I happen to be related to a lot of incredible people, but one young lady whose experiences I am super stoked to share is Melaine Mudukuti. So often, I read, see or hear about people doing fantastic things, but rarely have the relationship to have witnessed the transformation or access to ask them about it. This is what I set out to do with my cousin Melaine. She is growing into a monumental force in the fitness industry and has honoured me with time to answer a few questions I had for her.
I started by asking her what sparked her interest in fitness and competition. Her answer, like many, was that it started with the aim of losing weight. She spent a lot of time on Instagram looking at women with healthy lifestyles and was inspired to go beyond losing weight and attaining a strong balanced physique. After expanding her research beyond Instagram, she became captivated by fitness lifestyle and decided that it was a desire she shared.
I know that a major source of motivation is her spiritual faith, so I enquired about it and its relationship with her passion for bodybuilding. Melaine told me that her Christian faith helps her go beyond obstacles she cannot conquer alone. She says ‘I tried many times and FAILED. Once it finally dawned on me that ‘HELLO, You need God to give you strength’, that is when I started giving more in the gym and learning to be more disciplined with my diet as well’’. She also shares with me that another source that keeps her going is the knowledge that her father, now deceased, would have been an avid supporter of her life choice as he loved building muscle and healthy living. In fact, she adds ‘He was so proud when he achieved defined abs, that when I got mine for the first time I felt really happy because I know he would have been proud and impressed’.
Having covered motivation and success, the conversation naturally turned to haters. As we all know sometimes it’s hard for everyone to get on board with life changing decisions, especially when it comes to fitness. Something I know has influenced me to avoid lifting weights is what people will say if my body gains muscle. Also, the swimsuit competition aspect is at times criticised as women reducing themselves to their bodies to be judged. So I asked Melaine how she deals with society’s pressure to define how women’s bodies should look and function. More personally, I asked how she deals with the limitations loved ones might place unknowingly at times.
She confidently shared that she has learned that people are uncomfortable with extremes. ‘Everyone wants you to fit in the average mould that they have envisioned. So whether you are a shredded female that can out lift the guys or morbidly obese and can’t lift a thing, people will have issue. I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin and that this journey is for me. No one has to understand it. When I first started, my friends would say “you’re going to look like a man”. Now that I have the body I have always wanted, those same people are asking “How did you do that, can you help me?”. As for swimsuit competitions that she excels in, many might look at it as prancing around in skimpy swimsuits, but to me it’s about admiring the beauty and aesthetics of the human body. It’s a time where you and other people can appreciate the time and hard work you have put into creating and achieving a beautiful figure.’ After hearing this, I feel it can apply to so many people who have low self-esteem or suffer from anxiety. I’m fully on board and encouraged that no one has to understand why I do things, and it’s also okay to share one’s successes on a public platform, be it Instagram or the stage of a swimsuit competition. You never know who you are inspiring.
How about her experiences with men in the gym? Like many of our workplaces, it’s like a second home. I’m curious how men interact with her. ‘I think guys in the gym get intimidated by women in the gym. At first they look at you like “What are you doing here?”, but once you start lifting heavy and doing pull-ups etc., then they’re like “Oh, dang girl…can I have your number?” It’s all very hilarious. She tells me that one of her favourite moments is surprising men in the gym that underestimate her capabilities because she is a woman. She relishes the look on their faces when they find out she can lift just as much as they can, or when she can do as many pull-ups and push-ups as they can. Not to mention, the look when you have a banging six pack and they don’t. However on a serious note she states there are a lot of gym creeps and you have to give them the “If you eff with me I will kick you where it hurts” face. Brilliant advice. . ‘You do have to prove something to yourself and show them that you mean business and are not there just to take selfies (even though I do but you get the point)’.
This young lady, with laser-like focus and self-confidence, envisions herself as an IFBB Bikini Pro. She says ‘I am not sure when I will achieve this but I am determined to do so and will not stop until I make it. I hope to make a career out of competing and becoming a fitness personality and trainer.’
Melaine tells me that so far the greatest lessons bodybuilding has taught her are not judging others, self- discipline, standing up for dreams at all costs, and having the right sources of support. ‘One lesson I have learned is not to judge others. You never know how far someone is in their journey and if they aspire to reach and do great things, you cannot judge them by how they currently look. Another thing is discipline and really pushing yourself when you feel like you have no more to give. For me this is where the support of family and friends, as well as the strength from God helped me. Some family and friends did not support it. At the end not everyone will understand. So sometimes you have to put your foot down and say this is what I am doing, this is what I want to do, and right now I need your support. If they can’t do that, drop them. I lost many friends that did not understand my lifestyle and my life was actually made easier after they were gone. The plus side is that I have built new strong friendships whilst prepping and especially at competitions! As far as warnings go, you cannot be afraid to lift heavy and eat clean. Make sure you have a trainer that understands yours goals so that they can guide you in the right direction and help you achieve the look you want.’
Melaine is one of my fitness inspirations, so I asked her about hers. She says her FITspirations are Michelle Lewin and Lacey DeLuca. ‘I love Michelle because she is pretty much perfect! She seems so down to Earth I love her dedication. I also love Lacey DeLuca because we have similar bodies. She has a big booty and has found ways to work with it which is the same issue I have. It was nice to have a goal body in mind; it was very encouraging and really got me excited to start my training. Once you see your body coming together that is what keeps you motivated.’
What warnings would you share with others as some self-proclaimed ‘gym addicts’ go too far?
Melaine believes that people struggle because of a lack of knowledge on a healthier way to lose weight and the desire for instant results and a quick fix. She feels that those illnesses are a short term solution to reaching a ‘weight’ goal and in the long-term do more harm than good. Anything to the extreme is never good whether it’s not eating at all or overeating. She is extremely empathetic that ‘You have to find a balance that works for your body and ultimately TRUST THE PROCESS’. If you are patient and follow your plan given to you by someone who is trained to provide that information, you will see the results in time. After competing she has seen many participants not reach their stage weight and become distressed about it. ‘I have seen people overeat after competing and others that have a hard time being “fluffier”. For me, I have always been pretty comfortable in my skin, so now that I am fluffier, I am embracing it and making gains for next season!’
Beyond the gym Melaine is absolutely passionate about SPORTS. ‘I LOVE sports. Going to games, tailgates, I love it all!’ In addition, she loves make up and shopping, but what girl doesn’t right!? She is her own woman, setting her own spectacular definition of what it means to live true to herself and enjoying life with no one’s limitations.
She candidly concludes by saying that, all in all, competing has changed her life for the better. ‘It is an honour to be able to encourage so many girls and my clients. If you are interested in competing, my advice is to do research and talk to people that have done it. You never know what you are truly getting yourself into so I suggest really studying the sport’. She also leaves us with an excellent piece of advice for all of us .‘After talking to my friends, it’s critical to know that you are beautiful in your own right. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God Himself. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve but you have to love yourself in all stages and in your different sizes or it can become mentally, and eventually physically, dangerous and taxing’.