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Gloria Kaneko
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My Emotional Journey to Figure

It’s been almost eight months now since I joined Team Bombshell, and I have to say that the experience really has changed my life.

In about July or August of last year, I made a decision to get my body into great shape and I set a goal to get into a fitness magazine like Oxygen or Muscle & Fitness Hers.  I was working out quite a lot at that time and I was in pretty good shape, but I knew I needed to tone up a lot more, so I started to focus specifically on my new goal by introducing much more weight training into my program.

A few months after that, I heard about Team Bombshell, and after finding out all I could about them, I decided to join.  I wasn’t really planning to compete at that stage, which is what Team Bombshell is all about, but I figured that with their help and guidance I could get my body looking fantastic.

Well pretty soon I started to see major changes in my body, and so encouraged by that and with the inspiration from all my amazing sisters on the team, I was bitten by the bug, and I set myself a new and more ambitious goal of actually competing, in the bikini division.

Since I made that decision it’s been a very emotional journey for me. It’s been the first time in my life where I have actually dared to dream about doing something extraordinary that very few people ever achieve, and set about doing it.  That’s a very big deal for me, when you consider where I have come from.

As a child I grew up with everyone around me, especially my older brother and sisters (I am the youngest), telling me that I can’t do things, that I’m useless, that I’m stupid, and so on. I am only 4’10” tall so of course as a child I was also very short, but even worse, I was also chubby. In the Japanese and Korean cultures in which I grew up, that was a big problem. Discrimination against people based on their appearance was very cruel (I’m not sure if it’s still the same today), and being short and fat I got a double dose!  It was pretty much accepted that I would never get married, would never get a good job, and basically, that I had no future.

Having been in Australia now for about 16 years it’s hard for me to believe that people could have such barbaric and ignorant attitudes, but that’s how it was. It got so bad for me that I remember in Grade 3 thinking about taking my own life using a kitchen knife. Fortunately I decided against it because I thought it would have made my mother too sad.

The best thing I ever did was to move away from that environment and come to Australia to make a new life for myself.  Even today however, I still feel deep down as though I need to prove myself.  Each time I work out in the gym to my limits, it’s very emotional for me because I’m proving to myself I can do things – things that most other people are too weak to do.

Also, when I see myself in the mirror I feel very proud of my achievements, and  I can’t help thinking about all the people in my life who doubted me and put me down.  They all still have their narrow-minded, miserable lives and they look like crap. It’s so satisfying to me now to understand that they don’t have the strength to do what I do, and it’s that very weakness that led them to criticize and discourage me when I was young. It’s so much easier to insult and judge others when you don’t have what it takes to walk the walk yourself – how else will you ever feel good about yourself?

My journey has been full of struggles and obstacles, it’s been an uphill battle all the way, but even though I have a lot I still want to achieve, I’m happy with how far I have come so far.  I have just persevered and done the best I could every step of the way, even though it was usually against the odds.

I was reminded of my rocky road just recently when I attended an IFBB workshop.  The IFBB is one of the associations that oversees bodybuilding and women’s figure and bikini competition.  They told me point blank that I was not right for bikini, and I should compete in figure instead.  Since starting with Team Bombshell it was always in the back of my mind that I wasn’t built for the bikini division and would probably struggle to do well.  Bikini competitors are generally naturally slim women. I am naturally stocky, and being short makes me look even less slim.  So my confidence in myself wasn’t all that high.

Now the IFBB officials (including those who judge the competitions) were also telling me I couldn’t do something.  I was pretty devastated.  I didn’t need that again in my life.  My first reaction was to ignore them and to keep doing whatever the hell I wanted to do.  But once I settled down I decided to talk to my head coach, Shannon Dey, about it.  She basically agreed that genetically I was suited to figure, not bikini, but she said that I could go either way and I should therefore do whatever I loved more.

When I first joined Team Bombshell some of the figure women looked scary to me and the bikini women looked so slim and feminine, so that’s where I wanted to be.  But now I had to accept the reality that my body just wasn’t ever going to look like theirs.  Another obstacle!  For a very short while I felt sorry for myself, but then I had somewhat of a revelation when I looked at the two categories more objectively.

I had built up quite a bit of muscle tone in my arms, too much really for bikini. But I loved the look of my arms and the attention they got me when I was out in public. I also loved the heavier training in the gym, which I had to forego to avoid getting too big for bikini.  Suddenly, when I thought about it, there was a lot about figure that I did like and a lot about bikini that I didn’t like.  And then taking everyone’s advice on board about me being better suited for figure, the decision was made.  I sent Shannon an email and it was done, I had changed my Bombshell training program to figure.

I have always believed that inside all setbacks is hidden an opportunity or some other element of good.  And this latest obstacle that my short, stocky body has thrown up at me once again I think is for the best.  I feel very happy now training for figure and my mind is at peace.  I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. I have a lot of work ahead of me to get stage-ready but I know I’m up to the task.

I was watching a video a few days ago of the lovely Erin Stern, who is an IFBB Pro figure champion, and she said that after just missing out on qualifying for high-jumping in the Beijing Olympics, she decided to compete in figure because she wanted to do something at an elite level.  That really clicked with me.  When I think about where I came from as a child, and what I am working towards now – doing something at an elite level, I feel really happy!

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Gloria Kaneko is a lifetime 100% natural IFBB Figure athlete, certified gym instructor and personal trainer, and fitness model. She has also studied clinical psychology, is an NLP Master Practitioner, and has several certifications in Hypnotherapy and the Silva Method. Gloria is a co-owner and co-founder of Million Dollar Baby Fitness.

The Journey Begins . . .

Next Story »

The Next Step on My Journey


  1. Sharon
    19 June, 2012

    I know if I say “it doesn’t matter what others think or say” it won’t make anything you feel any better becuz in reality, it does matter. But, let me say this, after reading your post, I feel uplifted and motivated to join the team. I applied but I feel I won’t compete. Shannon is waiting on my picture which I am too embarrassed to send. I tried a program last year. I had some success and know that I can do it. I have stretch marks everywhere and after seeing the pics of the girls I feel intimidated and hopeless becuz competing seems too far fetched. You have made an impact on me and probably many others. Keep striving and motivating us just by being you.

    • Gloria
      19 June, 2012

      Thanks very much Sharon! It’s great to hear you’re joining Bombshell, the program is really tough but it has gotten amazing results for me and many other women too. There are women on the team who don’t wish to compete but just want to look great, and that’s fine, so you won’t be alone! Anyhow, once you start to see the results you might change your mind about competing, I’m sure many women have made the journey from feeling hopeless to being on the stage!

      Please let me know when you join up, the team has a private social network (forum) so I will see you there! 🙂

  2. Holly
    27 June, 2012

    Thank you for sharing your story, it was very touching! I really want to be a part of Team Bombshell. Is it really hard to get accepted if you are not in super amazing shape yet? I have my pictures and my application, but I was thinking maybe I should get a trainer and get in better shape and then submit for the team? What do you think? It seems like everyone there is so nice Im not quite sure what im afraid of at this point. Thanks again for posting your story!

    • Gloria
      29 June, 2012

      Hi Holly! You don’t have to be in fantastic shape to join, they have an “Under Construction” category for girls who aren’t competition ready yet and there are many who still need to lose weight before being ready. As long as you’re willing to work hard I think you should be fine.

      Before joining Bombshell I was working out quite a lot but I could never get as lean and cut as I am now. I’m not sure if I ever would have even with a trainer because our program is really tough and if any trainer asked his or her clients to do this 90% of them would quit ha ha. It’s only really for women who really want to look exceptional. Even though it’s tough it’s great and I love everything about it because just being on the team with these amazing ladies and coaches is so inspiring, you feel like you’re part of something bigger so you put more into it! If I hadn’t joined Bombshell I don’t think I ever would have even considered trying to look good enough to compete. It was only after I was on the team for a few months that I thought to myself, maybe I can do this too!

      If you really want to join the team I wouldn’t worry about getting a trainer first, join right away. I think you’ll get faster results that way (as long as you’re prepared to work for them) and besides, worst case scenario is that Shannon will say to reapply in the future, but I’m pretty certain that won’t happen.

      Good luck! 🙂


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