I love shoes. I have hundreds of pairs. They slim up my ankles, muscle-up my calves, and render my legs coquettishly long and elegant. I feel exquisite the moment I slide into them.
This past weekend during my first-ever Natural Olympia XIX bodybuilding figure competition at 54 years old, it was my shoe that defined me. Not the grueling daily workouts. Not my glitzy suit. Not standing next to champions from around the world. It was my high-heeled, acrylic, stripper stilettos that made it all worthwhile.
This past June, my trainer, suggested I compete. I'd heard that before but always blew it off. This time, there was something inside me that was ready to push beyond a self-imposed limit. I trained five days a week for five and a half months. My trainer, Javier Valladarez, pushed me hard. I was exhausted every day. I had other issues but once I committed, I was all in.
In September, I registered for the Las Vegas show, one of the largest in the world. Due to a registration error, I was on the roster. I didn't realize until afterward that I was up against first and second place finishers from around the globe. Having never stepped into this arena before, this was a qualifying event for which I did not qualify. But, ignorance can be like liquid courage without the buzz and I was finishing the bottle.
I was the first contestant in my group. Each person performs a "T" walk replete with five poses. The first is just like a silent meet-n-greet. ("Hi, judges and everyone staring at me.") The second is done at the edge of the stage facing the judges with chest up, lats spread, booty out, thighs, calves, arms, and abs flexed, remaining frozen like that for a few seconds. It burns like fire. I looked down to prepare for my second pose and felt something under my right foot, thinking it was a napkin or paper towel. I quickly realized it was the entire platform of my 5" stiletto. Yes, the entire platform of my 5" stiletto.
I had a split second to make a decision. I could walk off the stage. No one would blame me and someone would help me hobble off before I hurt myself. Or, I could finish. I stood there thinking, "This is a moment of truth for me, an opportunity to prove to myself I've got grit. This situation will be as big a deal as I choose to make it." I decided on the latter. If that sounds easy, let me clarify: It's not. It meant compensating for a 5" differential between my right and left foot and execute four poses. With a smile. Flexed.
After I finished my walk, I had to stand on stage - smile sparkling, calf burning, and flexed muscles screaming - while six competitors took their sweet time. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life. When we were given the go-ahead to exit back stage, the girls hugged me, high-fived me, and told me they couldn't believe what I'd done. They were impressed. They were shocked. They told me I was a champion and I felt like one. It didn't matter what happened after that. I was a winner. Right calf, be damned.
Here's the clincher: My trainer didn't know. My husband didn't know. The judges didn't know. The audience didn't have a clue. The only people in on it were my competitors and the show coordinator who ran out and scooped that thing up, saving me from tripping and breaking a leg.
During the intermission, I bought a new pair of shoes for the evening segment. The shoes were more expensive and glamorous than the ones I had on earlier, but they will never hold the same value. I found it within me to rise to the 5"-acrylic-stripper-stiletto occasion like a Gladiator - stronger, more powerful, and more graceful than Cinderella in her glass slippers.
(The pics below are of the stiletto heels that broke and the pair I bought during intermission.)