Nathalia Melo moved to the United States knowing only one person and speaking very little English. A scary move but one she was willing to make. Determined not to let anything stand in her way, Nathalia is establishing herself as not only one of the the hottest IFBB bikini pros but also a rising star in fitness modeling.
She's gone two for two in her bikini competitions and featured in the 2010 FLEX swimsuit issue. I caught up with the Brazilian beauty to find out what's behind the stunning smile and striking good looks.
[ Q ] Where where you born?
[ Q ] Did you play sports growing up?
I swam for 12 years and I also played tennis in high school. My step-dad played tennis so that's how I got into playing tennis.
[ Q ] Can you still swim?
Oh, I can swim buddy! It's not like I will win any championships but I won't sink if that's what you're asking.
[ Q ] So how did you find your way to the United States from Brazil?
I was an exchange student for a year. It was my senior year of high school. I moved to Louisiana and was pretty much in the middle of no where.
[ Q ] Why Louisiana?
You don't really have an option. In Brazil, you fill out an application. You tell what your interests are, what you like to do, you know things like that. Then they match you up with the family.
[ Q ] So you put down that you like to walk around with no shoes?
No, dork. The girl who I matched up with had lots of things in common with me.
[ Q ] How long were you an exchange student?
Just one year.
[ Q ] Did you know any English when you came over?
Um.. "How are you?" That is pretty much the only English I knew.
[ Q ] What's your native language?
[ Q ] Did the host family speak Portuguese?
No. I needed to have a dictionary with me all the time. They would say something and I may not understand it so I'd open my dictionary and they would point out the words to me. That is how I learned.
[ Q ] Do you speak any other languages?
I can understand Spanish. Portuguese and Spanish are similar and some of the words are the same but it's not like you're sending me to Russia where I have no clue.
[ Q ] Aside from the language what was the biggest change from Brazil?
The food was very different. I was used to homemade food in Brazil but not like Louisiana. There was a lot of very fatty foods.
Like for example, they would have gravy and biscuits for breakfast. Which is awesome but it will make you put on twenty pounds just like that.
[ Q ] Did you play any sports while you were over here?
I ran track, sprints, and some soccer.
[ Q ] What made you decide to come to the US the first time?
Just to learn the language, it was the cool thing to do at 16. That and I think my mom didn't want to put up with me for a year. Just kidding. Seriously though, it was to learn English.
[ Q ] How was school for you in the United States?
I got straight A's.
[ Q ] So you're smart?
Well my dictionary helped me out.
[ Q ] Many people in American think Brazil is full of beautiful women and they are all very sexual and open. Is that really the case?
No, not at all. I think it comes from the carnival. Americans see a lot of girls without many clothes on and think it's how all women are in Brazil. It's not like that. I have dresses here that I could never wear in Brazil.
[ Q ] Why not?
They are too small, not much clothing or too short. So I have different clothes that I wear in Brazil then I would wear here. I live in Ft. Lauderdale and they are way more open here.
[ Q ] So you were here one year then went back. What did you do when you went back to Brazil?
I was 16 years old when I was over here for the exchange program. When I went back to Brazil, I went to college.
[ Q ] What did you go to college for?
I was going to law school. When you go to college you know what you are going to do. It's not like here in the United States.
[ Q ] What made you want to go into law?
Well I had one year left when I decided move to the United States. I wanted to do something with criminal law.
I wanted to do the prosecuting. I wanted to put felons in jail. You know, killers and people like that. My grandpa was a lawyer but he's retired.
[ Q ] Why did you stop?
I just felt that in Brazil, it's very political and it's who you know. You have to basically be with the right family and my family wasn't from that specific state. It's very different from here. Here, if you have a dream you can go after it. Take that times a 1000 in Brazil.
It is who you know, what's your last name, things like that. I didn't have any of the above. I felt like I was in a box. There were many, many things outside of that box that I could see and decided to leave Brazil.
[ Q ] Did you know anyone here when you decided to move?
I knew one person in the United States. Just one friend from school. It helped for the first year I was here.
[ Q ] So how did you get to competing in bikini?
I was working out and I met IFBB Pro Christine Wan. She encouraged me to compete. I didn't think that was a good idea because in Brazil the only image we have of competing is bodybuilding.
You know, a really muscular look and I didn't want to look like that. She told me about the new bikini division.
[ Q ] You were working out then, just not competing?
Yes, I was weight training and I was trying to stay healthy.
[ Q ] Why compete then?
I was feeling kinda lost in life in general and chose a goal to push my limits. I needed something to push myself and figured competing could be it.
[ Q ] You train with Shannon Dey and her Bombshell team. How did you start working with her?
Christine pointed me to NPC and Shannon Dey. She explained how the NPC was different and I decided to go to one of Shannon's camps. I was in pretty decent shape when I met Shannon. I was working out constantly.
[ Q ] You mentioned you were kinda lost. Were you living a healthy lifestyle?
Not really. I needed something to keep me on track.
[ Q ] You entered the Ft. Lauderdale Cup show and won the overall bikini. How long did you train for that show?
I trained for a couple months but like I said I was in pretty good shape.
[ Q ] What changed when decided to compete?
Going to the gym two times per day was a big change for me. I go to school and work so doing cardio and weight training was a big change. I was walking around with a jug of water. I felt like an idiot walking around with it. I could care less now.
I do some weird training at the gym and everyone looked at me like I was nuts. And now I get to the gym and they are doing what I was doing.
[ Q ] Did you know who all the big fitness and bodybuilding celebrities were when you started competing?
No! Are you kidding me? I had no clue. Let me give you an example. At last year's nationals, I see this blond haired guy, he's jacked, about my height and I had no clue who he was. Ya, that was Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler.
[ Q ] What's the biggest misconception people have about bikini competitors?
A lot of people, especially bodybuilders, think figure competitors don't have to work out. We train as hard as they do. I eat six meals a day. I have to cook my food on Sunday night for the whole week.
I just train different. The diet might be a little different but there's not much difference. There are some girls who look like Hawaiian tropic contestants and they generalize. It takes hard work.
[ Q ] Where do you do all your interesting workouts?
Golds Gym in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
[ Q ] Has anything changed for you since you started competing?
Several people from my gym tell me they stay longer and work out harder after seeing what I have done. It's cool to hear that you inspire others.
[ Q ] What are your goals with competing?
Win the Olympia.
[ Q ] Okay then what?
Well my first goal was to see if I was capable of doing one show and I was. Then there was the whole controversy of me getting my pro card. I wanted to prove to people that I deserved my pro card and I did.
I got it because I deserved it. Then it was to qualify for the Olympia and I did. Now I want to dream even higher and that is the Olympia title.
[ Q ] To clarify, you petitioned the Brazilian IFBB to receive your pro card.
Yes, because there is no bikini in Brazil.
[ Q ] Okay but first you have Pittsburgh this weekend. Who is your biggest competition?
[ Q ] Come on, really?
No, really. I can only do my best.
[ Q ] So you don't get caught up in what other girls look like?
I can't change the way someone else looks. I can only take care of me. When I was at my pro debut I went to the bathroom to get ready. I wanted to do my thing. It doesn't mean I am a b!tch, I just don't want to freak myself out.
[ Q ] Do you practice your bikini poses?
I practice at camp and before the show but that's it. I've been doing a lot of photo shoots so it's helping me with my posing. I know my body... what works.. what side is better to show. The more I shoot the more I learn how to show my physique.
[ Q ] Speaking of photo shoots... The new FLEX swimsuit issue is hitting newsstands. What did you think of that?
Are you kidding? It's awesome. All this is very new for me. I want to keep this feeling and excitement.
[ Q ] What about competing do you enjoy?
Everything I do I try to have fun. I've worked as a bartender for 4-5 years and I dance around and have fun. If I am going to be stuck there working I might as well have fun.
[ Q ] Is it tough working in that kind of environment when training for a show?
In the beginning it was tough. I used to put everyone under the table with shots. I could drink! But then I stopped and now I don't drink. I couldn't function. It's important for me to achieve my goals.
[ Q ] Now that you're getting some exposure do you have any new goals because of it?
I want to have a career where I can utilize my publicity and grow a business.
[ Q ] Wait, so no more lawyer?
[ Q ] Why not?
Because I am too hyper to be locked in an office. I need to be moving.
[ Q ] What does your mom think of you competing and being in the magazines?
She cracks me up. Every time she sees a new picture she prints it out and puts it in her in wallet.
[ Q ] You also signed on with Nutrex as one of their sponsored athletes. How has it been working with them?
It's been a blast. They are a very good company to work with and they are very supportive with competing. They're nice to their athletes and I like working with them.
[ Q ] What's your favorite Nutrex supplement?
Lipo 6x. It doesn't give you the jitters. Their chocolate protein PRO-GRAM is awesome.
[ Q ] Any other supplements you take?
I take a lot of vitamins.
[ Q ] What do you eat when training for a competition?
Well this time it is chicken and asparagus. Oatmeal and chicken for breakfast.
It used to be 7 times, two ounces each meal. I was sick before the Europa. My trainers had to increase my food a little bit. I was getting dizzy.
[ Q ] You're not sick now are you?
Nope. I'm not sick and ready to rock-n-roll.
[ Q ] What's different this time around?
Well after my first show J.M. signed me, I signed with Nutrex, Shannon and Rob were telling me I could do well. I had a lot of pressure on me. I had only done one show.
All these people had this trust in me plus all the sh!t talkers about my pro card. I had something to prove to myself and to others.
[ Q ] The pressure is off for this show?
No, I still need to work hard and prove to myself I can do it. Don't get me wrong I love to win but you cannot always win. You have to have a good head on your shoulders. One day it's yours and one day it's not.
You have to look the way you thought you could. You never know what is going on in the judge's head. They might be having a bad day. I can't control anything but myself.
[ Q ] What advice do you have for others thinking about competing?
Go for it. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. A lot of people told me I couldn't compete. That I couldn't get my pro debut. A lot of people told me I couldn't sign with a supplement company. I did it all.
Be yourself. For me I have to be true to myself and my beliefs and what I think is right and what is wrong. You can do it. Your biggest enemy is yourself.
[ Q ] Where did you get your suit?
I did a shoot for a bathing suit line here in Florida. That suit is going to fall apart because I am going to keep on wearing it. I won both shows in it.
[ Q ] Any other magazines we should keep an eye on?
Muscle & Fitness and HERS coming soon.
[ Q ] What do you like about modeling?
I like meeting the girls and for me I like to watch the girls with more experience than me and see what they do differently. So I want to watch the best. Learn from the best.
At the FLEX swimsuit shoot, I watched Monique Minton and Amanda Latona a lot. I remember seeing Amanda on your computer and thought, "this girl is hot". It was awesome to work with them. I learned a lot by watching them.
[ Q ] Any one's physiques you like?
I really like Jaime Baird and Missy Coles' physiques.
[ Q ] You're not just saying that because they are your fellow bombshells are you?
No, I really like their physiques. I also really like Amanda Latona. She is a lot like me in personality and she is cool. She's outgoing and true to herself. Erin Stern is also very cool and has a great body.
[ Q ] What are your plans for after Pittsburgh?
I'm gonig to eat a Snickers.
[ Q ] I mean competing. Are you done until the Olympia?
I'm going to take a break and focus on training for the Olympia. More work for Nutrex. Just stay in shape and do more photo shoots. I'm going to take advantage of the opportunities that have come my way recently.
[ Q ] You got your personal training certification. Are you training people now?
Yes. I just want to train females. I am a perfectionist. I don't feel confident training guys yet. I know what a girl wants. Housewives appreciate my job and helping them change their bodies.