Encores & More: New Photoshoots Coming Soon

•August 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Fitness Model Ahlisha Newton

A gaggle of new photoshoots revealed here today include a long overdue reprise with sexy Ahlisha Newton, one of our earliest additions to the site. The 30-year-old from Palm Springs, California is hanging out at Venice Beach for this shoot. Stay tuned to see how the 5-foot-6, 130-pound fitness model has kept in the game over the last few years.

With several more encore shoots along the way, perhaps none figures to be more eagerly anticipated than a second turn in front of the cameras for Erica Cordie. The cute and curvy fan favorite takes center stage in San Diego this time.

Not to be outdone, we’ve also got Jami DeBernard returning fresh from her pro card win at USAs. Plus, Colorado figure star Noora Kuusivouri, who made top ten in the tall class in Las Vegas, hits the poses and weights in a new shoot from Golds Gym. In case you missed it earlier, here’s my interview along with more pics of the athletic Finland native.

Always dazzling Rauchelle tours Vegas in her third shoot.

And there’s more material in store for fans of Michigan’s Rauchelle Schultz, who has been active on the contest trail this year since making a switch from figure to physique. This is already our third shoot with the chiseled brunette—her trademark calves always a treat—a rising star and likely future pro in the new division.

Of course, fresh faces are in the queue as well like Cheryl Chechel, a new figure competitor who made her national debut at USAs after taking first in the NPC Texas State last fall. The native of Long Island, New York now lives down south in Houston, and amazingly started working out only a couple years ago. But one look at the name of her Bodyspace page—futurefigurepro—is enough to suggest that the strikingly confident Big Apple beauty has designs on moving up to the big stage.

Also coming soon, Joanna Wilson is another physique crossover and finished fifth in the medium class at the USAs. The 5-foot-6 former bodybuilder was middleweight champ at the Emerald Cup in 2010. Plus there’s Tammy Cazares, lightweight bodybuilder from Naples, Florida who began competing last year and already has a couple of wins. She has her sights set on competing again at Nationals in November. Check out more about Tammy on her website. Finally, we’ll welcome national level figure competitor Gemma Santos, who slipped out of the top ten in class B at this year’s USAs after taking a close second last year.

Hopefully, more detailed features to come on some of the ladies, along with new pics from the latest shoots as they become available.

Wendy Fortino Tops Colossal NPC USA Champs

•August 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Wendy Wins!: California Star Shines in Las Vegas. Photo credit: Jeff Binns.

Wendy Fortino was an overwhelming favorite to finally breakthrough at her next show after fighting off pneumonia in the last week of prep before Team Universe earlier this month, and still making first call outs. If a nasty bug couldn’t take her, what about some 200 of the best national level figure competitors? No sweat.

Wendy’s breakthrough finally came alright—kind of like a bulldozer.

This past weekend, Wendy took first in figure A and put an exclamation point on the win by topping the rest of the class winners to claim figure’s overall crown at the USAs, the largest NPC show to date. It was the 29-year-old’s third try in Las Vegas, after finishing sixth in ’09 and fourth last year, and it was certainly the charm.

Wendy was all smiles and bubbling with excitement after the win, a moment made all the more special when she realized many family members, including her parents, unexpectedly made the trip from her hometown of Modesto, California to see her compete. They got to witness their superstar daughter and sister winning a pro card on a night that won’t be soon forgotten.

For now, Wendy is basking in the sunshine of victory but hinted that she might make her IFBB debut at the Tournament of Champions, the last show before this year’s Olympia, in September. The show will again be in Culver City and though the competition will be tougher, expect all eyes to be on the rookie who dominated the amateur stage in her homestate—winning in San Francisco, Sacramento, the Contra Costa and Cal State Championships—and never finished lower than first in California.

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Jami DeBernard

Elsewhere in the figure ranks, Jami DeBernard punched her ticket to the pros by winning class D. It’s been a busy and memorable season for the classy 39-year-old personal trainer from Sacramento, who plans to jump right into the IFBB mix at the Europa Super Show in Dallas on August 12th.

Other notables in figure included Katie Peterson, who continues to quietly rack up top ten finishes with her latest fourth place spot at USAs the Chicago star’s best ever at the national level. She’s getting closer.

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Sheilahe Brown

Also coming up big was Sheilahe Brown, 47, who took the medium and overall title in a competitive physique category stretching three height classes. Critics might debate whether or not the former bodybuilder is a little too muscular for the new division, but she had the right moves to finish third at Jr. Nationals—site of her photoshoot debut featuring those signature arms—and remained on point to clinch a pro card Saturday, a great accomplishment for the longtime choreographer, judge and competitor from Texas.

Also from the physique medium class, Rauchelle Schultz placed sixth; Nola Trimble took fourth; and Jill Rudison, another California star making her physique debut, finished third. More news from the USAs, including the latest photoshoot scoops, still to come.

Rachel Baker to Co-Host Posing Classes

•July 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Striking Poses: Rachel Baker headlines posing and presentation seminars starting next week.

Rachel Baker, in short order one of the rising stars of the new physique division, knows a thing or two about posing and presentation.

During shows, judges are like referees examining not just physiques, but tans, makeup, suit cuts and everything else on stage—every move a competitor makes right down to walks, winks and smiles. In a sport between so many great looking athletes all seemingly at their best, one little mistake here or there can cost points and end up making a difference.

Fans and other competitors instantly discuss results and break down physiques on forums and social sites, but many times the debate is limited to pictures, which only tell part of the story. Presentation is a key element often overlooked—there are things the still frame misses and you really have to be there live (or find a very good video) to understand and appreciate all that goes on.

Click to view flyer

That’s where the magic words posing and presentation come in. And where Rachel’s versatile background and experience—she has competed in both bodybuilding and figure before shifting to physique—make her a great fit for a new posing clinic set to take place August 7th and continuing on Sundays through fall at Pro Fit Rx just outside Baltimore, Maryland. Joining Rachel for the weekend events will be figure competitor Kate Grevey.

Don’t miss it if you are an aspiring competitor in the area looking for expert insight and tips on how to polish your routine. Check out the event flyer on the right for more details.

Fitness Competitor Babette Mulford Coming Soon

•July 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This Much Fun: Babette enjoying her shoot.

Note: Post updated with new photos posted today (July 30).

Hot new talent is right around the corner with Babette Mulford, a former cheerleader, soccer player and marathon runner turned fitness competitor. The 37-year-old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa recently placed sixth in the short class at Team Universe during the latest stop in the seasoned veteran’s ten year career.

We caught up with the 5-foot-2, 120-pounder earlier this summer at Jr. Nationals, where she was even better and just missed a pro card after a second place showing. It’s always a treat when a talented fitness girl gives a sample of her athletic skills and the cheerful and energetic blonde did just that by happily shifting into action-mode for the camera.

Stay tuned, I’ll update this post with some new pics from Babette’s shoot as soon as they’re available, hopefully along with news on when and where she’ll be hitting the stage next.

Ginger Jaimes Returns to National Spotlight

•July 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Ginger Jaimes poses during her shoot at the Cals.

More contest notes as Ginger Jaimes returned to the national swing of things at Team Universe. The statuesque former sprinter turned figure girl was coming off a sixth place finish at the Cals and a rousing overall win at last fall’s San Francisco Championships.

Following the show, I caught up with the Bay Area native to get a few thoughts on her trek to the East Coast. “I traveled alone, so it was definitely an adventure,” Ginger said. “New York was great! I loved the atmosphere! I stayed in New York for the first day, then rented a car and drove to New Jersey and stayed at the host hotel. It was great there. The event was at the hotel, tanning services too!”

Ginger came away with 12th in her class which still positioned her in the top half out of 32 competitors in a competitive class E. “I was okay with my placing,” she said. “I felt good about the way I came in for this show – not too hard, not too soft – more on the lines of what the judges want.”

The 2010 NPC San Francisco Figure Champ gets ready to pump up for the cameras.

Ginger considered doing the USAs again – she finished seventh last year in Las Vegas – but instead decided she was ready for a rest and it was time to shift focus back to her family. “Not sure of my plans for the future, just keeping in shape and keeping my priorities straight, making sure my family comes first before anything else,” she said.

Ginger was a nationally-ranked figure competitor before taking time off to start a family in 2006. These days, she skillfully juggles her revitalized competitive career with work, training and being a proud mom of two. We’ll keep you posted on where her next figure journey takes her.

Close Calls, Fierce Competition at Team Universe

•July 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Try, Try Again: Rachel Baker (posing during her Jr Nats shoot) finished third in physique’s short class at Team Universe, her third show in a row finishing one slot away from pro status.

Who says it’s easy to win a pro card at Team Universe? Despite even more cards and another division, no one currently on the Studio turned pro at Team U this year—slight drop from last year’s wingding when six from our roster earned IFBB status—but there were plenty of memorable close calls in New Jersey over this past weekend and the results suggest good things to come.

Topping the oh-so-close list is one of our newest stars, Rachel Baker, who could very well be the darling of the new physique division and the most recognized. She’s already just missed becoming one of the earliest physique pros with second-place finishes at both the Jr. USAs and Jr. Nationals. (Don’t miss the excellent clips loaded with audio content from her shoot in Chicago up now with pictures soon to come.)

This time, runner-up would have landed her a pro card, but Rachel slipped to third in the short class and the prize eluded her again, continuing a pattern of near misses that would be comical if the former gymnast from Baltimore, Maryland weren’t already a rock-solid fit for the new division who’ll just keep trying until she wins.

Also one spot away from the pros was hometown girl Patty Zariello, who brought her best package ever to the national stage and claimed third in figure class E, one of the biggest groups in the show. Perhaps even more significant, Patty also competed in and won her 35-and-over class, a definite confidence booster if she decides to compete at the Masters Nationals coming up on July 22nd in Pittsburgh.

Unstoppable Star: Wendy dazzled in many ways at Team Universe. Photo credit: Dan Ray.

Next there’s Sasha Brown, quietly adding another top finish to her impressive resume after taking fourth in figure’s sprawling class D, the largest of the show with 35 competitors. Sasha’s been busy on stage and headed into Jersey after taking third in her class at Louisiana’s Greater Gulf States and winning at the Southern Cal Championships this summer. After the show, she crossed the river into Manhattan and did some sight-seeing, stopping for lunch at a yummy pizza pie parlor. This is what fitness fans and competitors alike might call window candy.

Finally, Wendy Fortino made first callouts in figure class A and was poised to grab one of the top spots before ending up a questionable fourth. But it’s fair to say she accomplished something extraordinary considering she was just getting over a bout with pneumonia that struck in the last week of prep. The fact that she even was able to compete at all—let alone nearly win—speaks volumes about her determination and resilience.

Wendy plans to try again at the USAs July 29th. After clearing this past hurdle with flying colors, nothing shy of an amazing physique will be enough to beat her.

Amber Jacobs Shines at Vancouver Natural, Emerald Cup

•June 25, 2011 • 1 Comment

Northwest Glow: Figure girl Amber Jacobs joyously grasps her trophy at the Vancouver Natural. Photo credit: Twixpix.

Coverage of new photoshoots from this year’s Emerald Cup continues with a look at Amber Jacobs, a figure girl from Seattle who was on a roll before a severe knee injury recently forced her out of action. The 25-year-old had planned to compete at the Washington State in July, but instead is on the mend after requiring surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus.

Amber placed third in class C at the Cup and also took fourth at this year’s Vancouver Natural. She was hoping to qualify for the USAs but will have to wait until her body heals and won’t be able to train legs again for at least three months. Before the injury, Amber shared some details about her athletic background and future plans in the sport.

Looking back, deciding to join a fast-pitch little league baseball team at age 14 led to Amber’s initial experience lifting weights. She also did karate for three years and played football, hockey and varsity baseball in junior high and high school as well as cross country. “I was always a rough and tumble girl,” she said, “I loved being physically fit, healthy and active.”

Amber poses for her shoot during Emerald Cup weekend.

Team sports continued during her college years at Western Washington University. “I was a coxswain [the leader in charge of steering and navigating] for the men’s rowing crew team and was on the club tournament waterski team,” she said. “I also personal trained and taught beginning boxing and speed-bagging.”

Asked how she got started in figure, “I have always loved weight training,” Amber explained. “In January 2010, some guy friends suggested I do a figure competition and showed me a picture in a magazine. I was like ‘I could do that.’ And away I went. Last year I did seventh in Emerald Cup my first show and first at the Empire Classic. I was the pretty happy with my physique last year but this year was pretty great too.”

Amber’s figure pursuit comes as no surprise to family and close friends. “But it has definitely changed my social life,” she admits coyly. Asked whether she ever surprised anyone with her strength, Amber recalls, “I will never forget when I asked some guys at the gym if they would help me get 50lbs dumbbells up for shoulder presses. They were pretty impressed. They’d never seen a girl (5’3″, 120lbs at the time) put up that kind of weight.”

In closing, Amber tips her hat to family and friends who have been behind her the whole way. “I’d love to give a shout out to my folks, Jim and Leah Jacobs! Some of my best friends Karen Ng, Gazalle Zontolyon, Jenny Leak, April LeBarbeque and Gretchen White. All my gym rat friends (there are so many of you), Construction Zone and Save Fitness teams.”

More of Amber coming soon on the studio. Meanwhile, here’s hoping her recovery is an extra speedy one. You can bet she has the tenacity and passion to be back in the spotlight soon but until then, the figure stage will be a little darker without her sunny and adorable smile lighting the way.


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