My Very Crooked Road to Success
Lately I have had a few people reach out to me and let me know that I have touched them in some way. It means a ton to me to hear this, especially from girls who I find as “peers” in this industry and definitely have never put myself “above” in any way. The word “inspiration” is used a lot when I read messages and comments by others and its still a bit odd for me to really accept that. I dont think anybody should be put on a pedestal, however, I do find myself admiring others achievements and success and do have my own “fitspos” that I find inspirational as well.
So I found myself wondering what makes the difference between those who find success and those who seem to have all the qualities on the outside but never seem to “make it” regardless of how hard they try?
Today I hold 20 sponsors and 4 lucrative endorsement contracts. I run an online business full time and employee three full time employees. I am married to the man of my dreams and to many probably have a seemingly “perfect” life. So… How did I get here?
I want to back up a bit and fill you in on my life and where I came from. I have posted a few times now about my background and the struggles I endured before portraying such a seemingly “perfect” life on social media. But for those who dont know, I will elaborate more on that because I do think it makes a difference in how I ended up in the position I am in today.
I am going to throw it way back to my first few years of life. As a child I was the only girl in my family and the youngest of three kids. My parents never had a great relationship, never married, and I would often hear them fighting. I never doubted that my parents loved me, I want to make that clear, but circumstances of the relationship they were in did affect me into my adult life. Often times I was left with my two older brothers to fend for myself, and as the only girl and the youngest I had to be tough and “fight” for what I wanted or it would have never happened. Nobody was there to hand me anything, I often felt like it was survival of the fittest between the three of us.
Moving into my middle school years of life, after we had moved as a family from Alaska to Oregon, we found ourselves living in a single wide manufactured home, super broke, and personally this was the most insecure part of my entire life. I was made fun of a lot in middle school even to a point of having a boy tell me I was so ugly I should kill myself. I never wore makeup, I wore grey, black, and white everything because I had no idea how to dress and these colors were “safe” to me. I did what I could to not stand out as I didn’t want attention on me. I was very much a tomboy but very insecure and never sure of myself in any situation. I remember asking my friends parents to drop me off at a store near our home and telling them I would walk because I lived close by and needed something from the store. The truth was I was too embarrassed for them to see where I lived. My parents did the best they could for us, and my mom would spend her last penny to make sure we participated in all the sports and programs we wanted to. So I was very much involved in sports – soccer, softball, volleyball, basketball, etc. She even signed me up for guitar lessons and modeling classes. Looking back I can see how much this active participation helped me grow as a child even though at the time all I could think about was how I wished we had a nicer house, a nice car, and nice clothes like my childhood friends.
I remember even back then thinking to myself that I was destined to be poor. I remember feeling trapped in that life and hating it. Thinking that I had to find a way out, but never having an answer as to how. I think that was my first real drive for continued education. My mom dropped out of high school and later went back to receive her GED. My father went to college but never finished, and although extremely intelligent, couldn’t seem to find his way out of the hole either. I knew I wanted to get an education with the hopes of doing better than my circumstances.
In high school, I was a very good student. I was in the honors program and graduated with a 3.8 accumulative GPA. I think the reason I was a good student was because I always had it in the back of my mind I needed to be a good student to change my circumstances. Sophomore year I started to wear makeup and dress up more. I started to be “noticed” and started to fit in with the “jocks” of our Varsity high school soccer team. I was still very insecure but seemed to finally be a little happier with the direction of my life at that point. I never really loved high school though and definitely had a few years of bouncing around from “click” to “click” because I never felt I really fit in anywhere. I went through a skateboarder phase, a raver phase, and a high heels and short skirts everyday phase. I think thats somewhat typical of kids trying to “figure it out” but I also experienced a lot of hardships most 15 and 16 year olds probably didn’t go through.
When I was 16 I didn’t get along with my mothers live-in boyfriend (my dad had moved back to Alaska and was no longer there). Things took a turn for the worse when he physically scared me after drinking at the bar and coming home drunk a few times. I had recently gotten my license suspended for not wearing my seat belt a few too many times and was living 20 minutes outside of town and place I went to school. I was in a bind because I knew I couldn’t continue living in that environment, had no mode of transportation, and needed to get out. So I decided it was not the place for me to be and ended up moving out shortly after. I had begun working at 15 and had a fairly steady job at a coffee shop at the time so I had some income. But moving out at such a young age definitely put things in perspective for me. My father would send money and help when he could and I moved in with my then ex-boyfriends parents (Yes it was a little awkward to be living with people I barely knew at the time but they were absolutely amazing to me and I wish I could repay them to this day).
I somehow got myself into college filling out all the application forms and FASFA by myself. I lived away from home until I went to college and moved into the dorms at 17. I originally thought I wanted to be a journalism major with a business minor so those were the classes I went for. The summer going into my freshman year I was also approached by a fellow grad student at the University of Oregon for a calendar project called “O’h Girls” he had turned into a business as his grad project. He asked that I be the “Oregon model” for the project and although I was fairly shy, I agreed. I had done a little bit of odd modeling jobs previous to that calendar but I never went seeking for them, rather just said “yes” to opportunities that would come my way. I never thought I was pretty enough to be a model and never ever thought it was something I would pursuit. I ended up shooting for that calendar previous to the beginning of the school year and landed the cover. Somewhere during the first semester I remember walking down the main street on campus and seeing myself on the cover of the calendar in shop windows. It was bazaar to me and I was more nervous for people to start recognizing me than anything else. I didn’t like to be the center of attention in large crowds, I hated standing up in front of people I didn’t know, and I was still very much that little insecure girl inside.
Towards the end of my freshman year I knew I would have to move out of the dorms and had no idea where I would go. I hadn’t lived at home in so long I knew that wasn’t an option and I always saw my parents throw money down the drain renting so I knew I didn’t want to do that either. I spoke with the women who so kindly “housed me” during my senior year of high school as she was working for a realty company at the time. I told her I wanted to buy a house. I was 18 years old and had no credit history. She thought I was crazy but I was determined. Long story short, I ended up purchasing my first home a few months before I turned 19 with my dad as a co-signer. My grandpa has passed away that summer and the money from his passing helped with a down payment. Doing the math, I knew I would need enough bedrooms to rent rooms out and pay my mortgage. So the home I purchased was a 6 bedroom house 1.5 miles from campus. At the time it seemed like the coolest thing ever. I was 18, owned a home, and was having 5 girlfriends move in with me. I had no idea what I was in for.
Buying a house made me grow up REALLY QUICK. All of a sudden I had a ton of responsibility, a mortgage payment, I was responsible for other peoples things as the “landlord” and I felt I was not living like most of my college friends. A few years into it I felt completely stuck. I didn’t want to live with other peopler anymore, I didn’t want the responsibility of the house, I wanted out of all of it. But I had a hefty mortgage payment to make, I couldn’t afford the house without roommates, and I had no idea where to turn. I was working 3+ jobs, going to school full time, and running myself into the ground. I had racked up $10,000 on a credit card just fixing things I had no choice to fix as a landlord- buying a new refrigerator, washer, air conditioners, etc. and being stupid and way too young to have a $10,000 credit card limit. I remember crying on the bathroom floor in my room many nights feeling like I was completely screwed and digging myself into a never ending hole of financial hell that my entire life I was trying to run away from. I wanted to live the care-free life of all the other 20 and 21 year olds that didn’t own homes and I felt I had dug myself into a financial stressful mess. Funny thing was, I had switched my major to finance because I wanted to learn all I could about how to avoid that problem.
When I graduated college I ended up receiving conjoining degrees. A bachelor of science in economics and a bachelor of science in business administration with a focus in finance. In all honesty, I knew finance wasn’t my passion. But something in me kept picturing myself in a suit working in a nice office, driving a nice car, and being a “professional”. That mindset was my drive because I thought that making that visual a reality would lead to success and happiness. I will say economics was something I found interesting and always excelled easily in those classes. Looking back at my college experience I feel a lot of it was wasted. Wasted partying, drinking, being too overly concerned with my terrible relationships, social standing, and trying to please others. I wish I would have made more connections, talked to more people, not been as insecure, paid more attention in class, and utilized my education better. It is apparent now my passion wasn’t in my studies but I honestly had no idea what my passion was- because I had no idea who I was. But what I was learning was how to figure things out on my own.
The summer after I graduated I found myself working for a small online marketing company. It wasn’t a great job but it paid well and it was a job for my resume. I bartended/cocktailed on the side for extra money. That summer I was hit with the reality that I no longer had anything planned for my future. I felt very lost and like something was missing in my life. Thats the same time period when my brother presented the idea of training for a bikini competition to me. He had tried to get me to train for figure about a year previously but I ended up dropping out and had felt regret over the decision since. The bikini division was brand new and I had been doing some Hawaiian Tropic Pageants and modeling here and there and thought it was a perfect fit and something I could do well at. My competitive nature needed something to look forward to, a goal to distract me, something I could do for myself and that decision was just it.
I started prepping for my first show in late spring of 2010. The prep was by no means easy as I had never been one to diet. I actually used to make fun of girls who always seemed to be on a “diet” even when they were skinny. I never understood why skinny girls would run and I had never ever been brought up to restrict myself in any way, shape, or form within my family dynamic around nutrition. If anything it was more of a competition of who could eat the most. A few months into prepping I also was fired from the job I had. I honestly wanted to quite anyways but the sudden dismissal caught me off guard and definitely threw my anxiety through the window with the amount of bills I had to pay monthly to keep my house afloat. I questioned continuing with my prep and often times was late on payment to my brother for training. I felt tremendous guilt but knew if I dropped out of prepping my goals would be gone and I would feel even more lost than before. So I decided I would utilize all my extra free time to just prep harder until I could find another job. So thats what I did, went for more walks with my dog, worked out more, drank more water, etc etc. Around this time is also when I was finally able to figure out how to rent my house out. It was stressful kicking my 5 roommates out with a months notice but I knew I needed to get out of that situation and the only way to do so was rent the entire house under a lease contract. I moved in with a girlfriend and spent many hours alone cleaning out the entire house, painting, washing, prepping it for the new renters who would be moving in. I had no idea what I was doing but it was a distraction and learning experience. I remember vividly being at the house by myself painting some nights until 2am because I was on such a timeline. I hoped the house would be up to spec for a new group of tenants.
Once I was out of the home and the mortgage was being paid by my new tenants rental income I felt a huge sense of relief and freedom. I would say that point in my life was one of my happier years. I had goals, lived with a friend I adored, felt comfortable with myself and my body, and finally felt independent. Although I still didn’t have a “real job” or was making any sort of “real money” I felt my life was moving more in the direction I had wanted it to. I dont think its ironic that this was also the time period when I quite drinking. Looking back on the points in my life where I was using drugs and alcohol I always had high anxiety and stress levels. I dont think I ever really loved to drink, I think I did it because “its what everyone does” and I didnt know what else to do. Once I took alcohol and drugs out of the picture and started focusing on my health I was much happier. However, I will say I lost some of my very best friends due to my lifestyle change. People dont like change and I learned this lesson quickly when I got “dumped” by my very best friend for no longer wanting to be a party girl.
Jumping forward about 2 years I had competed in a few shows and done very well. I ended up winning the overall at my very first show which drove my passion to continue competing. I also ended up moving to Portland, a larger city about 2 hours North of where I was living. I had finally landed a job with a financial firm and thought I had finally gotten my foot in the door to where I wanted to be. I took the job with very little pay because I just wanted a start somewhere and thought if I could prove myself I would move up quickly in pay and would finally have the job of my dreams. It was during this time that competing and the gym had become a big side hobby of mine and a big part of my life. The guy I was dating at the time owned a gym and was a trainer and wanted to start our own competition team. I reluctantly agreed although my biggest fears would come true not even 2 years later. He utilized my success within competing to market himself and his gym and before we knew it we had 40+ competitors training out of his gym. I had a few people I worked with personally but it was by no means my focus or career.
I worked for the finance firm for about 6 months and can still vividly remember the day I decided to make a drastic decision that would ultimately change my life. I remember driving on my commute to work one morning and the sun was coming up on my early morning commute. It was going to be a beautiful day, the type of day that makes you want to get outside and just “be”. I wanted to be active, to be with people, to be in the sun but I was driving to an office to sit behind a computer and ultimately be micromanaged and someone else’s “bitch”. I remember thinking, “Is this what my life is supposed to be?” I had just gotten to a position with the company where I was about to get a raise, move up in my “title” and my benefits were about to kick in. I felt I had finally made steps to being in a “career” I had always wanted. But when I really analyzed the situation I knew I was miserable. I have never been one to take risks. I hate gambling and am a very risk averse person when it comes to anything financial related. This comes directly from watching my father spend thousands on lottery tickets and gamble beyond his means. I never wanted to be that way and longed for security my entire life. I was just about to get that security I had been wanting but I wasn’t happy. That is the moment I decided I would take the biggest risk of my life and quite my professional career to pursuit fitness full time.
I remember the day I decided to tell my boss a few days later. I walked into his office thinking we would have a mature conversation about how I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel the position was right for me long term but I could train someone to take over my position as a lot of what I was doing would need to continue with someone else. I wasn’t going to quite right away but rather just bring up the topic of me possibly phasing out. About 5 minutes into the conversation he said, “Okay well you can go then”. I about shit my pants as that was the last thing I was expecting. I had so many files I was in the middle of working on that nobody would know how to carry through as I had been taking care of all the details, so how could he just want me to leave? I didn’t get it. But he was set on his decision and let me go that day. I knew legally since he was laying me off in essence he would have to pay me for 2 weeks. So I figured at least I had 2 weeks to figure out what the hell I would do.
I jumped right into training the clients I had been working with here and there. I contacted everyone and anyone I knew about training to get them set up on a schedule – it helped that the guy I was engaged to at the time owned a gym with a fairly decent client base already. Within the first week I had a decent amount of clients going to keep me on my feet.
Within a month I had a full schedule of clients and wasn’t doing too bad income wise. However my ex was taking 30% of what I made since I was training in his gym. I thought that was a little odd but I figured it was contributing to bills and our future wedding expenses. This continued for about 8 months. My relationship with him however was deteriorating quickly. In October 2012 I learned that he had been cheating on me and acting inappropriate with multiple girls behind my back. Girls on our competitive team who I considered friends. Girls I helped train, taught posing to, and even spent the night at their houses. This had been going on for over a year and NOBODY on the team had ever brought it to my attention. Finding this all out was absolutely devastating. The worst part about it all was that I was living in his house, working in his gym, and driving a car that was in his name (he convinced me to sell my paid off car and take over payments on his- idiotic on my part but he was VERY manipulative). I felt I had gotten stabbed in the back in every way possible but the worst part about it all was my sense of security was completely wiped out from under me. I had no idea where I would live, where I would work, or where I would even go. I couldn’t even stand the sight of some people I thought were my friends and honestly was full of disgust for the industry and the sexual nature of it all.
I kicked him out of his own house after this happened and remember sitting in the same spot for hours on end just crying by myself. Feeling completely broken. Completely lost. Feeling like I did when I was that insecure little girl with no safety net and no security blanket. I had lost everything I thought I knew and felt completely alone and abandoned. I stayed in that house by myself for about a week just debilitated. I couldn’t function. And then one day I “woke up” from it all and I just said to myself “ I have to get myself out of this”. That strength I received that day was a blessing and I truthfully believe it came from my past hardships and feeling as if I had the strength to find hope again- even if I had to do it alone.
I ended up moving in with another competitor I had ironically met through my ex and had developed a very close friendship with. I dropped the car keys off to the car I was driving and was able to finance another car miraculously with the help of some connections I had made. I didn’t have a job and knew I needed to get my financial situation secured asap. So I started looking into keyless entry gyms in the area to move my business to. I found one that seemed to be a good fit and we negotiated a deal that worked very well for me financially. I moved what clients I could over to the new gym and then started to ask anyone and everyone if they knew anyone interested in training. I also picked up a side job because I wasn’t sure how my business would take off and wanted to guarantee myself some income. So I worked part time at a clothing boutique for a few weeks. However, to my surprise it only took me a month to double the income I was making previously at the gym with no expense being paid to my ex. The first few months living with my girlfriend I was VERY depressed although being around her was very healing as she was very similar to me in so many ways. I decided to completely throw myself into my work and before I knew it I was training 10-12 clients a day. I was making more money than I had ever made in my entire life previous to that time. But it wasn’t about the money, it was about keeping myself distracted and building my “security”.
During this time I also promised myself that I wouldn’t get in a serious relationship for at least a year. I was the girl who was always in relationships growing up and I wanted to finally be okay being alone. So I focused on myself, my work, and spending tons of time with my best friend and roomate. That was one of the best decisions of my life because I truthfully feel like I was able to heal and get to know me for the first time ever. Once I got over the pain of my relationship I felt my anxiety decrease daily. I had always suffered from anxiety but I finally felt I was healing from the inside and was “okay with myself”. I was okay with being alone for the first time ever and felt I didnt need anybody. That feeling was the most freeing and rewarding feeling I have ever felt in my life. I woke up each day happy. I felt I was finally pursuing something for myself and chasing my dreams and passion as I continued competing and building my training business. I was financially secure, paying my own bills, making my own schedule, being my own boss, and was genuinely happy.
Eight months after the breakup I met Brandan. We had started talking online and hit it off from day one. I never in a million years thought we would meet one another since I lived in Oregon and he lived in South Dakota so I talked to him like I had nothing to lose. I was myself, I was confident in who I was and knew exactly what I wanted. Although Brandan’s appearance would have made me put on a front in the past – thinking he was way too attractive for me and someone way out of my league- I felt a new sense of confidence from the pain I had healed from and decided I would just let things happen the way they would happen. I still had my goal of staying single for a year and very much intended to keep it.
Brandan had his fair share of success previous to us meeting. He was a bodybuilding.com athlete, had multiple sponsors, endorsement contracts and his face was everywhere online. Although I had had a lot of success competing and picked up my own sponsor with MaxMuscle I didn’t feel I was anywhere close to touching his claim to fame. The weekend we met in person I actually was competing at Jr.Nationals for my pro card and ended up missing it by 1 point. Although there was a lot of politics involved in the decision I was frustrated and felt I needed my pro card to be successful in the industry. Ironically, Brandan was at the show and pointed out to me that he was “successful” in the industry yet was also not a pro. Thats when my mindset changed. I had been chasing a pro card for so long thinking it was my only way to “become someone in fitness”. When the reality of it was hard work, drive, dedication, and making something of yourself comes from not giving up, standing for something, and believing in yourself. All qualities I had developed along the way and through my years of hardship.
Through building my relationship with Brandan he helped “market” me in a sense using connections and his ability to “sell” me to companies. I also started putting more effort into my social media channels, my “image”, and what I represented online. All of these things happened rather quickly and I ended up landing a gig being a BSN girl at the Olympia- something I always dreamed of doing. I threw myself into whatever relationships I could create and negotiated contracts with companies I wanted to promote based off what I could offer them.
Fast forward two years later and Brandan and I are not only happily married but have more endorsements and sponsorships than the majority of pro athletes. Not that we are “better” than any pro athlete by any means but we do very well as a team because we both have the same drive and ambition to work through hardships and hold on to hope.
I can now say I am blessed with a wonderful marriage to the man I always hoped I would end up with- a very loving, caring, selfless, respectable man. We have a beautiful home, we pay our bills and have financial security and freedom to live a very blessed life. We do what we love helping others and am passionate about it every step of the way. I can honestly say that without all the struggles I endured I would have never had the strength to get to the point I am at now in my life and career. For every painful moment of my past I can now look back and see my blessings in the choices I made when I chose to never give up. I had to struggle to see my greatness in what I could achieve and am grateful for every second of it.