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An Interview With IFBB Figure Pro Mary Jo Cooke.

Shawn Ray spends a little time with Mary Jo Cooke. Here she answers questions about becoming a pro, the advantages of living in southern California and more. More details follow.

[ Q ] Where did you earn your Pro Card and how is life as a Pro Figure Athlete changed compared to being an Amateur in the NPC?

    [ A ] This past June 2006, I earned my Pro Card at the Jr. Nationals in Chicago! That moment on stage as the announcer was calling out the top five winners will give me "goose bumps" for the rest of my life. It's an indescribable feeling to achieve a goal that you have been working towards for many years!

2006 Junior Nationals Results & Pictures! 2006 Junior Nationals
Results & Pictures!

The 2006 Junior Nationals was once again a great success with so many competitors and fans alike. The show was held June 16-17, 2006 in Chicago, IL.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

    Reflecting back on those years I spent as an amateur and comparing it to my newer experiences as a Pro... well, I must say that it does feel different. The level of expectations is definitely greater, both personal and industry wise, and there is a higher level of intensity to the entire competition process.

    As an amateur or national level competitor my main focus tended to be making all the necessary gains to qualify for a Professional status. Now as a Pro, the focus is on fine tuning the entire physique and going after the Olympia Qualification.

[ Q ] You are a School Teacher... at what point did you see yourself competing as a Pro Athlete?

    [ A ] I actually, began competing while I was still in college. However, it wasn't until after graduation that I was able to focus more time and the necessary energy to push me to the next level. This coincided with my becoming a Physical Education Teacher and teaching actually provided me with the structure and routine that helped enable me to reach my current potential.

    I had always had that secret dream of maybe, just maybe making it to the professional level. Well, the security, structure, routine and amazing work hours (185 work days a year) allowed me to push my potential to a higher level and help me achieve one of my dreams... IFBB Pro!!!

[ Q ] As a pro, do you think residing in Southern California has given you more of an advantage over people living in the Midwest? Why?

    [ A ] Location, location, location. Yes, I do believe that to some extent it helps being in Southern California. The climate here is amazing and definitely conducive to an athletic lifestyle. This also lends to a population that seems to be more image and health conscience.

    For some of these reasons (did I mention that the whole Hollywood/L.A. thing helps too?), there tends to be a greater congregation of photographers, competitions, expos, events, agencies, etc., that can be a great asset to a competitor. Being in close proximity to all of these options definitely helps cut down on expenses, which can produce greater opportunities.


[ Q ] The Colorado Pro Figure Contest last year had 29 Competitors many of which wound up competing in the Ms. Figure Olympia. Is this where you would ultimately like to wind up and why?

    [ A ] Yes, it would be an honor and a privilege to qualify for the 2007 Olympia!!! I have many smaller goals I would like to accomplish along the way, but ultimately, I would love to grace the Olympia Stage.

Colorado Pro Am Classic! Colorado Pro Am Classic!
The 2007 IFBB Shawn Ray Colorado Pro/Am Classic will be held in Denver, Colorado June 1st and 2nd. The weekend will include an expo and many events like MMA, boxing, strong man contest, bikini model search and more...
[ Click here to learn more. ]

[ Q ] Being a Pro Figure Competitor, what message would you like to convey to young girls trying to follow in your footsteps?

    [ A ] Working with Junior High School girls on a daily basis - I personally witness their reactions to the media and the perceived images around them. In a culture that often represents unrealistic images, I find an intense need to teach and build the self confidence and self esteem of adolescent girls and young women.

    On a daily basis I stress the importance of character, goal setting, dedication, discipline, time management, patience and self respect. Acquiring these skills, will better allow these young girls to set and have realistic expectation for themselves and others.