A 21-year-old who was bullied at school over how she looked has transformed herself into a body builder in just five months.
Being bullied is never acceptable, and it can really do a number on the victim. But one 21-year-old woman took this bullying and used it for the better.
Victoria Thornewell, from Leicester, was teased for her looks by classmates growing up. And while the years of harsh comments hurt her, the marketing co-ordinator overcame poor self esteem and even won the title of Miss Leicester in 2014.
And just this July, she became the champion in the UK Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation’s (UKBFF) Stars of Tomorrow competition; crowned in the Junior Bikini Fitness category. “When I won Miss Leicester I got lots of support from people who’d kept quiet when I was being mocked at school but thought, ‘Where were you when people were calling me ugly?’ I wanted it to be a self-achievement, not to prove anything to anyone else. I did want to prove the pageant industry wrong though, as they think it’s all about being feminine, but at the weekend I’m a tomboy.”
In 2014, Victoria saw an advert for the Miss Leicester pageant on Facebook, which prompted her into entering. And then she won! “It was really strange. I had never been on stage in front of people before and was not a confident person. At the age I was, in my generation, it’s all about your appearance and it was important for me to stand up and feel confident in front of people. It changed me and how I held myself.”
It was in February 2015 that she found an interest in competitive bodybuilding. “I went to see a show in Leicester out of curiosity – I saw the bodybuilders on stage and knew that’s where I wanted to be next. I didn’t believe in myself before, that’s why I wanted to go on stage and do bodybuilding as well as the beauty queen work I’d done – I loved the idea. I do prefer myself as a bodybuilder. The change is so tiny every single day that you don’t appreciate it, but I look at photos and think I did really well. It’s hard work and mentally challenging, it did become an addiction.”
To prep for the bodybuilding competition, Victoria found a coach and then stuck to an intense 19-week plan that consisted of 45 minutes of weightlifting for five times a week. She began to incorporate cardio for 40 minutes every other day after she had reached 10 weeks. As for her diet, her trainer ensured she consumed specific amounts of certain foods each day, including 120g of chicken and 80g of rice.
“I was so determined to get to the finish line. I think as a beauty queen people see you as vain, and now people I know say I’m too muscly – you can’t win. I’m still the same person, I’m not full of myself, I just do what I love to do – weight lifting. I’m a person who is passionate about something. I’ve had some people who called me ugly say: ‘I’ve seen your pictures and you look amazing, I’m so jealous.’ I don’t need to say anything as they can see what I have done and achieved.”
Her weight went from 63kg as a beauty queen to 52kg as a bodybuilder and is now at 65kg, with most of it being muscle mass.
“My boyfriend of three years, Rick, 30, is into the gym as well, although we don’t go together.
He was quite shocked to see how much I wanted to do bodybuilding but is just pleased I’m happy,” Victoria said.
She will start competing at the beginning of 2016 for the UKBFF National Finals qualifier in April 2016.