This weekend was the WNSO-FAME World Championships in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Athletes from all over the world congregated in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to strut the stuff they've been working so hard all year for.
The world championships are important because they bring together both Professional and Amateur athletes to give them a chance to compete against people in their Division and see who will reign supreme (winner of the Amateur shows get their Pro card, winner of the Pro show can declare themselves the 'Pro of all Pros').
It's hard to sum up exactly what FAME stands for in just one word. Mindy Blackstien and Jeff Kippel, the co-Presidents of the World Natural Sports Organization (WNSO) - FAME, do it well when they share their end-vision for the company "To impact society and help more people enjoy their body, become Body-Proud, change their lifestyle overall and improve ultimately their thoughts, physique, energy and overall health."
And when you speak with Mindy and Jeff in person (which you will because they're extremely friendly and approachable), you'll see that they both exude their 'Body-proud' philosophy from every pore. They dream it, live it and love it…then it rubs off on you.
What's awesome about FAME isn't just the organizers, the camaraderie backstage, the beautiful people…I could go on. What's awesome is that there is a category for everyone. No one is left out; there's nothing someone can't do. Here's a little rundown of the categories, and a summary of the guidelines for how one should look if they're thinking of competing.
The Fitness Model Search category is ideal for lean, fit, toned, athletic,
symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing individuals who wish to pursue a career as a fitness model, appear in
magazines and/or aspire to compete in fitness. It is also very popular amongst competitive Fitness Competitors who wish to further their exposure within this industry, as the physiques are very similar.
You will notice there is not one specific type of look that excels in this category; rather it is the overall package and how well your leanness, tone and fitness level complements your skeletal structure, personality and physique. Overall, judges are looking for good muscle tone, posture and symmetry; confidence, charisma, projection and exceptional style on stage; ability to pose in interesting, photographable ways; lean body composition; great stage presence; an attractive, healthy, vibrant look that could be realistically marketable in the industry; style & fluidity of walk and turns; attractiveness, marketability and general impression; and clothing that properly highlights their fit physique.
The body should be balanced and symmetrical (Eg. Upper vs. lower body, Front vs. Back, Ratio of chest to hips). Abs should be visible or somewhat visible, but striations and vascularity should be minimal. There is not a specific percentage of body fat or musculature that is ideal for this category, rather it's what best suits that athlete as per their skeletal structure and frame.
Judges also look for a vibrant, healthy look; a great attitude; impeccable grooming; and good outfit selection which accentuates both the physique and athlete personality. Models should appear comfortable and relaxed on stage unlike bodybuilders, fitness competitors and figure athletes who assume a more rigid stance.
This category is for drug-free men and women of virtually all ages and all experience levels who have succeeded in crafting a natural, muscular physique. Judges are looking for defined, well-developed musculature and balance among muscle groups, along with proper posture, good
posing and outstanding stage presence.
In preparing for this category presentation is very important. Athletes must acquire a talent for properly executing poses, developing the ability to maintain poses with absolute composure for a long time period, and ensuring all muscles are contracted and displayed in a proportional manner.
As well, athletes are required to sculpt and/or master the art of illusions to ensure they appear symmetrical from all sides and in all poses. There are 3 rounds for which the athlete must prepare. The Symmetry & Posing Rounds are when judges compare the athletes evaluate who has the most aesthetically pleasing physique when viewed from all sides and in all poses.
This takes place during the Judging portion of the event and may require the athletes to maintain their poses for several minutes and multiple times. The Routine Round is based on individually choreographed 90 sec routines during which time the judges evaluate the athletes' creativity, artistry, personality,
strength and physique. Presentation is very important. Athletes should learn how to properly execute poses to ensure they maximize their success.
Figure (Could Also Do Muscle Model)
FAME Figure blends Bodybuilding and Fitness to allow female athletes the opportunity to display their muscled physique while maintaining their femininity. Presentation is very important. Athletes should learn how to properly execute poses to ensure they maximize their success.
In preparing for this category, athletes must sculpt their physique and/or master the 'art of illusion' (by varying their stance and angles) to ensure they look completely symmetrical when viewed from all sides and in all poses. All visible muscles must be contracted when performing any of the poses. There are 3 Rounds for which the athlete must prepare.
Symmetry & Posing Rounds are when judges compare the athletes to evaluate who has the most aesthetically pleasing muscled, yet feminine, physique overall. The Routine Round is based on individually choreographed 90 sec routines where the judges evaluate the athletes' creativity, artistry, personality, strength and physique. The Evening Show (or Finals) is generally fun for athletes and audience. Judging has been done and athletes are able to relax and enjoy their moment to shine!
Fitness (Could Also Do Fitness Model)
FAME Fitness offers dancers, gymnasts, skaters, cheerleaders, martial artists, aerobics instructors and
yoga enthusiasts and other exceptionally fit women of all ages and experience levels an opportunity to model their physique and demonstrate their strength, balance, flexibility,
endurance, personality, and creative flair.
Fitness is an excellent opportunity for natural athletes to participate in a competitive sport beyond college and high school. It is also great for those of us who were never athletic and want to aspire to a new goal. There is not one specific type of look that excels in this category Rather it is the overall package and how well your leanness, tone and fitness level complements your skeletal structure, personality and physique.
The FAME Swimsuit Model Search (or Bikini for women) is designed for attractive, healthy, vibrant males and females and who exude confidence and a great body! Models do not need to be toned for this category although they should still be in shape. There is no routine component and only 1 round of competition.
There is not one type of 'look' that is ideal for this category, rather the judges are looking to ensure your shape and symmetry suit your skeletal frame and personality. Models are also marked on posture, body symmetry, confidence & projection, style & fluidity of walk and turns, marketability and general impression.
Judges are also looking for a vibrant, healthy look; a great attitude; impeccable grooming; and good suit selection. They should seem relaxed and look like they are having a great time!
The Muscle Model category is for muscular individuals who have both definition and mass and who could, if desired, also compete in competitive bodybuilding should this be something they aspire to and train towards. It is a great category for those wishing to pursue a career as a Muscle Model and for those who currently compete in bodybuilding and wish to further their exposure within this industry.
You will notice there is not one specific type of look that excels in this category Rather it is the overall package and how well your musculature, leanness, tone and fitness level complements your skeletal structure, personality and physique. Judges are looking for excellent muscle tone and definition; posture and symmetry; confidence, charisma, projection and exceptional style on stage; ability to pose in interesting, photographable ways; lean body composition; great stage presence; an attractive, healthy, vibrant look that could be realistically marketable in the industry; style & fluidity of walk and turns; attractiveness, marketability and general impression; and clothing that properly highlights their fit physique.
Athletes physiques are compared and ranked against each other. They are also given an individual point score based on their walk-out. Confidence, poise, outfit, overall appearance and style of turns are also evaluated through out. Athlete must appear comfortable on stage as well and not as rigid like their bodybuilding and figure counterparts. They should show some personality and appear as though they enjoy being in the spotlight.
Rundown Of The Weekend
The festivities kicked-off on Thursday with a roof-top patio party. They continued Friday with athlete registration, photoshoots, media-day and a whole lotta fun! At 9:30 in the morning, there were already 2 dozen competitors in the line-up. Athletes sure do know how to be punctual!
It was fun to see the friendships being made (and reunited). People introducing themselves, people taking photographs, people practicing their routnes; it was awesome! Around 11am, the bus arrived to pick up the first batch of athletes got on the bus for Media Day.
Media day consist of a lot of very gorgeous people, standing in a very yellow busy, wearing very little clothing and having very much fun! It's actually quite a sight to behold. Imagine a ton of bodybuilders, muscle models, bikini models, figure girls, fitness girls and fitness models bombarding the streets of Toronto to engage the public and take pictures in front of major sightseeing destinations in downtown. Let me tell you, it wasn't just the gridlock that was stopping traffic.
Jeff Kippel & Mindy Blackstien Interview
Here are some interviews with Jeff Kippel and Mindy Blackstien. Hopefully, their answers will give you a better insight into these two both as people and as visionaries.
[ Q ] How long does it typically take to prepare an event like this? When do you begin the process? What do you do to prepare for it?
[ Mindy ] First, it's the vision, and we know what we want to have, and from there, we figure out the categories, set the date, put it on the site, get the posters ready, get images that we want to use to represent the event. We just start promoting right away.
[ Jeff ] Even though we have FAME Worlds 2008, our 2008 schedule Season 2 is already here, the next shows are already being planned, we're adding shows left, right and centre. FAME Worlds happens every 2 years, so it rotates with FAME Universe. So we're always looking at what the next doors are to open up for more people to come through and be part of this.
We had a couple problems in terms of giving feedback to our competitors, like the judges report. And that was because we had people who had to go through the scores and give out the judges report. Now, we just say, "If you want your feedback, just call or e-mail us." We want people to get the most of this.
[ Q ] What kind of road-bumps are experienced along the way when putting together a contest of this magnitude?
[ Mindy ] Not having the right people on board on staff who are as dedicated and as passionate about the industry as we are. We got rid of the people whose vision wasn't in line with ours, and we made so many changes, so that Jeff and I are completely hands-on, on the computer all day long. It's like a re-awakening for us.
[ Jeff ] We work really hard at making sure our athletes are happy. Over the years, we've had other people who have worked for the company that we brought on the management team. When we did that, it seemed like we were always pushed back. As a large corporation starts to grow, people like to say, "Well, here's people who are going to manage. You can step back." And we found that that wasn't the way we wanted the company run. We righted it. This is what we love.
[ Q ] What made you choose the Metro Toronto Convention Centre again, after 2 years away from it?
[ Mindy ] We decided to bring the show back here because this is where we started. It's a huge venue, and the theatre makes the athletes feel really important because this is where they host "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Canadian Idol". It's really spacious; we have exhibitors upstairs, downstairs, backstage.
We were a lot more selective this year about who we brought on board as sponsors. You know, we wanted to continue with the 'Bodyproud' idea, so we wanted sponsors that represented natural athletes, natural bodybuilding and healthy bodybuilding. So we didn't want the people who weren't in line with that vision.
[ Q ] What kind of people compete with FAME?
[ Mindy ] We like to attract the right people to compete as well, so people who really believe in what our vision is, and what our mandate is, which is really to be good to yourself, and strive to get your ideal physique the natural way, the healthy way. We like it when people actually eat foods that are healthy for them, and prepare for a contest the natural way (sic: Not using methods to prep that aren't healthy).
We like to showcase, on stage, the people who are aligned with their goals, and who just use hard work, activity, clean eating, determination, all that stuff. We just want to attract the right people who fall in line with our vision and our goals, to actually step on stage with us.
And we find that this is happening. We have so many different people from so many different backgrounds competing with us. And it just shows that anyone, regardless of what level of fitness you have now, currently, can compete with us.
[ Jeff ] There may be only one winner, but everyone is here to step on stage and prove to themselves that they can do this. Even on the masters end, people are now realizing, "Hey, I can start life again. I can get in shape, I can play with my grandkids". The more shows and events we're adding, the more people want to go to them.
Once you start competing, your lifestyle changes; you eat better, you have more energy, you like to travel. This isn't an ego sport. It's about being proud of yourself and what you've done.
[ Q ] What does 'Body Proud' mean?
[ Mindy ] It's the way you think, the way you feed yourself, and the way you look; it all goes into building your self-esteem, and making you feel more proud in general. If you don't compete, that's what you're missing from being here. Everyone should experience this.
Of course there's one winner that gets first place, but we're always saying, "Make your goal, for you". Just stepping on stage is fantastic, and there's only going to be one winner, but everyone works just as hard.
[ Jeff ] Bodyproud means, 'Being proud of your physique'. Whether that means that you're going to out for a walk, whether you're going to go to the gym, whether you're going to compete in a show, or whatever, everyone is a winner for doing that, and being proud of what they look like.
You should show off your hard work and what you've done. This sport is about building your body as an art form, and you have to showcase that.
[ Q ] How is FAME, as a company, different than last year? How has it grown?
[ Mindy ] We used the suggestions we were given by people, and one of the suggestions we got from people who were high up in management, was that Jeff and I should not be involved in the company; we should step back. We were told not to interact with the athletes.
But for us, that was our passion. We were taken aback, but we were told that's what you do in a company. So when we looked at everything again, we realized that not being able to interact that way, we didn't have as much control or input that we're used to having. So this year is a lot more fun, whereas last year, I didn't know the athletes, and it didn't seem like our event anymore.
[ Jeff ] It's building that contact and networking base, and having the right connections and relationships that we've developed. It's things like having an athlete from Belgium host her own show there, it's booking FAME Universe a year in advance and advertising that on the website, it's sending flyers out to our e-mail list and our data base and magazines.
We start advertizing now, for next year. What works really well for us, because of how long we've been around, and because of our network database, it's like we've got an "army" of people. So when we do a poster or print piece, we send it to people in our database who take 10-40 of these and take it to all their clients and their network. We're promoting things on the mainstream end and specifically to our industry.
[ Q ] What is FAME's drug testing policy?
[ Jeff ] We have screening panels that we do on-stage now, so that we see everybody all at once, and we save the competitors time. We also do 'Out of Competition' testing now. We reserve the right to test any of our athletes throughout the whole year to make sure they stay clean.
We also do 'In-Competition' testing. The judging also has a strong element of whether the person looks natual or not. We catch people, and we publish names. So that's set something throughout the industry that we're serious about this. It really is too bad that someone got caught, and they cheated their way through, but at the same time, it shows everyone that we really are testing.
Curnel Jones Interview
Here's an interview with Curnel Jones, FAME Pro Fitness Model. He's a very genetically gifted individual in terms of his body-type, so what works for him may not work for you. But it does give you an idea of what an ectomorph male might do to prepare for a competition like this.
[ Q ] What did you do to prepare for the show in terms of training and diet?
[ A ] As far as training goes: High volume, high intensity, zero
cardio. And as far as diet is concerned, very high
carbs, very little
protein actually. My body works in mysterious ways.
[ Q ] Did you find you lost muscle because you weren't eating a lot of protein?
[ A ] No, actually. I found I was able to retain a lot. I was supplementing with a lot of
amino acids to help retain mass, and keep my muscles full. So it worked out really well.
[ Q ] What is your off-season weight compared to your competition weight?
[ A ] Offseason I can go anywhere from 210 - 215 pounds. Usually, on stage, I'm easily 185-190 tops. 185 is where I'm at right now.
[ Q ] What kind of dehydration procedure do you go through prior to the competition?
[ A ] It's a 24 hour water-depletion phase. So if a show falls on Saturday, usually Friday morning or Friday afternoon, I stop all the water.
[ Q ] Is this your first pro show? What are your expectations for it?
[ A ] Yes, it is. To be honest, I don't care about placings. I just to it to get a different look out there, and to get some good photos out of it. Competing is great, but that's not why I do this.
[ Q ] What is your experience with FAME? Why did you want to compete as a FAME Pro?
[ A ] The reason I'm competing is because I qualified to compete in the event a couple weeks ago at the
Lyzabeth Lopez competition. I believe the Pro show is as far as it goes, there's not much more I can do in terms of competing; having gotten my Pro card and doing the Worlds.
So all in all, this was a fun-filed, crazy awesome weekend. Granted the expo wasn't as big as it usually is, but there was enough eye candy around that I didn't need the free protein bars.