Athletic Women Magazine Blog

Features, News, Coverage on Athletic Women

Category: Interviews (page 2 of 2)

Figure Phenom Shay Niessen

You say you’ve never heard of Shay Niessen?

Then it’s time you found out who this figure phenom is.

The 24-year-old started in bikini, but transitioned to figure. On March 18, 2017, Shay made her figure debut. Not only did she step on stage as a first-time figure competitor, but to add a huge exclamation mark, she walked away as the figure overall champ. That’s how you make a debut.

Shay Niessen figure competitor with championship trophy

Shay Niessen 1

What are your stats?

Just under 5-6 tall; competition weight 140-145 lbs; off-season heaviest I’ve ever held was around 163 lbs. However, more consistent off season I’m usually around 155 lbs.

Why did you move from bikini to figure?

I started in bikini because I was new to the fitness industry – more specifically the competing industry. I did tons and tons of research, but I was still a “baby” and had a lot to learn. My shoulders grew very fast and I always had figure in my heart from day one.

Bikini is beautiful, but if you know me in person, I don’t have the persona. I’m kind of a tomboy at heart, so I really had to practice the twists and turns and hair flips and such (haha). The muscle required for figure always captured my interest. I find it so incredible and there are so many figure physiques I look up to.

With that being said, I took around 2.5 years off to grow, grow, grow. I became really interested in powerlifting and focused on eating and lifts for a long time. I also took the time off to focus on building a life and career. Competing takes up a lot of time in your life AND MONEY. I said the next time I compete I want to be 200% mentally and financially ready.

How old were you when you did your first show?

I believe I was 21-22 years.

How did you get started lifting weights and training?

I was always interested in nutrition. I would use all my free time at university spending hours and hours researching what foods were good for the body and the benefits of each. I would experiment with different “diets” etc. However, I was in university and of course I partied etc. and lived quite an unhealthy lifestyle until finally one day I was really tired of it.

I remember always liking photos of tiny, tiny models until I came across a female bodybuilder on Instagram and I was in awe. I couldn’t believe someone could look like that. I remember being like, “Damn, this girl is not superhuman which means I can do that too.”

I started YouTubing different bodybuilders and how they ate etc. and it all stemmed from there and I never looked back.

What is your profession?

I work for a builder/developer for condos and homes. I do everything AFTER sales from lawyers, to final closing, PDI’s, dealing with trades, etc.

What’s one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?

I made a bet with my friends that I could be a raw vegan for three months and I did it. No cooking food. Nothing. Just fruit and veggies. Twenty plus bananas a day sometimes (LOL).

What are your goals as a competitor?

My only goal is to keep getting better and better for myself. Bring an entirely new package when I decide to go on stage. I want to BRING something to the stage each time I go on.

What three words best describe you?

Goofy. As. F*ck.

Favorite curse word?

F*ck for sure. See comment above

Were you athletic growing up?

Yes! Used to compete in 100m sprints, basketball, volleyball, soccer and dance.

Shay Niessen figure competitor flexing

Shay Niessen 2

What do you think is the strongest part of your physique?

I won’t lie – I love my delts.

Favorite female competitor and why?

Oh boy, there are literally so many I look up to.

What’s your favorite cheat meal?

Sushi, followed by Menchie’s stacked with white chocolate, peanut butter, Reese’s, Oreos, and Nanaimo bars (LOL).

If you could look into the future and see yourself at age 50, what would you want to see?

I want to be one of those badass healthy moms who get up at 5 AM for a jog and come home to slay the kitchen and prepare a healthy breakfast for my beautiful kids and husband and my 2-3 dogs… and then also comes home and drinks red wine and eats pizza in bed.

If you had an all expenses paid weekend trip to anywhere in the world, where do you go and who do you take with you?

I want to travel EVERYWHERE.

Find Shay on social media and follow her journey.

YouTube

Twitter: @shayniessen

Shay Niessen figure competitor biceps flex

Shay Niessen 3

Originally published March 2017

Tiffany Conama – MMA Fighter

Next to Hulk Hogan as “Mr. Nanny,” MMA fighter Tiffany Conama just might be the toughest nanny out there. Considering The Hulkster only played one on the screen, we’re going to have to give the edge to Tiffany.

“I am a Nanny. I have been since I got out of high school. It pays really well and I am my own boss and can make my schedule work around training, which is my priority. I also teach at my gym.”

Let’s start with your stats.

I’m 21, 5-3, about 130lbs everyday weight and fight at 115lbs (strawweight).

What’s your fight record?

4-1.

How did you get your start fighting?

I started jiujitsu when I was 17 – a senior in high school!

It wasn’t until after I started training that I learned about MMA. I had no idea it ever existed, although I do have a vivid memory from about 12 years ago when I was very little, flipping through the TV channels and stopping on a televised fight.

A man was up against the cage and a ton of punches landed on his bloodied face on a yellow canvas. It traumatized me without a doubt. And then years later, here I am doing the exact thing!

But who doesn’t want to travel the world and fight people? I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to travel and that’s always been a huge passion of mine.

Were you athletic growing up?

I was. I did cheerleading and softball, but I wasn’t really passionate about anything until I found jiujitsu. But I had always been aggressive and would play fight with cousins and mom.

 

MMA fighter Tiffany Conama posing in the ring with her championship belt

Tiffany Conama, AMA 29, Vancouver BC 2017

 

What are your goals as a fighter?

To be the best! Top ranked fighter in UFC or Bellator. But I want to just be able to train stress free and not have to work. Just travel, fight and learn! I want to be able to inspire people and entertain them.

Favorite female fighter and why?

Rose Namajunas. She’s always been a favorite of mine even before she won the belt. She’s got the best no fucks given attitude and knows what she wants. We also have a similar body type/fighting style so I get a lot of inspiration from her.

What’s one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?

Probably the fact that I work as a nanny for those who know me as a fighter. For everyone else, the fact that I’m a fighter is definitely something that surprises a lot of people.

What three words best describe you?

Driven, adventurous and a self-sufficient badass.

Most exciting/thrilling thing you’ve ever done in your life?

I’ve done a quite a few things. I must say getting into the cage is the most exhilarating thing I’ve done. There is no other feeling than that walk to the cage and getting your hand raised; knowing everyone is watching you and all the hard work, the hours of training and the sacrifices are all worth it. Just knowing I’m living my dream.

Three things (no people, pets or friends) you can’t live without?

I’m not very materialistic, so I’ll have to say my team/gym, my car and I admit, my phone, considering it’s never out of my sight.

Anything else we should know about you or that you would like to add?

Just that I am extremely thankful and blessed to be able to live my dream and inspire others to do the same. No matter how hard you might think it is, being happy and doing what you love is the most important thing!

Highlights of Tiffany’s fight at AMA29:

YouTube 

Follow Tiffany:

Instagram

Facebook

Facebook Athlete Page

MMA Fighter Jessi Brennan-Dalton

Look out Justin Bieber. MMA fighter Jessi Brennan-Dalton is gunning for you and she’s going to kick your ass! When asked to name an annoying celebrity that she would like to go a few rounds with in the cage, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber topped Jessi’s list.

“I would like to go a few rounds with Justin Bieber. I would put him in a headlock and noogie him until he agreed to treat women better and stop being such a punk.”

Smart money says the MMA fighter over the annoying pop star in two rounds.

Jessi Brennan-Dalton is an up-and-coming MMA fighter with her eye on inking a contract with the UFC by her 25th birthday. Not only can she handle herself in the cage, but she brings a marketable look to the table, a valuable commodity in today’s world of social media likes and sharing.

Following is our Q and A with Jessi.

How tall are you, how much do you weigh and what is your weight class?

I’m 5-4.5, I walk around at about 135 lbs to 140 lbs and my weight class is 125 lbs.

Date of birth?

January 24, 1992

What is your profession?

I’m a dog groomer by day and an MMA fighter by night! I keep the furry, four-legged of Vernon, BC clean and stylish!

Do you remember the first time you were punched in the face and what that was like?

I don’t remember the first time I was punched in the face, but I remember the first time I took a serious hit in the cage. Luckily it was only on the forehead, but it was quite hard and it made me really angry! I tend to be an emotional fighter so all I could think about was getting her back!

When was your first fight, where and what was the outcome?

My first fight was against Veronica Charters in Merritt, BC through the Unified Combat League. I won by TKO in round one.

What is your fight record to date?

My fight record to date is two wins and a draw.

What motivated you to train and become a fighter?

Like a lot of people in this sport, I started off in karate. Some of the boys and I would go to class early and “rough house” on the big crash mat. I heard about an MMA club in town and decided to give it a try and I was hooked!

How easy or hard is it for you to get fights?

It hasn’t been too difficult to find fights so far. I think agreeing on a weight has been the more challenging part.

Are there enough local women out there to keep you fighting in British Columbia?

I’ve only had three fights and I only know of a couple other amateur women in the area. It may be challenging to find fights down the road without having to travel outside of the province.

What is your sports/athletic background?

I’ve been doing sports all of my life. I started off in gymnastics, ballet, tap dancing, and jazz at four-years-old. From there I moved into soccer, volleyball, basketball, and then karate in my last year of high school. When I discovered MMA, I quit karate and started bodybuilding alongside of my new found passion.

Favorite fighters from both the men’s and women’s side?

I don’t really follow men’s MMA, but from what I’ve seen of Chael Sonnen he puts on a good fight, he’s charismatic, and I can appreciate a good sense of humor. For the ladies my favorite fighter is Leslie Smith. I don’t think that girl even knows how to frown, and she’s incredibly tough.

Have you ever had a real life encounter where you had to use your fighting skills?

“I’ve never been in a real life situation where I’ve had to use what I know. The thought does cross my mind though, when I’m possessed by road rage!”

Where can we see more of you?

You can find me on Facebook at my public page, Jessi Brennan-Dalton; make sure to like me!

Do you have a sponsor or anyone in particular you would like to thank?

I would like to thank JH Construction and Excavating LTD. for their contribution. The owner of the company, Jason Hadath, is a valued member of our team at Intrepid MMA and his generosity is greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank Pauline Davidson at Davidson Photography for doing such awesome work with me! Pauline is a great photographer who works in the local circuit. She often volunteers her time at events which shows how truly passionate she is about MMA, fight photography, and supporting the local fighters. I owe my biggest thanks to our coach, Richard Dubois at Intrepid MMA, for making all of this possible for me.

See footage of Jessi fighting in the ring YouTube

Originally published February 2015

Adriana Gee – Elbows, Air Canada and The Olympia

Nothing like being trapped in a window seat surrounded by people that you really don’t want to be around. Behind me, a woman seemingly obsessed with seeing how deep she could bury the point of her shoe into the bottom of my seat. Resting in my lap, the person in front of me, reclined back as far as possible, all the while ensuring the futility of working on my laptop. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Riding shotgun beside me, a somewhat disheveled young woman who clearly had too much Vegas and not enough sleep. But even then, how bothersome could she be, fast asleep as she was?

The answer to my question came quickly in the form of a sharp elbow delivered in a manner that would make her the envy of most any NHL power forward patrolling the wing on one of thirty teams. In rapid succession, more elbows came flying my way.

Was she really sleeping, or just carving out some extra space for herself?

Fast forward to the final leg of the trip, closing in on Vancouver, and a groggy voice comes from my right: “Can I borrow your pen?”

On the heels of that, a sheepish apology acknowledging that perhaps a few elbows might have been thrown my way.

From there, we started to converse. In short order and to my surprise, it turned out that my seatmate happened to be a Facebook friend. And no mere mortal Facebook friend either. When not throwing elbows, my seatmate turned out to be none other than Vancouver fitness star Adriana Gee, first-place Arnold amateur winner, Bikini E, at the prestigious 2016 Arnold Classic.

Bikini competitor Adriana Gee on stage in competition suit

Adriana Gee on stage

You worked a booth for the Olympia weekend. What’s the name of your company and how long have you been with them?

I’m sponsored by the supplement GAT Sport and I’ve been with them for about two years.

Busiest day for you, Friday or Saturday?

I would say Saturday, because Sadik came off of the stage and straight to the booth so people had been waiting for him. As well, Big Ramy, who was also competing that day. But our booth is always super packed because we also have Jon “Bones” Jones, Janet Layug, Rebecca Ferrari, as well as Zac Aynsley, who was visiting Las Vegas for the first time since he’s from New Castle, UK.

Favorite moments or highlights from your weekend?

Probably when Sadik came to the team and we were all so happy and proud of him since he switched categories this year (from physique to classic physique) and he did phenomenally! We took a team picture and we all were together and surrounding one another.

Our team has a very close bond with one another, so I believe the highlight of the trip was actually just BEING THERE! GAT has many brand ambassadors around their own country, but the fact that they fly me out all the way from Canada for all the large expos really makes me feel special, of value, and just grateful to be a part of such a supportive and loving group of people.

I miss them always since we’re so far, but every time we get together, it’s like we’ve never been separated and we start right where we left off.

Did you meet any industry celebrities?

Yes I met many fitness celebrities over the weekend! Too many to name and to be honest, I always see them at every Expo, so the novelty of seeing “celebrities” is running thin, whereas now they are just like any everyday person in my field (and I mean that in the utmost respect).

It was pretty cool to see Dwayne Johnson there though! I didn’t get to meet him personally, but I know he hit the hearts of many spectators.

Bikini competitor Adriana Gee posing in athletic gear

Adriana Gee

Favorite thing to do/see in Las Vegas?

Talk to all the people. I’m a people person and I love connecting with our fans and followers at any moment, whether it’s at the booth or when you’re simply walking through a hotel and someone comments on your physique, which leads to engaging conversations about fitness, nutrition, and overall wellness.

We rise by uplifting others, right, so the times that I get to have personal conversations and give advice really makes my heart warm.

My favourite activity would be to hit the pool parties!!! Olympia weekend is filled with the best physiques in the world, so when you’re at a pool party, you see so much hard work and dedication in the form of the human body. Also super cool swimwear and fashion and everyone is letting loose and having a good time!

Your best advice to survive Olympia weekend in Vegas?

Take it slooowww. It’s a three-day event starting on Thursday, ending Saturday, but people usually stay and enjoy the Sunday since no one is working anymore. If you go too hard on Thursday or Friday, then you’re setting yourself up for a short-lived vacation.

I actually go to the gym and try to get an early night’s rest (if I can) Thursday and Friday because I can not even fathom the thought of being hungover all day at the booth. I save my partying for Saturday night and Sunday.

And of course, stay hydrated! Remember, you’re staying in a desert!

Where can we see more of you?

Instagram

Facebook

See our interview with Adriana on YouTube

Bikini competitor Adriana Gee biceps flex

Adriana Gee – biceps

Originally published October 2016

Emma-Lee Thomas – Legends Football League

Emma-Lee Thomas is a football player with the Austin Acoustic of the Legends Football League.

What are your stats?

Height 5-4; weight 138 pounds; age 29.

What is your athletic background?

I have competed at a high level in a range of sports but predominantly gymnastics and full kit gridiron.

How did you get involved playing football?

I used to watch a lot of NFL on TV and saw an advertisement in the local newspaper back home for tryouts for a women’s team. I showed up and made the cut and I’ve been addicted ever since!

You started your football career in Australia and then came to the US. Can you fill out the timeline?

I played full kit from 2011, LFL Australia Season 1 from 2013/2014 and arrived in Texas to play for the Austin Acoustic in March 2016.

Football player Emma-Lee Thomas on the field with Austin Acoustic of the Legends Football League

Emma-Lee Thomas in action

What made you decide to leave Australia to play in the US?

Gridiron in America is a national sport. I was interested to see the level of competition, training and coaching that was provided over here in the States. I’ve had a great experience so far.

What’s the difference between playing in Australia versus the US?

The athleticism and skill level were very similar I think. We have a lot of rugby players in Australia, which requires many of the same skill set to play gridiron. I did notice a huge difference in the level of knowledge and intricacies of the game. Being America’s national sport, the level of game awareness, in general, is much higher here than in Australia.

Is there any difference between how the league and the players are viewed between the two countries?

I think the introduction of gridiron alone is something very new to Australian shores. I know that it is definitely growing in popularity back home due to the injection of Jarryd Hayne (one of Australia’s top rugby league players) into the San Francisco 49ers team.

What position do you play and what are your primary responsibilities on the field?

My primary position is offensive line, either tight end or centre, and secondary is defensive end. Centre is to snap the ball and provide direction to the offensive line. Both offensive positions require either run or pass blocking and occasionally receiving the ball, although in LFL everyone is eligible.

What strengths as a football player do you bring to your team?

I usually pick up blocking schemes and play books quite quickly and am able to help out my other teammates with the installation of blocking schemes and play book. I’m also a very hard worker on and off the field.

What areas do you feel you need to improve on?

At this stage I’m looking to improve my overall strength and agility. But also my speed. I’ve been doing sprint sessions and a lot of extras outside football to try and work on these areas.

What do you do for a living?

Civil Engineer.

How many hours of training do you do per week off the field?

I’d probably say an extra 10 hrs of personal development outside of football training.

Football player Emma-Lee Thomas of the Legends Football League posing with football

Emma-Lee Thomas

How many hours of training do you do per week on the field?

At the moment we do nine hours of physical training and between one to two hours of film review.

Do you have a favorite LFL player?

My favorite LFL player would have to be Ashley Salerno. She’s such a versatile player and so aggressive on the field. I think she’s one of the greats.

What’s one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?

My age.

Where can we see more of you?

Instagram

Facebook

Originally published June 2016

Catching Up With Pro Wrestler Jaida

We had an opportunity to catch Jaida in action with pro wrestling league ECCW on February 7/15 in Vancouver, BC. You can find more photos from this match on our Facebook page

In our original interview, you said one of your goals was getting into the WWE. Shortly after, you did a tour with them. Can you tell us how that came about and what the experience was like?

The WWE contacted me in August about doing an extra spot for RAW and Smackdown. I was in the middle of a tour through Saskatchewan with HIW, so I left that and flew back to Vancouver to hit the road. I had no idea that a little extra spot would turn into such a major role!

The experience was absolutely unbelievable. It was very eye opening being able to pick people’s brains and start to understand a bit of what these wrestlers do 365 days a year. The experience made me even hungrier for success. Running into The Hulk wasn’t so bad either!

At the moment, who would you consider your main wrestling rival?

At this very moment, Cat Power is my main rival. She is the ECCW women’s champ. But that may change next week, you just never know with wrestling!

Annoying celebrity you would like to take into the ring and finishing move you would use on her?

I would take Paris Hilton into the ring and give her my facebuster!!

 

Pro wrestler Jaida biceps flex

Jaida hitting a flex

Pro wrestler Jaida flying high off the top rope in ECCW action

Jaida in action

Originally published February 2015

Young Gunz – Sarah Sangha, Figure Competitor

Figure competitor Sarah Sangha, competing for just the first time at the 2017 Leigh Brandt Muscle Classic, finished third in her class.

Let’s start with your stats.

I’m 20; 5-4 3/4 height; I weighed 120 pounds for my show and about 135 pounds off-season.

What was the experience like hitting the stage for your first show?

It was really nerve wracking. The whole time I was up there it felt like my heart was just racing, but it was amazing.

Figure competitor Sarah Sangha flexing in competition suit

Sarah Sangha – show day flex

How long have you been training and what motivated you to start?

A couple of years ago for bodybuilding, but not for show purposes. For show purposes it was a few months ago.

This all started because I was kind of one of the boys.

I liked being big and muscular and being able to intimidate people, so hanging out in the gym kind of kept that going.

What was the most challenging part of training for your first show?

I think the most challenging part of my first show was just getting over the nerves of getting up there. I enjoyed the diet and I love training so that was easy for me.

Were you athletic growing up?

I grew up on a farm, so I was extremely athletic. Always out with the dogs, chasing animals, doing whatever. I played some sports in high school, but other than that, I wasn’t one of those soccer kids.

What is your profession or job?

I work for Fuel, a supplement company. As well I work in a pub, so a very busy girl.

Favorite female competitor and why?

Nicole Wilkins and Dana Lynn Bailey. They’re both really motivating and strong women and gorgeous and they always do their best at everything.

What three words best describe you?

I’m extremely outgoing. I can be really funny but most of the time awkward. And I’m just fun to be around.

Best advice for someone training for a first show?

Do it for you. Enjoy the road and you’re going to learn a lot about yourself.

Find Sarah Sangha on social media.

YouTube

Instagram

Facebook

Figure competitor Sarah Sangha posing in competition suit

Sarah Sangha – show day pose

Originally published March 2017

Kelsey DeCamillis – Physique Competitor Debut

Physique competitor Kelsey DeCamillis stepped on stage for the first time at the 2016 Popeye’s Fall Classic. Following is a brief recap of her contest experience.

Best advice for someone prepping for a first show?

Make sure you hire a great coach! Do your research because I think health and wellness come first above all else. It is imperative to find a knowledgeable and supportive coach who has your back 100%. I’m so grateful to have an excellent coach guiding me with his expertise – Darren Toma of Custom Built Training. His wife Lara has been an incredible support as well with posing and stage presence.

Be sure to keep supportive friends and family close by and surround yourself with good vibes only. Expect many obstacles and be able to critically think and problem solve as issues come up. Be sure to have a post-show plan in place as well. Reach out to fellow competitors and talk to athletes who have been through it before.

With knowing that you’re pushing your body and mind to the max, there will be some days that will feel great and other days may not. There is a huge psychological component to this and being mentally prepared is key. The accomplishment in the end is all worth it, so keep grinding and push yourself to the limit. Always be kind to yourself and no matter what, enjoy the process and have fun!

Physique competitor Kelsey DeCamillis flexing in competition suit

Kelsey DeCamillis – show day!

What were you feeling and thinking the first time you hit the stage? Any feelings of nervousness?

I definitely experienced some anxious feelings but also was very excited! Taking some deep breaths beforehand helped calm me down and as I walked out to the stage, I kept reminding myself to hit the poses and transitions right, just like in practice, and keep smiling of course! As soon as I got out there and started posing, it felt great and the nerves went away. The whole day and experience was amazing. I can’t wait to do it again.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

I don’t think so. It definitely crossed my mind that I need to be in a different job if I do another contest prep, however it wasn’t feasible to make a job change during prep. The way things were set up with where I was working at the time, and also the immense amount of commuting I was doing just made everything extra challenging and exhausting. I was so determined though it didn’t matter and I just did everything I could to execute the prep as best I could. I really feel like I did the best that I could.

What do you feel you need to focus on for your next show?

I would like to work more on perfecting my posing, routine, and stage presence. For physique goals, I would like to see my upper body better balanced with my lower body and also to improve on overall conditioning. I want to also put a lot more effort into recovery from training sessions.

Biggest challenge of the entire process?

Commuting three plus hours a day on transit, dealing with daily commentary from people at work and people on transit, and most days were 18-20 hours long. Pushing through sleep deprivation and exhaustion was really difficult and concerning as I knew stress levels needed to be kept low as well as keeping on top of recovery. It was incredibly tough getting everywhere I needed to be with the way things were set up but there was no other way around it and I was so determined to do my absolute best for my first show.

Where can we see more of you or follow you?

Instagram

Facebook

See our Kelsey photo montage on YouTube

Physique competitor Kelsey DeCamillis flexing in competition suit

Kelsey DeCamillis – ready to hit the stage

Read another feature with Kelsey

Originally published May 2017

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