all?)… but I didn’t think I had it in me to be one of them. Leandro showed me that, Oh yes, I do! He brought it out in me, in the most natural and effortless way, through his example and gentle guidance.
On Day 28, my After Pictures were taken… and I finally looked at my butt. When my Before-and-After pics appeared side-by-side on the computer screen, I was literally astounded, to the point of confusion and disbelief; it didn’t seem possible that my body could have changed that much, that fast! But it had; sure enough, I had smooth, shapely thighs, and a firm, lifted butt! I looked… practically perfect!! Leandro was beaming, the biggest smile ever. He gave me a big hug and told me how proud he was of me. It was, without exception, the proudest moment of my life, even outshining being crowned Ms. New York. (Smaller pageants, by the way, often allow contestants to wear sarongs over their swimsuits, and special stockings!) For the first time in my life, I felt beautiful from head to toe, strong, and in control, like I could accomplish anything in this world. For the first time in my life, I had mastered true self-discipline, and now I was reaping the rewards of it: my transformation was so impressive that I was invited to appear with Leandro on several tv programs, including CBS News! I felt like Fitness Royalty. And now, when I looked in the mirror and saw the toned, shapely body I had always so admired, my self-esteem went through the roof!
At the pageant, I placed in the Top Ten, and came in First Place in Fitness, missing a perfect score by only one point. The Bikini Round went better than I ever dreamed; I was by far the crowd favorite, receiving the most applause and cheers of any contestant. I was truly stunned and amazed by the crowd’s strong reaction to me. And only 4 weeks prior, I had been in tears, feeling like a failure, ready to withdraw from the pageant, and ashamed of my body...! Immediately after the pageant, I was honored to receive a special invitation from one of the judges to compete in an international pageant in Lithuania, representing the United States. Training with Leandro had transformed me… not just my body, but ME… from a girl struggling with insecurity, into a fully confident shining light that stands out in a crowd - even a crowd of beauty queens. :-)