Friday 19 November 2010

UKBFF Stars of Tomorrow 2010 Contest post-mortem

Well hello there lovely people!

Well, after working my arse off for weeks and sticking strictly (and antisocially I might add!) to my diet, I pretty much totally screwed things up on Sunday!

Before I relay my tale of disaster and woe, I'd like just take a moment and say a huge THANK YOU for the lovely messages on twitter and facebook. Essentially I was whinging and feeling mightily sorry for myself at not doing as well as I hoped. But, equally, I was also truly gutted and to say that I was totally overwhelmed and touched by the support I received would be a massive understatement so thank you all - I really appreciated it :-) x

What never fails to astonish and delight me is how supportive people in the fitness industry are of each other. I'm guessing this is because we all acknowledge how hard each and every one of us works to achieve our results.

Training for aesthetics is very different to just training for general health and fitness. Yes, genetics plays a part in your shape, appearance and how easily you can gain muscle and lose fat; but for 99% of us we have to train bloody hard and invest a lot of time and energy into devising and executing specific and effective training and nutrition plans.

As you can imagine, it's all very time consuming. Muscle ache is uncomfortable and often painful, and dieting isn't really all that much fun, especially given that you have to put as much thought into *when* you eat as you do *what* you eat! But ultimately you get out what put in and nothing beats the sense of achievement you feel when witnessing first hand the transformation of your physique into something you've created yourself.

It's a fabulous feeling, truly unbeatable really, and worth every ounce of effort you expend in order to achieve it :-)

Anyway, this post was meant to be a competition de-brief so on with the autopsy!

Saturday 13th November

Saturday I spent frantically trying to finish off a bikini I'd started the week before the comp.

I'd got it into my head that given how little time I'd allowed myself to get into shape for this competition, I probably wouldn't lose all the weight I hoped and therefore if I turned up in a fabulous bikini it might help if I didn't look as great as the other girls on stage.

So I ordered some gorgeous material:

...and set about creating my own design! I had an idea in my mind as to how it would look and it ended up pretty close, just without the stones across the top hem and also the rings at the side of the pants I'd envisaged... I ended up having to go with string ties as I ran out of time :-(

Anyway, here it is:

What do you think?! I was very pleased with how it looked, particularly as I've never made anything before in my life!

I would add however that I did actually just sew the material *over* another bikini, I don't think I'd be skilled enough to create a bikini from scratch, although it did take an eternity for me to arrange the fabric over the bikini cups so the pattern ran the way I wanted and I had to sew an additional panel onto the front of the bikini bottoms as they were sooo low it was almost indecent!!

Now, what should a girl really be doing the night before an important competition? Resting... yes, that's what she should be doing!

Not me though, you see ages ago, Joe had bought us tickets to see the Goo Goo Dolls whom I absolutely adore for their amazing album Dizzy Up the Girl. If you've not heard this album then I implore you to purchase a copy as it is truly a work of art and also on of my favourite of all time... in fact it *would* be my favourite were it not for albums like Muse - Showbiz, Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms and The Best of Billy Joel... guilty pleasures eh? ;-)

So yes, instead of resting and getting an early night, Tara was at the Brixton Academy in raptures watching one of her favourite bands perform to a captivatingly euphoric high standard... the atmosphere was electric, the crowd oozed adulation from every pore, it really was a fabulous night.

Joe and I had had a couple of drinks while we were out and then decided to apply my stage tan when we got in... hmmm, probably not the best idea!

I'd not used Jan Tana Ultra 1 before, but had heard good things and seen pictures of girls looking fabulously tanned. For the FAME UK competition back in May, Joe and I had stood in our spare room while he sprayed me with Pro Tan - very messy indeed! It gave a nice even colour but I did have to top up with Dream Tan which is even more messy as it's basically liquid makeup so got *everywhere*!!

I knew I wouldn't be allowed that again though so though I'd give the Jan Tana a go. Plus... Chady Dunmore uses Jan Tana so if it's good enough for her...!

It went on easily enough but the problem was that we did it in our living room (matron!) where our light fittings aren't working properly (don't get me started...!) so we were relying on a standing lamp that didn't really do much to illuminate the room - or me for that matter...

Sunday 14th November -

...and when I woke up the next day (feeling somewhat groggy I might add!) I was horrified to discover that my tan was massively streaky and a lot darker in some places than others!

Also, and what was worse, whenever my skin came into contact with water, the slightest droplet would create a puddle effect - eek!

Initially I'd decided to put the tan on at night, wake up in the morning, rinse off the residue and was my hair as it needed doing as I'd not cleaned it since Friday when I had it cut. I would then reapply another coat and be done.

When I realised I couldn't get wet this changed things somewhat and resulted in disaster #2 - greasy lank hair - arghh!

As we were running short on time we decided to take the tanning products with us and head over to the venue where we could reapply it and patch up the mess.

Shortly after we set off I realised - disaster #3 - I didn't have any false eyelashes so we had to make a detour via Boots which made us even later!

Although we'd anticipated it not taking much more than 45 minutes to drive, it actually took a *hell* of a lot longer which brings us to disaster #4 as we got stuck in traffic and I almost wasn't allowed to compete! Adding to this stress and introducing us to disaster #5 was the fact that tickets to the show had sold out, and, as we'd not anticipated how popular this event would be, Joe didn't get to sit in the audience with his super duper camera and take pictures - or even cheer for me for that matter! :-(

Anyway, we got backstage and I got into my bikini and set about fixing up my makeup and getting ready to touch up my tan when disaster #6 reared its evil ugly head as I came to the sickening realisation that I didn't have the tan with me... I'd gotten it all ready and in its little carry bag and then left it on the side in the kitchen - arghh! :'-(

We tried touching up with makeup but that didn't help so I ran pleading into the girls' changing rooms where one of the competitors, Laura (who later went on to win the contest - good karma eh :-) ?!) was kind enough to lend me some of her 'show off' tan... I think it's a Jan Tana product too... anyway, what an angel, thank you so so so so much, I'd not have been able to get on stage otherwise as there were white blotches everywhere!!

So, tan patched up as best we could, bottle returned by a perhaps overly effusive grateful Tara (but I was seriously so relieved!), make up finished, lashes in place and all set to go I teetered in my heels to join the other girls.

It was then I realised there were only four of us... which meant that one of us would be disappointed. It hadn't occurred to me that that might be me but my second thought upon joining the other lovely ladies was "shit, they're all a lot leaner than I am!".

Then nerves *really* started to kick in then. Luckily there was a lovely lady backstage called Frankie Boers (who also competes, is gorgeous and has an amazing physique!) who was encouraging us to smile and kick ass so that helped. Also, the other girls were really friendly and cheerful so the atmosphere was great, added to this was the pleasure of meeting my twitter pal, the fabulous @PeteTheFreak! :-)

Frankie also gave us tips on walking - which I really wished I'd practiced more of - but with my ankle injury, wearing heels just doesn't happen very often... it can't - it's too painful!

Disaster #7 occurred within a few seconds of my entrance when I wobbled strode onto the stage of the packed out theatre and completely forgot *everything* that the lovely Wanda Tierney from the UKBFF had meticulously and explicitly told us about what was expected once we were on stage... in fact, disaster #7 just continued to increase exponentially all the time I was on stage!

Firstly, the minute I stepped onto the the stage my legs somehow forgot that there were bones holding them up and instead turned to jelly. Next I forgot that when I walked to the back initially for the start of my 'T-walk' I was meant to perform a front stance followed by a back stance - I just did a front stance - I walked too quickly, held my poses for far too short a space of time and my lips were trembling soo much that I'm not quite sure if I looked like I was smiling or grimacing in pain!!

Next came the comparisons and for some unknown reason my ears and my brain decided to have a massive falling out. I'm not sure what exactly my brain had done wrong but my ears refused to correctly relay the information they were receiving from the judges. I *knew* I was number 66, I had a very large badge to this effect pinned to my bikini which I had looked at many times. And yet still, when the judges called an entirely different number - I think it was 8! - my legs took me over to where they'd moved from!

It wouldn't be so bad if a) I wasn't the *only* one who did this and b) it was an isolated incident. However, I think I incorrectly attempted to swap places about 3 times AND to make matters worse I walked completely the wrong way at one point!

What a numpty eh?

So, after what felt like an eternity of nerves and cock-ups resulting in bikini bottoms feeling like they were riding right up my bum and my heart attempting to leap out of my chest, we were dismissed off the stage while the judges deliberated.

Backstage again my nerves abated, but this only made way for the annoyance at my screwing up to kick in - big time!

We were called back on stage (somebody in the audience actually called out my number too while we were walking out - thank you... you made my day!) and I did my best to put on a nerve-defeating smile as we were presented with fantastic fabulous medals. Well-done to the UKBFF in that respect, it was a clear symbol of the fact that they believe everyone brave enough to compete on stage deserves recognition :-)

Next they announced the top three in reverse order... "In third place... Danielle Pincus!" at this juncture I'd like to point out that I did actually (rather foolishly I now realise) hold out hope that mine might be the next name read out, but alas it wasn't to be and when the judges read out "Nikki Jenkins" I knew then that it was all over, hope was extinguished, and I realised was going to leave disappointed :-(

I did attempt to leave the stage after the trophies were handed out to allow the winners to be photographed, but was told to stand where I was while photos were taken...

I must admit that this was rather tough on the soul as it was a case of "...and here's what you could have won!" as the three other girls stood with their fabulous trophies proudly on display (from left to right: Nikki, Laura, Danielle & me):

I did smile and put on a brave face though, so hopefully I didn't ruin the picture for the rest of them, but inside I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my world, pathetic eh?! I waited afterwards backstage to congratulate the girls and then went back to the dressing room and had a bit of a sob...

I was - and in fact still am - quite taken aback by how upset not placing made me! I know that when you enter contests like this you're setting yourself up for criticism and a possible fall, and I never expected to win. But I did believe I should have placed, and my training was geared towards my own interpretation of winning. I wouldn't have worked as hard as I did if I believed there was not a chance in hell that I might come away with something, what would be the point in that, you don't *train* for fourth place!

I guess that in my mission to escape the perils of mediocrity I'm working towards a winning mentality and, as the saying goes "if you want to be a winner then you have to hate losing".

And I really really hated losing on Sunday - ha!! After all, it's hard enough to miss out on top three but it's even harder when there are only four of you that have entered!

Anyway, I may be a disappointed loser but I'm definitely not a sore loser and the other girls clearly worked their asses off too and their victories were well deserved.

It just means that I've learned a few valuable lessons and that I need to continue working *my* ass off in order to improve on the gains I've made so far. After all, on-stage and pre-comp cock-ups aside, I was still a lot less lean than my competitors and I know that counted against me. I also know that this is something I can change and I fully intend to do so!

The final disaster of the day (what are we - up to 8 now?!) was the journey back home after the competition.

Initially, I has been super happy to learn that the football club I still fondly follow - Sunderland AFC (despite it being years since I split from the boyfriend whose team it was!) - had beaten the Premiership leaders Chelsea by 3 goals to nil! My joy was short lived however as we were caught in the aftermath of this game's match traffic.

I lived in Chelsea for over 10 years so I know the area really well and thought I could get us out of it by taking a few side streets... unfortunately a) everyone else had the same idea and b) although I know the streets well enough to walk and cycle round, driving a car is different as almost all the streets are one-way!!

The journey was just a complete nightmare and took more than twice as long as it should have - at one point it took us over an hour to go less than a mile!

Add to this that I was still feeling pretty down, which was compounded by the fact that Joe's not great in stressful situations involving small spaces, and you end up with pretty much the worst car journey I've ever had! It really effectively and appropriately rounded off a thoroughly miserable day.

The *only* ray of light being the lovely facebook and twitter messages I received so thank you all again so much for keeping me (reasonably) sane!

Anyway, that's a chapter of my life which is complete and all I can do is move on and learn from it so... what next for Tara?

Well, first of all here are a few more pics from the competition:

I'm actually really thrilled with how I look, I certainly didn't look like that a few weeks back!!

These pictures cheered me up a hell of a lot and now I feel a lot more positive about the whole experience :-)

And now, what's next for Tara Stevens?

Well, I'm hoping to do another update soon where I can give you more detail about comps etc, but in brief I've launched back into training with a vengeance and my mission is to shift as much weight as possible (without sacrificing too much muscle) between now and January when I have my ankle operation and am literally off my feet for weeks. This is going to be super tough given how active I am at present but hopefully my relatively high level of fitness will help with my recovery :-)

January and February will be spent building muscle (and inevitably bulk) and then from March onwards I hope to be leaning down and looking to compete again!

This is the game plan and obviously it's all subject to change - I'm still not sure whether I want to stick with Bikini or work towards Figure but I'm going to make that decision once I've seen what my body is capable of, it's still very early days and I've only really spent about 3 months of this entire year in total concentrating hard on my physique. What I've learnt is that I'm enjoying all the challenges I encounter and the diet and training actually suit me really well. I love how good clean eating makes me feel and look and witnessing new muscle definition is truly joyous to me. I'd encourage *anyone* who wants to change their body shape to pick up some dumbbells and embrace the fact that Strong is definitely the new Skinny!

Be back soon with more progress pics and news, as well as some reviews for exciting new products that I've been trying out lately.

In the meantime, stay strong,



  1. Sweetie, I know I have said this to you numerous times but I think you are freakin' amazing! So you didn't place - I happen to agree with you and think you should have. However, take a look at your pictures - then look at your pictures at the start of this blog.

    Even though you didn't "win", you have already "won" as far as I am concerned.

    You're awesome and am proud to have you as my friend <3

  2. Tara you look absolutely amazing

    C x

  3. You look amazing, easily as good as the other 3 and knowing how determined you are I am sure you will reach all your goals ;o)

  4. Tara, from your pics you look both amazing and absolutely gorgeous. But also, what strikes me is that you look very comfortable and confident out there.

    We all of us learn from our experiences - and from what you've said you had a few of those this competition! So, you've learned a LOT, yes?

    keep doing what you're doing Tara - you rock :) x

  5. i was working backstage at show and thought you looked amazing, dont see it as a set back but a stepping stone to better placings

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