A few weeks from now, IFBB Pro Melissa Lesage is set to make her pro debut at the Chicago Pro, where she’ll unveil the results of the work she’s put in since attaining professional status. In the folowing interview, we catch up with Melissa to discuss her past, present, and what the future might hold…
Q.) Before we talk about your upcoming debut, as an IFBB Women’s Physique Pro; let’s take a few steps back, and get to know Melissa Lesage. What was your introduction to the world of bodybuilding.
A.) I started training about six years ago when Tucson still had Bally’s Total Fitness. I did the typical hire a gym trainer (who probably needs a trainer themselves!) and once I started seeing results I was hooked. Shortly after I followed my trainer (at the time) to a new private gym, Prestige Fitness, and got to meet some really motivational and inspirational people. I absolutely loved working out period! I loved to lift and do cardio – both of which I still love till this day! I met a local prep coach at Gold’s Gym who introduced me to the sport of bodybuilding, and she put me in my first competition, The Natural Western in Phoenix, AZ, where I competed in Figure and won my class and went on to take the overall.
Q.) Before training for the stage entered the equation, did you have an athletic background or prior experience in the gym?
A.) I was a swimmer most of my life up through high school. After high school, I fell off the wagon for a couple years when I was starting nursing school. I got back in the gym when I was around twenty years old and found a new love for weight training and dry land cardio (versus swimming). I actually gave triathlon a shot too back when I was twenty-three. I competed in the Mountain Man Olympic triathlon in Flagstaff, AZ and won my age bracket. I really enjoyed that sport as well, but I had to choose between cardio or weights! It’s much more difficult to swim when you have muscle! Now I sink!
Q.) What was it that initially piqued your interest in competing? How long had you been training before you decided to step onstage?
A.) I was approached in the gym by a local prep coach who asked if I competed. I told her no I and I wasn’t even sure I knew what that mean. She explained the categories of bodybuilding and told me I had the perfect shape for Figure. We exchanged contact information and I was in touch with her the following day. We discussed show options that allowed enough time for dieting and training with the intention to step on stage, and before I knew it I was twelve weeks out. I had trained about three years before stepping on stage. I won’t say I had much muscle, nor was I very conditioned in my opinion, but I got up there and won!
Q.) A number of athletes, especially those on the female side of the sport, encounter quite a bit of resistance from family and friends regarding their lifestyle changes. Did you ever encounter any of that resistance? If so, what strategy did you find best helped you to cope with the stress?
A.) My parents were supportive at first when I started competing in figure. They came to watch me compete in my first two shows. Since then I have gained quite a bit of size / muscularity and have become very regimented in my diet they have distanced themselves from me. Of course my mom says “You’re too muscular all your veins are showing.” Typical mother! Through all the negativity I just remind myself I do this for myself and no one else. If they can’t accept what I love than they don’t need to be a part of it. My parents have never come to watch me compete in Physique, they missed me winning my Pro Card, and they will miss my pro debut. I am beyond grateful for the support from my Uncle Scott and my Grandma- they keep tabs on me every step of the way and Uncle Scott comes to all my shows!! THANK YOU UNCLE SCOTT I LOVE YOU!
Q.) Let’s talk about that 2012 contest season for a moment. You started off the season by blowing away the field at the Natural Western USA, where you won both your Class and the Overall in the Figure division. However later in the year things didn’t go quite as well as you might’ve hoped during your first appearance on a national stage, when you failed to place at the USA Championships. Given the success that you had earlier in the year, was that experience at USA’s hard to swallow? What would you say you biggest take away was from those events?
A.) Failing to place at the USAs was definitely hard to swallow! I was so upset I didn’t even go back for finals! To be completely honest, I went back to my hotel and drown myself in cookie butter and pop tarts. I thought for a month or so I was done with competing, that I would never make it anywhere in the sport – because of one failed showing. After a few months of doing my own thing (training/dieting) I decided I wanted to get bigger and step up to Physique. I did my research on coaches and found Shelby Starnes. I hired Shelby back in October of 2012 and have been with him ever since. He is phenomenal coach!
Q.) In 2013 you bounced back in a major way at the Amateur Grand Prix in Los Angeles where you took the stage noticeably improved, and this time as a Physique athlete. Why decide to make the switch after having so much early success in Figure?
A.) Not only did I want to gain size and muscularity but I absolutely hated wearing heels! It was a win- win situation. I could lift heavy and hard and do cardio and never wear heels on stage again!
Q.) Let’s talk about the biggest moment of your career thus far, your win at the 2014 USA Championships. At the conclusion of the prejudging you must have had some idea that you were one of the front runners heading into the night show to earn your pro card. Tell us a bit about what was running through your mind during the time between the prejudging and finals.
A.) When we left pre-judging and went to eat Shelby kept telling me you won you got it now we gotta focus on the overall. I was like “huhhhh? Whattttt? How do you know?” I couldn’t make myself believe I was going to win it. Going from last place the last time I stepped on that stage to first place didn’t seem possible! I couldn’t sleep at all that night, my anxiety was through the roof!
Q.) What was the first thing that ran through your mind once you realized that you’d just won your class and become an IFBB Pro?
A.) I thought I was dreaming! It was one of those moments where you are so happy you should cry but the tears wouldn’t even come! It gives me the goosebumps just thinking about it right now! It was honestly a dream come true! I don’t think I slept for almost four days between prejudging and finals from the overwhelming happiness. I had to get a prescription for Ambien just so I could sleep!
Q.) As it currently stands, you’re just over a month out from making your pro debut. Tell your fans what sort of changes they can expect to see from you the next time you step onstage.
A.) I think I’ve made some significant improvement in my back and I never let my conditioning go, so I’m excited to see myself dried out this time around. I’ve been hammering my legs twice a week since coming back from the USA’s so I’m hoping to see some improvements there too.
Q.) Following your pro debut, what’s next for Melissa Lesage?
A.) Of course depending how my debut goes will determine what’s up next. My ultimate goal is to win and go to the O! If that plan doesn’t play out I am thinking about doing the Phoenix Europa later this year.
Q.) If there’s one piece of advice you could give to young competitors out there who look to you for inspiration what would it be?
A.) Follow your dreams! You can do anything you put your mind to. Set goals so big they’d take a lifetime to achieve. Never be satisfied!
Q.) Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping you along the way?
A.) Shelby Starnes for being a phenomenal coach, John Meadows for his training programs/videos, Kenny Wallach for his expertise in posing, Renee Paz for creating such beautiful suits, my sponsor 5% Nutrition for keeping me stocked with supplements and apparel, Waylon Martin & Iron Affinity for all the videos/pics/interview opportunities, and my Iron Bros locally owned and operated online supplement and apparel company for keeping me stocked with new apparel. You guys rock!
Q.) If people you like to know more about Melissa Lesage, where can they find you on social media?