NAPLES, Fla. — Jordan Beaubrin had only 15 seconds to show the judges how much work she put into shaping her body.
Like the cardio workouts at 5 a.m. each day on an empty stomach. The chicken and broccoli for nearly every meal. And the hours spent in the weight room at the end of the day.
Backstage at the Greater Naples Classic — a qualifier for the National Physique Committee — Beaubrin ran through her routine one last time. The stage lights glinted off the rhinestones of her purple bikini. Her cascading earrings shimmered.
Beaubrin, 21, a Naples native, doesn’t like the glitz and glam that come with competing. The earrings pull down her earlobes, and the combination of spray tan and makeup causes her to skin break out.
But it’s the dedication and commitment that draw her to the sport some consider too extreme to be healthy.
“It’s just pushing yourself to a new limit you didn’t think you could reach,” she said.
Under the spotlights that Saturday morning, she took one last deep breath and strutted to center stage.
A quarter turn to show off her abdominal muscles. Face the curtain to reveal the separation of the hamstring from the gluteus maximus. A smile, a dip and a heel pop before stepping off stage.
Bodybuilding, she says, is also a form of therapy for a traumatic childhood.
“This is my little 15 seconds to shine,” she said.
Beaubrin, who works the front desk at Jaffee Sports Medicine in North Naples, was 19 years old when she first started competing in bikini, the entry-level division for women designed for leaner muscles. The Naples Classic was her sixth show.
She’s working toward getting a nutrition certification and a personal trainer license.
Since modern-day bodybuilding started to develop in the 1960s and ’70s — with celebrities like Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger glorifying weight-training and dieting — the sport has evolved into what it is today.
There are now several divisions in the National Physique Committee: bodybuilding, physique and classic physique for men; bodybuilding, physique, fitness, figure and bikini for women.
Bodybuilding, the most extreme division, is about huge muscle mass, while the others are geared more toward muscle definition.
And, more athletes are joining the sport at a younger age.
Social media, too, has become a popular tool for athletes to share their progress and inspiration. Fitness enthusiasts have garnered hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram; Beaubrin has more than 2,300 followers.
“It takes probably more discipline than probably anything else you do in your life,” said Jeff Delaney, Beaubrin’s coach, who runs weight-loss clinics across the state.
“To be able to control your food is probably the hardest thing for anyone. … It takes a very, very disciplined, mentally strong person.”
Beaubrin is still considered new to the sport, and she’s still learning, Delaney said. She checks in with him at least once a week to monitor her body fat and muscle mass. He lays out a meal and workout plan, but it’s up to her to stick with it.
For example, on her 21st birthday on June 27, Beaubrin didn’t drink a sip of alcohol.
“Jordan’s young, hungry, goal-oriented, driven — she’s definitely an athlete,” Delaney said. “She likes training. She likes to work out. She gets more disciplined as she goes.”
After her 15 seconds in the spotlight that Saturday in late August, Beaubrin stepped off stage around 11 a.m..
“It’s tough to know,” she said, “because (the judges) don’t do call-outs.”
After three weeks of preparation for the Naples Classic, she had another eight hours before stepping on stage again for the finals, when judges would reveal the results. Eight hours of anticipation, of waiting.
She slipped off her heels and could think of only two things: a cheeseburger and a nap.
On the way home from the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in North Naples, Beaubrin picked up a cheeseburger from Five Guys. Add a little bit of mayo. A lettuce “bun.” Fries. A Diet Coke.
She can take only small sips. If she drinks it too quickly, it will interfere with the diuretic.
She devoured it — a carb-heavy meal designed to feed and build her muscles — on the drive home to a nap.
The night before competition, Beaubrin slept for only a couple of hours before meeting her makeup artist at 6 a.m. She loaded up on carbs between 10 p.m. and midnight — sushi, a burger with no bun, fries, a crispy rice treat, a muffin, a slice of cheesecake and Swedish Fish candy — and she feared her freshly applied spray tan would sweat off in her sleep.
Every meal and workout are calculated by her coach. In the days leading up to competition, athletes manipulate their diet to achieve a certain look. Beaubrin was allowed 6 ounces of water to sip with every meal, and the bulk of carbs soak up any remaining water.
When Beaubrin arrived Saturday to compete, she had lost 3 pounds overnight.
“For each individual, it’s different,” she said. “It’s one of those things you have to trust the process and just know that you’ll get to where you need to be when time is ready.”
For Beaubrin, lifting weights is a form of therapy.
She and two siblings were raised by a single mother. Money was tight, and they sometimes didn’t know where their next meal would come from.
When she was 4 years old, Beaubrin was sexually abused by someone close to her family.
She had to have laser treatments to ease irritation and surgery to repair her body.
As she grew up, Beaubrin, the middle child, turned to her Christian faith to heal and forgive. One of her favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things.”
“It took a lot in me, first of all, to forgive that person, but then to also realize that it had nothing to do with me,” she said. “My mom, no one had control over that situation. … You can keep growing from it and help other people, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Stacy Enders, Beaubrin’s mother, teaches her to “not be a victim, but be a victor.”
Beaubrin found strength in exercise. She forgave the things she couldn’t control and embraced the things she could.
“You choose what you eat, you choose what you do with that extra free time you have,” she said. “You can’t change things in the past, but you can change how you react to it moving forward in the future. That’s just one thing I had to teach myself, so now that I know I’m strong enough I can share it and help other people.”
Beaubrin has become a voice for women and survivors on social media and at her church. Her posts on Instagram are motivational. She tells her followers to never stop chasing their goals and to never stop being “fierce.”
“Fierce starts with you,” she said, “and no matter anything that’s happened around you or that’s been done to you, it takes you to make that change.”
Beaubrin had a midafternoon plate of rice and eggs after her two-hour nap. Then a rice cake with sugar-free blueberry jelly.
Back at the Ritz, in a back room in front of a full-length mirror, she did squats in her heels. She used elastic cables, laced under the platform of her heel, to do shoulder raises.
One last pump before stepping on stage again.
As she waited, she cheered for her friends on a television that streamed the competition live from the ballroom.
“This is my favorite part,” she said. “I love watching other people compete.”
There are some misconceptions associated bodybuilding, Beaubrin said. Like that all the women get butt injections or take steroids to keep up with the men.
Many of the women in bikini have sexualized the sport, Beaubrin said. They post photos of themselves on social media wearing thongs or lingerie.
As a mom, that exposure frightened Stacy Enders when her daughter first started competing.
“The first time I saw her booty on stage, I was nervous,” Enders said, laughing.
Beaubrin explained that the judges are examining the muscle — if there’s separation and striations between the glute and the hamstrings as athletes turn and flex on stage.
“They’re seeing all the hard work and seeing how much time and work it took to shape that muscle,” Enders said.
Now Enders tries to attend a show when she can get off work — a huge sacrifice. She said she’s proud of the message her daughter puts out into the world, and that bodybuilding has given her a gateway.
“She devotes her time, her emotions to everything,” Enders said. “I think what drives her is her purpose of helping people who want to have that healthy lifestyle.”
Just after 8 p.m., Beaubrin lined up backstage with her fellow competitors. They chatted about their favorite cheat meals and how they couldn’t wait to take off their heels.
They were the last athletes to appear on stage.
Alongside the other bikini competitors in class D, Beaubrin’s muscles appeared much thicker. While the other women had long, lean legs, Beaubrin’s quads and hamstrings were full.
Her body sat somewhere between bikini and figure, the next division up. She and her coach considered moving divisions next year. But it’s hard to tell what the judges are looking for.
From behind the curtain, Beaubrin could hear crowds of spectators cheering in front of the stage as other athletes posed for the judges. The patter of heels across the stage. Music pumping through the speakers, and another wave of cheers as an announcer revealed the top finishers.
Enders wasn’t in the audience that day. Beaubrin told her mom not to come to the show. She had a feeling she wouldn’t place.
The nerves didn’t hit until just before Beaubrin climbed the steps to the stage — another 15 seconds to show off her craft.
The other athletes in Class D had already posed for the crowd that night, so Beaubrin was the only one to do her routine in the middle of the stage. The same quarter turn. The smile. The heel pop.
Then she stepped aside as the announcer listed off the top five competitors. There were six women on stage.
Beaubrin’s number — 44 — didn’t get called.
Back in front of the full-length mirror, Beaubrin stood quietly. She took off her dangling earrings, the bracelets and the rings, and slipped on a slimming black skirt and gray tank top.
A tattoo on her neck read: “Psalm 37:4 Take delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
It was what Beaubrin and her coach suspected: Her body is prepared to move up to figure.
“I’m so ready,” she said, a smile growing on her face. “I love to push myself in the gym.”
She’ll be back to lifting weights just days later, back to weighing out her chicken and vegetables, back to a bodybuilder’s lifestyle. This time she can lift heavier and eat more carbs.
It’s common for athletes to experience post-show depression. And after depriving their bodies in the weeks and days leading up to the competition, it’s especially easy to binge eat and gain unhealthy body fat right away, so coaches use a method called reverse dieting, in which athletes slowly reintroduce calories back into their diets.
It could be up to one or two years before Beaubrin is back on stage.
In the meantime, she plans to get another tattoo on her ribs nearest her heart. This one, from Psalms, will say: “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”
“This is something I’ve taken and I’ve turned a lot of depression, sadness, doubt into something,” she said. “This is me. This is mine and I’m keeping it.
“The Lord is within me and I will get through it.”
Information from: Naples (Fla.) Daily News, http://www.naplesnews.com