This is not your mother’s Miss America swimsuit competition. Thanks to heavy promotion by Instagram and other social media sites, more everyday fitness buffs are taking to the stage to participate in bikini and bodybuilding contests. There’s no talent requirement. Contestants are judged on a fit and toned physique, as well as their style, poise, and — most importantly — stage presence. This means that months of dieting and exercise can now have an end goal: an amateur title like Diva Figure Model or even pro status, which means a chance to score prize money — along with a trophy, T-shirt, and moment of onstage glory. But getting to that level can be expensive. A new crop of nutrition, muscle, beauty, and posing coaches supports these competitors to help them do their best. Experts give advice on foot placement, head tilt, swivel on the runway, as well as makeup, clothing color choice, and shoe selection. Such coaching is available in-person or through Skype, video tutorials, and online consultations. It’s a cottage industry that Alyson Webster naturally fell into — through her own experience as a personal trainer and contestant. After winning a bikini title for one of the top fitness federations, she now trains women — and men — in the vanity sports. Whether it’s attire (don’t wear a too-small bikini) or preparation (Vaseline on teeth can help you smile if your mouth gets dry). From her North Andover studio, Webster, 28, assists clients on their presentation and walk, among other things.
The Globe spoke with her about why pageant wannabes are paying her up to $650 for a 16-week prep package.
“My mother and aunt competed in bodybuilding competitions when they were younger. I remember they had a dance routine doing splits and twirls. How times have changed. Now there are many different figure, bikini and physique competitions, from the stylistically-orientated WBFF Federation (World Beauty Fitness and Fashion) to the raw muscle OCB (Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders). Instead of the super-shredded six-pack, many bikini competitions have a more mainstream beach body aesthetic, making it easier to get stage-ready. I call it Victoria’s Secret runway with muscles. Competitors have to strut on stage in stilettos and bikini; there’s an evening wear component, too. Judges look for sculpted shoulders, toned waists, and defined legs, as well as fashion and beauty sense.
“Posing is not easy. You only have 30 seconds or so to strut your stuff. For many, it takes hours of practice. Are your moves fluid? How do you transition from side to back pose? What routine best shows off your physique? I’ve have seen girls with a less than perfect body win because they had the ‘entire package,’ especially confidence.
“Hair and makeup should be done professionally, a bikini should fit body type, and tan must highlight muscle cuts. I provide a check-list for must-have provisions: adhesive to glue bathing suit to skin so it doesn’t ride up, rubber gloves and car wax pad to apply tanner, dark sheets so tan doesn’t bleed onto bed, cooking spray to give skin sheen. These are all secrets of the trade.
“I’m currently coaching a 42-year-old hairdresser, 25-year-old waitress, and 19-year-old mechanic, all of whom are getting ready for upcoming shows. I’m also prepping myself, getting ready for a pro show in California.
“I can thank social media for much of my success; I have 150,000 followers online, which qualifies me to be an ‘influencer’ or brand ambassador for many companies. I help market teeth-whitening products, diet teas, sports bras, fitness gear, and workout shoes. But even I have my weaknesses and ‘cheat meal’ days. My favorite indulgences are ice cream and gluten-free pizza. After spending hours at the gym, I have to treat myself somehow.”Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.