Hailing from sunny Southern California, fitness expert Laura Coleman, is a former competitor that I met ages ago at one of the IFBB’s major shows; The Ironman. Her personality was so exuberant that I knew she would become a major player in the fitness industry. As a rep for sports nutrition giant Twinlab, Laura is always busy and on the move promoting the brand she loves!
In this interview, Laura kindly shares many of her current (and favorite) projects. Not only that, she is giving us behind the scenes stories with some of the IFBB’s biggest names and her interactions with them.
1. Laura, we met ages ago at The Ironman when you first started fitness modeling. Since then, you’ve established yourself as one of the most recognizable fitness personalities by appearing in numerous events, advertisements and competitions. What are some of your fondest moments in the industry?
I have so many fond memories, it’s just been fantastic! I don’t know where to begin. Some of my best friends have come from the fitness industry. I met the man I am with now, Eryk Bui, during my first Fitness Expo in LA in 2005 (which was the same weekend I had met you Vince). I have had the fond memory of attending the USA’s in Vegas and driving up with Brenda Kelly and meeting Carmen Garcia. They have both have been of great support and call me their baby sister!
When working events constantly (especially local ones) the attendees, the models, the vendors, sales reps, and even the DJs feel like family. Everyone has just known each other for years. The local bodybuilding competitions can last so long and there really is a lot of time (12 hours or more) to bond with people if you choose to. I’ve chosen to make one of my booth partners a true best friend bonding with her each twelve hour day, once a month for two years – former national NPC fitness competitor Jessica Nabinger. I recently had the pleasure to see her walk down the aisle and become Mrs. Ian Milliken. Who would have known I’d share such a special moment in her life just by cutting protein bars beside her in the beginning? Yup, that would be my fondest moment in the fitness industry. As tiring as those 12 hour days can be, I wouldn’t trade meeting such a great friend like her for the world.
2. You’ve also established yourself as quite a ‘career woman’ within Sports Nutrition. Can you tell us who you work with and what you do?
I am happily employed by one of the oldest and largest nutrition companies around – Twinlab. I hold a position for the company as an Account Executive in the San Diego/Orange County/Inland Empire territory. My responsibilities range from new account set up, account management, selling in new items, expanding the line at stores and performing in-store educational trainings to the retail floor staff. I’m also involved in marketing efforts such as purchasing different sorts of advertising and measuring the return on investment. The company has new leadership under Tom Tolworthy and many extremely positive changes have been happening since he has come aboard. For example, we launched a new supplement line specifically targeted towards patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery (sold at The Vitamin Shoppe, Sprouts, select independent nutritional stores and online retailers such as allstarhealth.com). The line is called Bariatric Support.
In addition, we are becoming one of the largest companies to enroll in a Non GMO project. We are now also NSF certified. This is great for athletes who fear being tested negative due to product recalls which is happening more often then we like. It’s been a while since a lot of new things have happened with our brand but we are still around and strong.
I’m happy to be with a company with such heritage and large product line. It’s constant learning and challenge. We may not be all over the place in bodybuilding magazines with ads but our marketing dollars go towards things such as Team Hoyt (father son wheel chair races), Autism Speaks Charity Walks & Vitamin Angels where we are one of the main sponsors that assist with delivering Vitamin A and other nutrients to expecting mothers and children in Africa. All of this speaks miles to me far more than shredded abs on a page.
I’m very fortunate for the opportunity to be part of the company’s change and comeback. When people think Twinlab they think vitamins and aminos if they are past a certain age. The younger crowd usually thinks Ripped Fuel or Amino Fuel. There is SO MUCH MORE to the brand. Go to www.twinlab.com and just look at the hundreds of nutritional products we manufacture. If anyone has any questions feel free to find me on facebook and ask any questions about these products. I’ll have an answer.
3. Exciting stuff, Laura! I will always remember you as the fitness model that was always in shape. You’ve retired from competing, what made you decide to hang it up? You’re so visible at the shows, most would think you would keep competing.
I’m a very all or nothing person when it comes to my goals. Because there was more that I wanted outside of competing and I didn’t have a business to enhance by competing (like so many dedicated competitors do). As a result, I decided to step back and focus on establishing myself in sales and marketing. I wanted to put my college degree to better use. I was a bit obsessed and felt I was running myself into the ground. There was too much sacrifice in it for me personally.
4. With your wealth of experience at fitness shows and competing, do you have any advice for any aspiring fitness models that you can share?
If you are going to compete, make sure you choose the people in your sphere of influence wisely. There are a lot of extreme people out there that can push you even when you may be in doubt of what you really want. Make sure you know that the circle of friends you make are supportive in your efforts to compete but also your decision to stop when you are burnt out. Also if you are competing to get into modeling or just really want that tear sheet, rather than spend thousands of dollars hoping to get noticed on stage, invest that money in a good photographer who has relationships with publications.
Make sure you know that the circle of friends you make are supportive in your efforts to compete but also your decision to stop when you are burnt out.
If you are unsure of where to start, find your favorite fitness models on facebook and ask them for recommendations. Alternatively, just look at your favorite magazines and look for the photographers name on the page of the model whose photo you just love. Even if you are not where you need to be, DON’T let people tell you you’re not good enough. Work on progress not perfection and REMEMBER these are opinions! Don’t waste time chasing after people who don’t respect your look and make room for others who will appreciate what you have to offer. They are out there! This all does not happen overnight so please be patient and resilient!
My story is that I was a zit-faced 19-year old with a two pack, short thick legs, and a super thin upper body sending letters to Oxygen. Now 10 years later I’m on protein box covers and have been on more than one advertisement campaign for my favorite work out equipment company – HOIST Fitness Systems (www.hoistfitness.com). At one point, a cover photographer told me I needed work on my bottom where HOIST thought I was perfect and threw my bottom in the company’s Glute Master Ad. This is a perfect example of why you should not let one opinion affect you because it’s their opinion only. There is so much opportunity and so many different opinions out there. Patience and perseverance are key!
5. I know many fitness people will value your experience and advice. With your competition days now behind you, do you have any other goals within the fitness industry?
My goals are to grow the Twinlab brand back to where it was in the early 90’s. It shouldn’t be too hard with all of the new Twinlab products that will be surfacing and Tom Tolworthy’s guidance. I also want to get involved in more television commercial projects related to fitness. The other plans are a secret for now.
6. Your ability to stay in condition has reflected in your breath taking photo shoots. With competitions a thing of the past, is your approach to training any different?
Yes, I focus on cardiovascular health more than symmetry and size. I also enjoy yoga to help reduce work stress and tight muscles from driving as much as I do. With the stresses of travel and work, I don’t always eat clean but always eat appropriate amounts per sitting. Being that I’ve weight trained since the age of 13, my muscle memory is pretty good so when I do decide to hit weights, the muscle comes back to me easily. I usually do exercises like stiff legged dead lift for my glutes and hamstrings, squats for my glutes and leg muscles and also ab exercises on the BOSU ball with weights. When competing there was no way I could get away with training at home without guilt. Now light weights and a great stretch are more satisfying than heavy weights.
7. There are a lot of new shows, organizations and even new categories. What do you think of them?
Men’s Physique is a great opportunity for individuals who want to be on stage to feel like they belong. Bodybuilding takes more time in the gym than some people can spare. It isn’t impossible to build a large, lean symmetrical physique but the excessive cost that accompanies this goal may not be affordable (both financially or emotionally) depending on the persons situation.
I think the bikini division and men’s physique division gives someone the opportunity to try competing without being so discouraged initially. It also gives them a taste of the stage and the opportunity to realistically consider whether they want to take it a notch up and try competing in figure or bodybuilding. I think it is a great stepping stone for competitors and a smart move by promoters.
8. Fitness athletes usually follow strict schedules with all of historic dieting and training for constant improvements in their physiques. We have to know, what are some of your guilty pleasures? I’ve heard you acquired a nickname.
What isn’t my guilty pleasure with food. Ha! Let’s just say I’ve been known to some as the Cadbury Chalupa. Whenever I go on vacation, I find that time the perfect reason to order nachos anywhere I find them. Sometimes I’ll even order them twice in 12 hours. I eat what I want in moderation and just make sure I’m able to burn the calories I intake (without too much thought or counting calories).
Life is too short to not let your taste buds live. I am a firm believer in happy weight.
As long as I know I’m super active, I’ll eat what I please. Life is too short to not let your taste buds live. I am a firm believer in happy weight.
9. Our readers always want to know who inspired the athletes we interview. Can you tell us which fitness personalities motivate you and why?
I hope to always live the lifestyle and mimic the efforts of Frank Sepe. He is so well balanced. He modeled in NYC with top models such as Naomi Campbell, competed on the NPC stage as a huge bodybuilder, he’s written published books about fitness, has played important roles with many media publications (even owning one at a time), he has been photographed for numerous publications, and is now on the Home Shopping Network marketing his own fitness products. With all of these projects, he still finds the time to help his friends when necessary. Frank is a wonderful example of living his passion and making lemonade out of lemons. If anyone knows what opportunity is, it is him. He just knows how to blend professional business practice with dreams and passion.
10. In addition to motivation, you’ve had some great experiences with some other fitness icons such as Jamie Eason. You have a very touching story with her that I’m hoping you can share.
Jamie Eason is a person everyone should meet at one point in their lives whether it is within fitness or life in general. The way she markets herself and shows her heart, as much as her abs, really touches me. I feel like a lot of aspiring models say they want to model but are waiting for someone to magically discover them. Jamie is a prime example of what it takes to be a successful fitness model. It takes PURE DRIVE and she always shows it.
I consider her an amazing business woman and marketer before a beautiful model (which she obviously is beautiful). I feel that she isn’t in this for sheer attention but she is in it to make a positive change. The hearts she touches, in addition to the butts she gets off the couch, are prime examples of why I find her amazing. On a personal note, Jamie touched my heart in 2009 when I reached out to one of her photographers asking for an autographed photo for my brother Shawn Coleman who was struggling in
the hospital (he recently passed this past Valentines day R.I.P.). I asked a lot of people for pics to lift his spirit. The photographer, Mike Byerly, said she was about to take off to travel but he would try. I swear she over-nighted not one, but four 8×10 photos each with a sweet message along with a get well card. I was shocked at how responsive she was.
11. Jamie is a wonderful person and how touching she did that. I can’t say I’m surprised though. I hear Lee Labrada also rushed some positive vibes to your brother when he needed it. What did Lee do? I heard your brother’s response to Lee’s gesture was an amazing moment.
Lee Labrada is another individual who took his athletic exposure to another level with his company Labrada Nutrition. He is very consumer oriented and also is one of the kindest most approachable IFBB Hall of Fame bodybuilders anyone could meet. He is another person who dropped everything to give love and support to my brother. He rushed an awesome 8×10 photo stating “Stay Strong in Faith” with a double bicep pic. After receiving that picture, my brother’s tears slowed down. He sat up and was able to walk the next morning. I believe Lee had something to do with that. He even made time to call my brother to chat with him over the phone without me asking. After all the 8×10’s made it on his hospital wall, I asked him which picture was his favorite and amongst all the bikini triangle covered females he quickly answered, “Lee’s picture.” I loved it.
Frank Sepe, Jamie Eason and Lee Labrada all have Outlook calendars that are beyond full but still make time to provide heart to the community no matter how driven or busy they are. These are people I could never forget and easily come to mind when answering this question.
12. Laura, we have a loyal fan base of fitness followers. As someone with experience in competing at a high level in our industry, can you give the readers some advice on overcoming obstacles and achieving goals?
Be realistic with your body image and remember that the look you have for a photo shoot or being on stage can’t be held for a lifetime so live a healthy active lifestyle but don’t force your body physically to be something it naturally isn’t supposed to be. Rest is part of health so give yourself a true break and take that time to ensure rest and recovery as a part of your training regimen too. Consider a few days off of training as a pit stop, slowing down to be better.
Be realistic with your body image and remember that the look you have for a photo shoot or being on stage can’t be held for a lifetime so live a healthy active lifestyle but don’t force your body physically to be something it naturally isn’t supposed to be.
Also always stay competitive but know when to give your body rest. Appreciate the accomplishment of attaining a shredded look at those times but don’t knock yourself when you fluff up a little after a competition. Post competition depression is so common and not talked about enough. It’s okay to be fluffy after a show especially because it is your body’s natural response to being the way it should be; hydrated.
13. Your likeness is frequently seen on many fitness brands. What other projects can we expect to have you a part of in the near future?
It is really in the hands of the amazing photographer, James Patrick, will be shooting with me for numerous concepts one week before my 30th birthday in July. I’m sure the work will land somewhere. Two passionate, driven and creative minds working as if it is anything but work will always land an image somewhere. I look forward to see what happens. I also plan on continuing my modeling efforts with HOIST Fitness Systems. I feel extremely blessed. Once doubting if my opportunities would ever begin, I now doubt that my opportunities will ever stop. With that said, I have arrived to my state of happiness I have pursued diligently since moving away from all I knew to find this period in my career and life. Feeling very blessed right now to even be able to express these words that come from my past my present and my heart. Thanks for the opportunity Vince!
Vince “Fitness Financier” Pe
Vince Pe, founder of the Fitness Financier, has spent the last ten years in the fitness and bodybuilding industry. He has worked for some of the most prominent sports nutrition companies in North America, dealt closely with the IFBB, NPC, WNBF and WBFF organizations, and managed some of the industry’s top athletes, including Mr. Olympia champions. Vince will be a regular contributor with feature interviews from some of the most interesting personalities in bodybuilding, fitness and martial arts. For more info about Vince, check out his company website at www.fitnessfinancier.com.