“Just because someone else is shining, that does not in any way, shape or form take away from the light shining off you!”
Shawn Hektor-Lewis is an IFBB Pro whose brand, “Shawn’s Couture Cuties,” is making a huge splash in the fitness world— five of her athletes earned IFBB Pro status in just this past year. Shawn is an authority in the industry on the art of winning stage presence, which has helped her excel as a competitor and also made her an asset for hundreds of physique competitors seeking to improve their presence, poise and posing onstage.
I met Shawn last June, and have been privileged to travel and work with her several times this past year. One of the things that impresses me about Shawn is her ability to make you feel like the most important person in the world, and I really believe that is one of her inherent traits that makes her so successful. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Shawn and ask her a few questions. In this interview, she shares her fitness, diet and self-confidence tips with FitnessRx for Women.
FitRx: Can you start off by telling us a little about yourself?
Shawn: I have a bachelor’s in music, and hands-on experience in virtually every performing art. I am an IFBB Bikini Pro, actress and theater performer, print and cover model as well as an opera singer [classically trained]. I am passionate about helping like-minded competitors reach their physique competition goals. In 2011, I founded Shawn’s Couture Cuties— a couture competition suit design and stage presence boutique that provides Physique competitors with all the services, stage training and products needed to create a polished and winning stage presence package.
FitRx: I had no idea you were classically trained in opera. That’s amazing— you really can do it all. In 2013, you earned your IFBB Pro card at Team Universe in Figure, and now you compete as a Bikini pro. How did you originally get into competing?
Shawn: I was that girl who was always “kind of” fit. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I ate OK and I was active. I partied … a lot. More than anything, alcohol was my downfall when it came to me trying to stick to any kind of reasonable fitness plan and diet. I loved being social; still do. But my circle back then was the club and bar scene. That was my “day job” as I attempted to not be the starving artist and make it in Hollywood.
Then I met my husband, and things changed. Now, instead of going out partying every night, I was going out to dinner every night and I started to see the weight gain. People always told me I should compete, but I really knew nothing about it. I realized I just needed a goal to stay in shape, and not eat myself into a lifestyle I didn’t like. My husband (boyfriend at the time) was very supportive, and told me to go for it. So I did. I hired my first coach and prepped for six weeks for my first show. I took second place, and I was hooked.
I just loved having a “reason” why I was working so hard in the gym. I liked having a goal. I didn’t go into it thinking I could win a pro card. I just went into it to have fun and create a healthier version of myself.
After a few competitions, I started seeing the potential of a pro card win, and I set a goal that I wanted to win my IFBB Pro card within my first six years of competing. I thought that was reasonable. I did it in year four, at Team Universe in Figure, so I was way ahead of the game. Now on the pro level, I have switched to Bikini and love everything about it.
FitRx: In addition to competing as a pro, you now have a full-time business in the fitness industry and it is doing really well. You had five athletes earn their IFBB Pro card this year, and many NPC athletes who achieved top placings in their shows. Why do you feel your business has been so successful? What is your passion behind it?
Shawn: The piece of the puzzle I have always been great at in the competitive world is the stage presence. I grew up onstage, in theater, behind cameras. That was ME, and it’s where I feel most at home. I also have a background in education. So I’m able to use that ability to teach and apply it to this sport, and help the girls I work with find that “IT factor” they are missing. Let’s face it— most girls in this sport spend most of their time in sneakers and in the gym, not in stilettos with glammed-up makeup and hair, and crystal-covered slips of fabric.
Through my teaching methods, we are always able to bring out the best in these ladies, “technically.” After that, it’s up to them to allow their own personality to shine through. Where we help in that aspect is to give them the confidence to know that they CAN achieve all they want to. The power of belief in oneself is HUGE. I feel that through my business and our coaching, we are really able to help women find that inner power to let them know they can achieve greatness. And they do!
FitRx: Yes, your teaching methods definitely have the results to back them up. How do you like being a competitor, versus having a behind-the-scenes, supporting role to competitors?
Shawn: I love both! A very big part of me loves coaching more than actually competing. I get a rush and a high and a sense of accomplishment from competing myself. I love seeing my body transform, and bringing a better package every time. But when I’m backstage with my girls and THEY succeed, I have a huge sense of fulfillment I don’t get from competing myself. Seeing the women I coach improve and tackle the hurdles in their lives is something I cannot put into words.
FitRx: One of the things I really like about your Instagram page— and also how you are in real life— is how open and honest you are about your own journey. What do you think is one of the best things you have learned in your journey in fitness and the industry in the past six-plus years?
Shawn: Trust yourself. At the end of the day, YOU are what matters. Yes, your coaches have your best interest at heart, but they aren’t the ones doing all the work for you. They aren’t the ones putting themselves up onstage for you. They are your support beams so that YOU can succeed. YOU. It’s all about you, and trusting in your own ability. You can succeed. Period.
FitRx: So true. Moving into your own routine, what does a typical day of food look like for you?
Shawn: This one fully depends whether or not I’m in contest prep. Right now I’m in off-season, so I have incorporated macro counting into my plan. I will NOT do this during prep. I know it can work for some people; it won’t for me. There are too many options, and I get overwhelmed. Keep it simple and basic— whole foods, six meals a day, etc. But the macro counting in off-season now has helped me achieve a balance with work, fitness and life in general.
FitRx: What is one of your favorite healthy recipes?
Shawn: I don’t cook (gives a confused look). Seriously, I don’t. If I want good food, I order it out. For me, food is about function. Plus, I do run my own business, so time is limited and convenience is key. I will say that I love a good grilled steak. And if it’s being cooked, my husband does it. I’m a baker, though, and I make amazing desserts for holidays and things of that nature— but they’re not healthy, not at all.
FitRx: What about your workouts? What is your training schedule like?
Shawn: Again, this changes in season and out, and depending on my specific goals. I’ll say in off-season, I lift six days a week and do cardio six days. Nothing crazy— mostly incline walking, and sometimes HIIT. In season, my training stays the same but usually the cardio bumps up to seven days a week and a few extra sessions. The diet does the work; not the training when in a deficit.
I work my lower body more than my upper, as my lower half has been my weakness for years, and I never work my chest. Weight and reps change throughout the week, based on my goal. In general, though, you won’t see me doing anything too crazy. I prefer old-school, bodybuilding lifts more than anything else.
FitRx: You have an annual event that helps athletes learn the tools they need to succeed onstage, “Cuties Conquering the Stage.” The next one is coming up in January. Can you tell us a little about it?
Shawn: This is my annual weekend seminar where we focus on everything to make you successful, onstage and off. Last year, our featured speaker was Ashley Kaltwasser. This year, we have a HUGE lineup. Find out more at http://tinyurl.com/z4ax9wz
FitRx: Awesome! What would you say is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and can pass on to our FitnessRx for Women readers?
Shawn: Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. I see so many women get in their own way on the road to success. YOU have the power to do ANYTHING you want to. I don’t say this as a cheesy cliché. I say this because I am a living, breathing example of it. If you want it, go out and make it happen.
FitRx: Right on, 100 percent! Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Shawn: The last thing I want to say is to support the women around you. So many women I know get jealous and territorial around other successful women. It doesn’t need to be like that. Just because someone else is shining, that does not in any way, shape or form take away from the light shining off you!
FitRx: This is so true, and you are such a great example of it. Anytime you have done my hair/makeup for a show, I can tell you want me to “shine” my brightest onstage, and it really gives me a boost of confidence before heading onstage. What about your own competitions— do you have any upcoming shows planned?
Shawn: Hmm … maybe? Maybe I’ll just let you watch and find out!
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