As a former gymnast and dancer with keen artistic talent and body awareness, Wendy Fortino has always been a natural-born performer. She is an IFBB Pro Figure competitor, and a four-time Figure Olympia. Wendy found her artistic outlet in professional hair and makeup services establishing herself as both a fitness and a beauty expert. She has coached hundreds of women to be confident and beautiful on the competition stage.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a top figure competitor? My journey has been very exciting with many “ups and downs” and likely why I continue to compete. I find myself improving with each defeat and appreciating every success. I competed in track during high school, college, and in graduate school. Track was my hobby and obsession. I had high hopes to see how far I could go in the 800-meter race. My final “race” was in 2008 when I was aiming to compete in the Olympic Trials. Unfortunately, I suffered from a stress fracture which was a normal occurrence for me in track. I was bummed out but figured I would heal and return to aim for my next goals. Lucky for me, I began dating my now husband a bodybuilder. He encouraged me to try competing in a figure competition happening at the 2008 NPC San Francisco Championships that he was preparing for. After winning the Overall Title in my first contest, I was hooked.
What do you love about being a figure competitor?
I love that I can embrace so many strengths I had shied away from in the past. Growing up, I was always very athletic and very muscular. I was also very much into beauty and makeup and had a ridiculous lip gloss collection by the age of 9! I remember getting teased and made fun of, but I would also get a lot of positive attention for my athletic abilities. I would think, “I wish I could do something that allowed me to be both strong and beautiful!” However, I would learn over time and a lot of experience that we each have the power to create our own version of beautiful. That is what this sport has done for me. It has given me an incredible platform to pave the way for other women to show them that strong and powerful can most certainly meet grace and beauty. These things are not mutually exclusive.
Have you experienced any downsides to the bodybuilding lifestyle?
I think that the downsides include the fact that it is so difficult to help people understand the type of commitment that is required. It is in our nature to gravitate toward information that caters to our desire to take the path of least resistance. Not that I’m saying we should try to make it harder for ourselves. We need to be realistic about what we can do based on what we are willing to commit to. I want people to protect themselves from individuals who try to take advantage of our human desires. For example, if a trainer were to tell a woman who is looking to lose 30 pounds she could do it without changing her diet or training, then I believe the trainer would essentially be trying to take advantage of her human desire. We all want it to be easier, but at the same time, it takes someone who genuinely cares to say it will be difficult, but also rewarding and you will learn so much about yourself along the way!
What advice do you have for someone who’s considering becoming a bodybuilder? My advice is to first adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes
wholesome, healthy nutrition and a consistent exercise routine that includes strength training and cardiovascular activity. I consider bodybuilding to be a sport in which an individual can challenge themselves to reach a “next level” of physical aesthetics once the ideal level has already been achieved. If, however, an individual chooses to prepare for a contest as a way of losing weight, then it is much more likely they will not adopt healthy habits that extend far beyond bodybuilding with regards to healthy nutrition and physical fitness.
Talk about the artistry that goes into preparing your body for competition and the artistry that happens on competition day.
I definitely consider everything about this sport to be artistic! Many people think it is just about building muscles and losing fat. On the contrary, we are aiming to create the perfect “X” shape with our bodies. We are all so different structurally, we each need to build up and take down certain muscle groups to create that perfect “X” for our individual bodies. I have tried several strategies over the past 11 years and have come to the conclusion there are certain things I have been able to create over time I would not have been able to achieve early on even if I knew how. It takes time to “create” when it comes to our bodies. Choosing the right suit to complement our look, as well as perfecting our hair and makeup on the day of the show can really put a great physique over the top if we get it just right.
How do you feel about people judging and admiring your physique?
It honestly used to bother me a lot. I would constantly defend myself when someone would say rude things about me and right in front of me! I can remember so many examples — such as, when a woman cornered me in a locker room to tell me she wanted to look like me, but her husband didn’t like that look (my look!). So, for that reason, she wanted to inform me that she wouldn’t aim to achieve it. I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or an
insult, but it was a pretty common occurrence. I would get angry and frustrated and sometimes felt people somehow thought I must look like someone who is okay with being judged/admired/talked about. I have learned to be strong and have compassion for people who judge me.
Training your body for peak performance is your lifestyle. How does it feel physically to have such a healthy body?
I like to think of the phrase, “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better.” In other words, because I have been physically active now for so much of my life, I have become accustomed to the ebbs and flows of energy that comes along with that. I always tell people that their effort is only relative to what they know. For a person who has just started working out, one-hundred- percent effort would be different than a person who has been working out for 30 years. I don’t feel “great” all of the time, but I have also learned a lot about my body over the years, and I know how to listen to it when it tells me that I’m too exhausted and need rest. In that sense, it is not only the perfect diet and training strategy a person needs to succeed, but most
importantly, it is learning and understanding your body and what it can handle, and what it feels like to push yourself.
What is your contest history up to now?
I have been competing now for 11 years starting with my first contest in 2008. I had a winning streak through my first four amateur contests, winning the Overall titles in each. However, it took me five attempts and three years to finally earn my IFBB Professional status in 2011; winning the 2011 Overall NPC USA Championships. Since then, as a professional athlete, I have earned 19 top-five finishes, 10 top-two finishes, and one IFBB Pro win. Additionally, I have earned a spot as a four-time Olympia, and one-time Figure International competitor. I would estimate that I have placed in more than 40 contests throughout my career.
What are some common challenges your Polished Presentation and coaching clients need help with? My product, Polished Presentation (www.polishedpresentation.com) is something I created when I found that there was a growing need for quality posing guidance. It is a series of instructional videos covering all aspects of posing and presentation for both figure and bikini athletes. I have women contacting me all of the time to let me know that they “won” after using Polished Presentation. In terms of my Team Cyberbodyshop (www.cyberbodyshop.com) contest athletes who I work with one-on-one their most common challenge is getting out their nerves and feeling confident on stage.
What do you find most fulfilling about being a mentor to others?
It is the joy that comes with enjoying the company of others’ success. When we are working with people, there is an emotional exchange I have grown addicted to.
Can you tell us about how you became a fitness coach entrepreneur?
Fitness has always been a part of my life, and I have always found myself to be a natural leader. In high school and college sports, I was the team captain, and I was an assistant professor in graduate school. After earning
my master’s degree from Cal Poly and SLO in Exercise Physiology, I held three management positions. Most recently, I was the fitness director at Stanford University. Before working full-time with my husband Matt Allen at our businesses, Cyberbodyshop.com, I had many years of experience under my belt and knew that in order to grow and continue to create, I needed to work for myself.
You’re also a professional hair and makeup artist. Do you do your own hair and makeup for competition? Do you do hair and makeup for other figure competitors? I have always done my own hair and makeup. I don’t think that will ever change. I would be the worst client because I am a control freak and ridiculously picky. I never let my clients leave until they are one-hundred-percent satisfied. I can see it on their face. If I don’t see total joy and excitement, then I will make sure that it happens before they leave my seat. I have been doing hair and makeup for about 15 years now, and I have been doing competition makeup for competitors for about 10 years.
What features need to be highlighted for competition and why?
Eyes and complexion primarily need to be highlighted. If a competitor goes too dark or sparkly, it can look completely different under the lights. There are a lot of shadows that cast on our faces when we get under the bright lights. I like to look at the most striking features on a woman’s face and make those features become the “anchor” to the rest of her look. For example, if she has big, bright eyes, I would make sure her eyes and lips don’t compete with one another. The overall look needs to be clean and polished.
How does being an athlete benefit your everyday life?
First and foremost, the lessons I have learned over time about “triumph after struggle” from my involvement in competition over the years have made me who I am today. The ability to constantly aim to improve myself builds immense character. I am not sure I would have the same strength and courage that has grown inside of me if I did not go through my athletic
What interests or hobbies do you enjoy doing when you’re not in workout mode? I love the beach and any activities that bring me to the beach! That is probably why we moved to the beach a little over a year ago. I love going for long walks just about anywhere. For some reason, it gets me excited when my husband says to me, “You wanna be-bop today?” Be-bop is the silly term we made up for going on a drive somewhere and just walking
around at the beach, the mall, or whatever. We usually wind up going out to eat somewhere and top the night off with a movie we’ve wanted to see. This sounds so basic, but it is what I love.
What are some of your current fitness goals and why are they important to you? My fitness goals have become harder and harder to form as I continue to grow and build. At this point, I am not sure how much further I can go in this sport, but one thing I have yet to achieve is to place in the top five at the Olympia. I am going to work very hard this year to set myself up in a position to be able to achieve that goal. This achievement would allow me to have an even stronger platform to make a positive impact on people all over the world.
Are you on strict meals most of the time? Or are you able to have cheat days? I do become very strict any time I am close to a contest. When I am not preparing for a contest, I have adopted a lifestyle in which I crave healthy, wholesome foods to fuel my body. I rarely crave for things like donuts or pizza because I am so connected to the way that I “feel” when I eat things that my body likes, not just my taste buds.
Thank you – to read your comments and hear your candid experience gives an interesting insight. You are sharing your knowledge, which is appreciated.