Against the Odds

This week was all about reflection for me. In the first 2 months of 2013, I signed a sponsorship contract with NLA Performance, was in the final 5 of 400 ladies in the Bodybuilding.com spokesmodel contest in L.A., was published in FLEX Magazine, was a special guest at the L.A. Fit Expo, did a handful of online interviews, took a quick trip to Las Vegas to shoot for Muscle & Fitness Hers & in a few short weeks will fly to Columbus to shoot with Oxygen Magazine at this year's Arnold Classic. Whew! If January and February are any indicator of what this year will be like…I am ready for this awesome ride! I have a small break right now before the Arnold and my husband and I are enjoying some time in the sun in Arizona. Having this time away for a few weeks allows me to finally sit back and reflect on just how lucky I have been. But then, I realize something that Ice T said once…"There's no such thing as luck. Luck is just opportunity meeting preparedness." I feel like I have been prepared for all of this for so long.

I remember when this journey first started. I met my now husband, Alex, back in 2007 when he was training to compete as a heavyweight bodybuilder in the NPC. I sat in the audience at his competition in early 2008 and that is where I first saw the figure division. I was working as a personal trainer at the time and the very next day at work I asked my boss (the gym owner) what he thought about me training to compete in a figure show. He competed as a bodybuilder many years prior so I knew he would be a great person to ask and potentially guide my way. Immediately, his response was "No way. You'll never make it. You're too short and not sexy enough." Since I didn't know anything about it, I assumed he knew best and since I am only 5'5" I wouldn't be able to do it. I laugh so hard at that now…especially since my height is actually on the taller end of the sport! In the NPC, there are height classes A-F (and sometimes E) and as an amateur I competed in the D class. Meaning, there were girls in three height classes shorter than me…WAY shorter than me. I'll never be sure why he was trying to steer me away from competing - but I'm sure glad I decided to do it anyhow and realized that he had absolutely no clue what he was talking about. I switched gyms later that year and began training for my first figure show with the help of my husband.

Just 2 years later I won my class (D class LOL) at the largest national, pro-qualifying show of the year and earned IFBB Pro status. I made my pro debut that same year and placed top 10 amongst all of the amazing pros that I have spent years looking up to.

I have come a long way since sitting in the audience at Alex's bodybuilding show. I have so much to give now but still have so many things I'm going after. I've made sure to be prepared for ANY opportunity that comes my way. If it means I stay 2-3 weeks out from photo shoot shape all year round…fine! I know how and when to allow myself the treats I love and when my body needs a break, I take one. I can truly say that I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. It's actually quite the opposite. If I rode the 20 pound roller coaster in and out of shows, I'd never be able to grow in my fitness modeling career. Nor would I be able to fit into my skinny jeans.

I set the bar high for myself and reach it every time. Then I set it higher. Happiness and success are easy to think about but hard to achieve - it just depends on how badly you want it and how much you believe in yourself. That trainer that told me "no way" can't say a word now because I've proved him wrong tenfold. And I will continue to do so! All the things he told me about being short and not sexy enough? Well, I'm really not that short and I've never felt sexier in my life than I do right now. To him I would just say "thank you!!" for the fuel to give it a shot against the odds. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't do something - go out there and do it! The best things come with hard work, patience and determination. I am not lucky - just obsessed! :)


Jessie Hilgenberg, IFBB Figure Pro

Team NLA For Her Athlete

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