SOUL&STORY

Ashley Blair
*ALL PHOTOS ARE MAKE UP FREE

Photographer: Megan Won

Location: Washington, D.C.

HOW has                    affected your self confidence?

Bodybuilding has affected my confidence in all the right ways. I thought as a women I couldn't build muscle or if I did I would look like a man and I didn't want that. As I began to lift weights and build muscle I I felt empowered and strong, physically and mentally. Obviously I was building muscle, but it also gave me a sense of internal strength as well. Here I am a woman, defying stigmas put into place by society, and I felt like a bad*ss in the process. Women can build muscle and still look like a woman! 

Bodybuilding has helped me appreciate what my body is capable of, the tests it can withstand, the endurance it undergoes, and just what I am truly capable of. Bodybuilding has made me feel strong, beautiful, sexy, womanly, and has improved my self-confidence drastically. Bodybuilding is what I have became known for and I use it as a platform to encourage other women to lift weights and to break those stigmas. 

Man, this is a tough one. I would love to sit here and say I don't have negative thoughts, but I have them more often than not.

 

When it comes to my physical fitness I have came a long way. I am in the best physical shape I have ever been in! I competed in two bodybuilding shows this year, including my first OCB Amateur Figure Competition! But there are days I still find myself pinching the rolls on my stomach, hating the fact that my thighs giggle or touch when I walk, or that I am not as lean as that woman over there. These thoughts can be debilitating.

 

But when these thoughts roll in I think about how far I have come in the past 4 years and use that to set me straight! 

As far as the European descent my idea of beauty has been largely shaped by American pop culture of what "ideal beauty" is and the mold you have to fit in order to be beautiful. I struggled with image for a lot of my life, and some days I still struggle with comparing myself to other women and trying to fit that ideal mold. I’ve come to realize I’m not going to be beautiful in the way pop-culture defines beauty (the women you see in magazines or the Victoria secret models with flawless skin, skinny, perfect beach waves hair, make up done perfectly, with straight A-line frames) and I’m OKAY with that!  I don't want to be someone else's idea of beauty, I want to encompass what I think is beautiful and if that means being muscular with curves then that is what I want!

 

What is

your story?

Honestly, growing up I did not have a lot of self-confidence. I thought I was overweight, had frizzy hair, and I had really bad acne. That's how I felt all through middle school and high school. When I started college I started getting attention from guys I had no business getting attention from. I began to see my self-worth through how much attention I could get. Looking back I know how flawed it is, but through a series of events I changed my course and it ultimately led me to my boyfriend of 5 1/2 years.

 

I didn't realize what beauty was until I started taking care of my body. When we moved to Virginia I stopped drinking every weekend, I began eating healthy, and incorporated fitness into my life. Fitness helped me focus on me and do something good for myself on a daily basis. Weightlifting had a huge impact on me because I feel beautiful as a muscular woman!  I know beauty is not only on the outside, but weightlifting gave me goals to work towards, it empowered me to take action, and pushed outside of my comfort zone. A woman who is hard working is beautiful because she knows what she wants and goes after it. (love this) It has stretched me and pushed me in ways I never thought imaginable.  Being a health and fitness coach has helped me realize beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and as long as you love yourself that is all that matters. 

When people compliment me on my curly hair, it always makes me smile. Growing up I hated my hair. Hated it. I wanted to have straight hair like everybody else. My twin sister had straight hair and I was always jealous. Straight hair seemed so much easier to style while I had to deal with a frizz ball of hair. In junior high I was introduced to a straightener....this was what I was waiting for! I could finally have straight hair like I always wanted. So for the next 6-7 years I straightened my hair every single day. I knew it was damaging to my hair, but I finally felt pretty. 

I knew it was damaging to my hair, but I finally felt pretty. Eventually I got sick of doing that everyday and it took so much time. I started using mousse and a diffuser to dry my hair (my older sister taught me this!). Since then I have really learned to embrace my curly hair and I have learned how to style it to fit my personality. People tell me how jealous they are of my hair and how they wish they had curly hair. For something that I hated for so long I have come to love and appreciate the hair I was blessed with.

One of my favorite quotes is by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

"Do not go where the path may lead, go where there is no path and leave a trail instead."
 

For too long we follow the nice paved road in front of us, why? Because it's all we know, it's safe, or we are told that that is the path we must follow. But I challenge you to be BOLD. Follow that passion that everyone thinks is crazy! Do what you love! My trail started 2 years ago when I picked up weights for the first time. Looking back I don't see the paved road anymore, but the amazing impact I've had on those around me and what I have been able to accomplish.

 

Make your own trail in life and see where you go.

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*ALL PHOTOS ARE MAKE UP FREE