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World’s Youngest IFBB PRO, Shanique Grant, Discusses Her Successful Rise in Figure Division

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Shanique Grant, World's Younget IFBB Pro

Shanique Grant may only be 19 years old but she is already making a name for herself in the world of professional bodybuilding. As a figure competitor, Grant has quickly climbed the ranks. Starting in November 2013, Grant, in just one year’s time has turned her budding interest in fitness into a profession, earning one of bodybuilding’s most coveted titles – IFBB Pro. Given that many athletes compete for years and never achieve pro status, Grant’s accomplishment is nothing short of amazing, and now she has no plans on turning back. Check out our interview with IFBB Pro Shanique Grant as she discusses her journey from 18 year-old novice to 19-year-old professional figure competitor!

BFT: When did you start your journey?

SG: I started my fitness journey this time last year November 2013, I was so new at the “eating clean, training mean” lifestyle but I was determined to make a change and step outside of the crowd…to stand out.

BFT: Did you play any sports growing up? If so, do you think this helped prepare you for the sport of bodybuilding?

SG: I ran track & field (sprinter and high jumper) since I was in 3rd grade racing in town track events and then throughout high school, earning three varsity letters and a total of 70 medals. I wouldn’t say that specifically prepared me, but the ability to have such a focus for all these years (whilst running track) has prepared me for such a big jump into this sport of bodybuilding.

BFT: How did your nutrition and training change once you decided to commit to changing your body?

SG: I changed my eating habits drastically cutting all junk foods, no more soda; more water…I was even surprised at myself how disciplined I became. I trained seven days a week for 3-4 hours and it became a daily regimen, a part of each day had to consist of me attending the gym.

Shanique Grant, World's Younget IFBB Pro

BFT: Often times, getting started on a new plan is easy, but it’s sticking to the plan that can be the most difficult when the results don’t come immediately. How did your mentality change once you started to see results?

SG: It became a passion, a very strong passion! People started noticing me, asking if I competed — which I had no idea what that was at the time — so I looked it up and found out myself.  I was never the type to be center of attention and so outgoing so I was hesitant about it. A couple months passed and I was contacted by my now prep coach JohnnyDiezel. He told me he saw potential and a very strong future for me as figure competitor so I listened.

BFT: What did it feel like to hit the stage for the first time?

SG: My first competition was August 9th, 2014 in West Long Branch, NJ (NPC Muscle Beach Championships). As soon as I hit that stage my mind completely went blank, the lights were SO bright and I was so nervous. But once I heard the crowd cheering me on, I said to myself “make an impression, you’ve worked so hard, own it” and with that being said at my very first competition I won first place in my class and first place overall for Figure Division.

Shanique Grant, World's Younget IFBB Pro

BFT: How soon after your first show did you start prepare for your second?

SG: My coach started me up with my diet and training prep a week after my first show for NPC East Coast Championships (November 15, 2014 in Wayne, NJ) and also NPC Nationals (November 21-22, 2014 in Miami, FL). My coach and I were hesitant about prepping me for two shows so very close to each other but we went for it. I won first place at NPC East Coast Championships and the following weekend I took 2nd Place at NPC Nationals earning my pro card, I am now the World’s youngest IFBB Figure Pro at 19 years old!!

BFT: How does it feel to be the world’s youngest IFBB Pro? What’s next for you?

SG: It has to be one of the best feelings of my life, I feel accomplished but it doesn’t stop there. Next year, I will be competing at a pro level show, New York Pro. With five months of training and dieting, I have high hopes on what greater improvements I can make by then!

Shanique Grant, World's Younget IFBB Pro

BFT: What advice do you have for young women looking to get started in the sport of bodybuilding?

SG: Honestly…Go for it! With the right mindset and discipline, your achievements are endless. Just stay on course and never give up.

BFT: How can people find out more about you and stay connected with you on your fitness journey

Facebook: Shanique K Grant IFBB Pro
Instagram: _Fitnessbeauty

 

Photos courtesy of MyContestPix.com

 

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Ilen Bell is co-founder and CEO of Black Fitness Today, the digital magazine dedicated to empowering the black community - mind, body, soul, culture and money. He lives in Tucson, AZ with his wife and daughter and nine-to-fives it as head strength and conditioning coach for a military special operations unit.

Culture

Bernie Mac’s Widow, Rhonda McCullough, Talks Regaining Health after Loss

“In October of 2016, I made up my mind. I said, ‘This was it,’ and I’ve been committed ever since.”

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Rhonda McCullough, Bernie Mac, widow

Rhonda McCullough, Bernie Mac’s widow, has dealt with so many life changes over the years. After losing her husband, then her father and mother last year, Rhonda’s eating habits became increasingly unhealthy and her weight skyrocketed. It wasn’t until last year after her mother’s death, that she decided to change her eating habits, and shed the weight. Today, Rhonda has lost over 70 pounds by eating healthy and keeping a regular exercise routine. She’d like to let others know, that if she could do it, so can you!

Black Fitness Today caught up with Rhonda McCullough, to learn more about how she turned pain into triumph and how she kick-started her weight loss journey!

Describe yourself as you can remember while you were with Bernie Mac:
I was a young mother, a young wife and a stay-at-home mom for a while. That’s where I came into my weight issues; being at home, a little bored, and having a baby… I’d eat a dozen of doughnuts, then I’d say, “wow I can’t believe I ate all of that.” It was always the sweets.

So your weight problems started as a young mother, even while Bernie Mac was still living?
Oh absolutely. The weight issues started after my pregnancy. I gained close to 80lbs. After I delivered her, I lost 20lbs, then I went on a strict diet. I ended up getting back down to my original pre-pregnancy size, and I maintained that weight for a while.

How long were you able to sustain that post-pregnancy weight loss?
I was able to lose the weight, but I couldn’t sustain it for very long. Bernie Mac worked 4pm to midnight, and I’d wait for him to come home before eating dinner, and you know, you can’t eat late like that, plus I wasn’t active. As African-Americans, we’re not taught that you must exercise daily to sustain weight loss. You have to exercise, you have to move, and I didn’t do any of that. So as life went on, I ate, and I gained the weight back, especially once Bernie got sick.

After Bernie Mac got sick, how did that affect your weight loss?
Bernie was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in the 80’s. As his sickness progressed, it just got worst for me. I was here taking care of him. After he died in August 2008, I could only think, “What am I going to do now?” I just didn’t care about my diet after that. Nothing was healthy, nothing was good. I remember saying to myself, “I’m going to be fat the rest of my life.”

What happened between 2008 and now?
After Bernie died in 2008, my dad died months later. In 2010, I joined Weight Watchers and ended up losing 70lbs. I got remarried at the end of 2010 on New Years Eve. From 2010 to 2013, I don’t know how, but the weight crept back on me. In 2016, my mom got sick. She was in and out the hospital, it was just so stressful and I didn’t care about my diet again. I was at my highest weight that I’d ever been. I just couldn’t stay focused on the weight loss.

What was the turning point for you?
I have a good friend, he told me, “You know what Rhonda, you’re a beautiful person, no matter what size you are. Stop talking about yourself… if you don’t like how you look, change it, only you can change it.” I’ve been a yo-yo dieter my whole life. So this time around, because I’m turning 60 this year, I said I wanted to be healthy, and I wanted to look good. So slowly but surely, I started making changes. After my mom died, months later, I knew it was time for a major change. In October of 2016, I made up my mind. I said, “This was it,” and I’ve been committed ever since.

How has your diet changed?
I cut out sugars, white foods, potatoes, sodas, I only ate lean meats and vegetables, and I did that for four months. I got tired of that so I decided to incorporate some foods back into my diet, but in moderation. You just have to learn how to compromise.

Are you happy?
I honestly am. I love the way my shirts and blouses fit; I love the way my jeans fit. I’m a size that’s suitable for me. I want to lose maybe 10-15 more pounds but I honestly am happy with the way I look now.

What are some words of encouragement that you would give someone going through the same thing you went through?
Right now in this moment, no matter how you feel, or how you look, you still have to love yourself. We always show compassion to other people, but we never show that same compassion to ourselves. Within loving ourselves, we can make a change. Start small, it doesn’t have to be big. Don’t make goals that are too big and overwhelming. Take something away for a week. Start walking everyday for 10 minutes, until you can build up and do more. Baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s not a diet, this is a lifestyle. Not to say you can’t enjoy some things, just not every day. We have to learn how to love ourselves and not let the food consume us. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

Rhonda McCullough plans to continue her weight loss journey while living on purpose! Follow Rhonda on IG at @mcculloghgilmore.

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Culture

Greenleaf Star Deborah Joy Winans Talks About Overcoming Self-Doubt and Achieving Self-Love

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Greenleaf, Deborah Joy Winans, OWN
Photo: OWN

It’s hard to find a black family who didn’t grow up listening to the legendary Winans family, or at least know someone who did. From Bebe and CeCe, to Marvin, to Vickie, the Winans family has an annointing! But not everyone in the Winans family has chosen to make a primary career out of singing. 34-year-old Deborah Joy knew in her spirit she wanted to become an actress. The pursuit of her true passion paid off, as she was seen by Oprah at a workshop, and offered the opportunity to play Charity Greenleaf. Ironically, Charity is a singer!

Black Fitness Today caught up with Winans to discuss her success as an actress living her dream, and how she has overcome colorism and struggles with body positivity, to truly love herself and who she has been called to be. We know that wellness starts from within, and a healthy body is meaningless without a healthy mind and spirit.

Winans says she’s living her dreams thanks to her big breakthrough to starring as Charity Greenleaf on OWN’s hit drama series, Greenleaf. She credits her family as being a dynamic support system, as they constantly cheered her on as she worked towards her dream.

Even though her family was very supportive, Winans says she still dealt with a lot of self-confidence issues as a black woman with a darker complexion. Winans noticed a difference in the way she was treated in high school when events and activities came around that required a date. Winans says women with a lighter complexion would get more attention and she even recalls asking her dad, “Is it because I’m dark?”

Black womens’ battle with complexion is nothing new. We have all been culturally conditioned to view lighter skin as a the standard-bearer for beauty. It is refreshing to see the shifts in beauty and what our culture views as acceptable.

“I had to learn to see myself the way God saw me.”

When it came to career goals and dreams, Winans always knew she wanted to be an actress, even though she grew up in a singing family. Daughter to Carvin Winans, Deborah grew up amongst chart-topping hits and albums across her family, but has said she did not grow up singing.


“I always knew what I wanted to do, but I never saw anyone who looked like me in film.”

Despite not getting attention from her peers as a teen, Winans realized one day she had to be a role-model for darker girls, especially those who didn’t get the same love and support from their family as she did.

Winans acknowledges Oprah Winfrey as a beacon during her childhood.  And today, she says the black representation in television and film is, “absolutely amazing!”


“If [Oprah] can pursue her dreams like this, certainly at some point, somebody will see me too.”

Winans pursued theater in school and after completing her Master’s program, she knew she’d done all the work necessary to move forward in her acting career. But that is when self-doubt started to hit. After hearing so many “no’s,” Winans began to wonder if acting was truly the career path she should be pursuing. Winans thanks her husband, attorney and community activist, Terrence Williams, for being the motivation she needed. After meeting Williams, Winans says she still didn’t have an agent, and hadn’t really booked anything.

Deborah Joy Winans, OWN, Greenleaf

Photo: YouTube

Still questioning God and wondering when her moment was coming, Winans recalls Williams sharing advice, “you have to be open and you have to be ready.” Months later, Winans was doing a family workshop production in NYC. Oprah attended, saw Winans performing, and pitched her to the network for the role of Charity.

“I knew I had done the work, it’s just a matter of being able to have an opportunity.”

She credits her support system for believing in her more than she even believed in herself. While currently prepping for Season 3, Winans notes how balance is more important than ever. With a full time schedule with Greenleaf and having a family life as well, Deborah Joy says it’s all about making “day-to-day decisions.”

Whether its deciding what time she needs to wake up to make sure her home is taken care of before heading to work, or simply deciding what to eat while on set, Winans says you have to constantly choose what’s best for you.

After being nominated for Best New Artist at the Stellar Awards, Winans is currently trying to figure out if singing will be one of the next steps in her future. She did however, have a single on the Greenleaf soundtrack, The Master’s Calling, that shot to the top 20 on the Gospel Billboard chart. Along with constantly writing, it’s safe to say, Deborah Joy Winans will have a busy 2018!

“When you recognize who you are in God and who you belong to, you know that there is nothing that is for you, that you won’t get.”

Follow Deborah Joy Winans at joywinans.com, @deborahjoywinans – Instagram and @deborahjwinans – Twitter to stay in the loop with what she’s up to next!

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American Bobsledder Aja Evans Looks to Bring Home Gold at the Winter Olympics

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aja evans, winter olympics,
Photo: Sports Illustrated

Bobsledding might be the sport to watch in this winter’s Olympic Games. We’re seeing more representation and more awareness of the sport. It has been nearly two decades since Vonetta Flowers became the first African-American bobsledder to bring home a Gold Medal in 2002. In 2017, we found out that Nigeria would have a bobsledding team of black girl magic competing for the first time ever, which brought even more excitement about representation in the sport. But did you know that we’ve got an African-American woman from Chicago representing TEAM USA? 29-year-old Aja Evans will be competing in the Olympics for the SECOND time, after winning a Bronze medal in 2014.

Evans is using her platform to encourage more participation from people of color in on-ice sports. Her story was also recently featured in Procter and Gamble’s Love Over Bias campaign who spotlight athletes who found their deepest encouragement from their mothers.

“I saw that I could be a symbol of power and resilience and strength for others,” Evans says, “and I wanted to own that. … It was a powerful realization to understand I was standing for so much more. I was representing where I’m from. I was representing African-American women all across the world…In this city and the areas I grew up in, so many kids are closed-minded and they don’t think there’s any more to life outside of where they are,” she says. “But I’m living proof that there is. When I talk to kids, I want them to see my (Olympic) medal and to understand I accomplished these things because I refused to let anyone tell me I couldn’t.”

We are already inspired by Evans and will be cheering her on! The 2018 Winter Games in South Korea begin February 7th on NBC, but catch the opening ceremony on February 9th.

Read more about Aja Evans and her journey as an elite athlete here.

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