Growing up, I always looked up to the women on Oxygen Magazine Cover. Their image projected confident, strong leaders in the industry. I always felt like I had SOMETHING in me, and I would read through the articles and picture myself being on the cover one day. At the time, it seemed impossible and out of reach. Little did I know, my dream would become a reality at the age of 31.
In 2013, I started doing fitness competitions, feeling more confident with my body, and developing a love for being on camera, whether it was in video or in photographs. I started my own youtube channel and even did some content for a popular platform called diet.com
I was definitely knowledgable about all things working out and nutrition from my experience as a college gymnast, fitness competitor, and ninja warrior. Viewers told me I had a more digestible and welcoming way of explaining movements from my background of teaching young girls gymnastics. I was/am intimidating, yet approachable, helping you to try things and realize that your inner strength has always been there.
To me, being on a cover of a magazine, was the ultimate "you made it" moment. It meant that you were credible and that you were one of the best in the industry.
SO I started shooting with some of the best photographers. One found me practicing for a fitness competition at a local gym in Rhode Island, Ian Travis Barnard, and he really woke me up to the idea that I could be something; that I could possibly be a fitness icon or a fitness model. He made me feel confident in front of the camera and the collaborations we had were just incredible and really showed who I was on camera.
After our first shoot, I looked at the images and felt like I was born to do this. Some images looked like they where right out of an Under Armour commercial
I posted a few of the pictures, and put all the magazine hashtags on them: #OxgenExhale #MyStrongMoment #WHstrong #shapesquad #mystrongmoment. I was SO damn consistent with tagging them, even knowing that they might never see it. I wanted to be clear that I was someone they needed to look for.
I was SUPER persistent, and I finally started getting noticed.
My pictures where reposted on some of the main feeds, and eventually a few were even featured in the magazines.
I made my vision board that year even MORE clear than I ever had. I legitimately PHOTOSHOPPED myself on the cover of both Oxygen and Strong Fitness Magazine. It seemed crazy. I felt like people would judge me. But what better way to manifest something by actually making it a reality, right? I was pretending like I already did it and feeling as if I had made it.
I was told by numerous fitness agencies that I was “too manly” to be a fitness model and that “this wasn't for me”
The rejection drove me
The repost drove me
The possibilities drove me
I felt like I had more to give.
I saved for MONTHS to shoot with a well known photographer who shot for Strong Fitness Magazine, Paul Buceta, and because of that, I got asked to do a spread in Strong Magazine, which was super exciting! In January of 2016, they flew me to Toronto to shoot.
I started to email EVERYONE I could find in the magazines. I would sent them my vision board and a bit about me. It was crazy. I was literally sending them myself photoshopped on the cove, and to my surprise, Lara (the editor of Oxygen magazine) replied, saying, “Hey I live close to you, want to do a shoot.”
I was SHOCKED. A few weeks later, I drove to a church basement and shot wrist mobility exercises, and I couldn't have been more thrilled. Lara was GREAT. She had a great personality, and I started learning the process of how it all worked with magazines.
During that time in 2017, a client of mine kept "bugging me" to try out for the Women’s Health Next Fitness Competition. I personally didn't think that I would ever get selected for a HUGE competition like this because I was "just Ang" from Rhode Island by way of New Jersey. I didn't have time to make a video for the audition, so I literally sent them my American Ninja Warrior Submission Video.
I say this over and over again, but when I got the email saying I was selected, I literally thought this was fake. They had a full contract that I had to get notarized (didn't even know what that was) and they where saying I would be on the cover with 4 other women and would go on an amazing adventure. Like...what...? Me?
I photoshopped myself on the Cover...and although I didn't get the Cover of Oxygen or Strong like I had created, the universe showed up in a different way for me... an even bigger way with Women's Health Magazine. I also got a cover of a local Rhode Island magazine unexpectedly.
The experience was incredible. And being in NYC I started seeing what was possible, I was surrounded by amazing women in the industry, I was LOVING being on set and in front of the camera. I really just felt like it was where I belonged. I was a shy introverted girl on the inside, but I felt like I could be anything in front of the camera.
Women's Health Next Fitness Star
After an amazing experience with the Women's Health Next Fitness Star, my confidence was high. Things started just happening. Lara from Oxygen reached out again because she needed to do another photoshoot, and I even suggested she use Ian Travis Barnard in Rhode Island and got her another model: one of my close friends, Jess, to come to the shoot.
We even asked if we could take over the Oxygen Magazine Instagram page and they said yes!
The shoot was such an honor, and I think Lara appreciated that I was resourceful, helping with tons of things to make sure the shoot was successful and executed perfectly.
Things where going GREAT. I was getting features, running a gym, actually had a boyfriend that the time, AND I got another call for American Ninja Warrior. I knew it was my year to shine... until...
I got on the American Ninja Warrior course feeling brave and strong but ended up tearing my ACL for the second time, but this time I tore it on national television. I quickly went from a high to a low. There goes all my modeling dreams and my career. There goes all the strength, all at a blink of an eye.
Little did I know that this injury would be a blessing in disguise and it would really be the next step I needed to getting a cover.
I decided that while healing I wanted to shut down my gym in Rhode Island and head to NYC, because I started to realize that you NEVER know what what might happen, and if you have a dream, you need to just go for it.
I was doing physical therapy 3x a week and going to all the NYC gyms to train with the best of the best. I was sleeping on couches, waking up for early mornings to train clients for FREE to get my name out there, and spending late nights teaching at a gym in Soho. I also started to share my story to different publications, as my workout with my crutches were getting more attention.
I started working with some pretty major clients like Liz Plosser, the editor of Women's Health, helping her to get her pull-up, and one day she asked to me if I wanted to be in the Women's Health "naked" shoot. This was something completely outside my comfort zone. Although I am always in a sports bra and shorts I am not the "naked" kind of person. I used to hide my arms because I was called "Mangela" in school. But I KNEW this was a great opportunity to get outside my comfort zone and help others. So I did it!
I flew to Vegas to do some course testing for Ninja Warrior and then flew to California to shoot in a green house in Santa Barbara. Just a side note here... none of this was paid for, this was all out of my own pocket.
Funny story while shooting for this. I climbed a tree, broke it, and landed on the floor butt naked. Talk about a shoot to remember!
Slowly, after all the hard work and late nights, I started to see things come together. My knee was feeling stronger, I was feeling more confident, people were noticing. More importantly, I was inspiring and helping others. It became less about ME and more about the people I could help.
I competed on Ninja Warrior for Season 11 and had the comeback I hoped for for. I crushed the first course and made it back to city finals. I felt on fire.
When my episode aired, I was the main story and on the commercial. Messages started piling in from ALL over the world with people telling me, "because of your comeback, I didn't give up," which kept me going.
One of my Runs from Ninja Warrior that Season
From the success of Ninja Warrior, I got an ANOTHER amazing opportunity. Oxygen Magazine asked me to be one of their coaches and create a program called the Warrior Shred. It was my FIRST paid opportunity. It was a week in Colorado to film, WEEKS of prep work and programming. My ONE questions was... DO I GET A COVER WITH THIS?
After Warrior Shred, things weren't as crazy, publication wise. But I went to TONS of seminars and events to learn more about personal training. I started to perfect my online programming on my own site, that the time I was teaching women online from all over the world how to do pull-ups.
And then BOOM I got an opportunity to another shoot with Women's Health ON Pull-ups, and the coolest part of this all was that the shoot was at Brooklyn Zoo: one of the FIRST gyms I visited back in 2014 that inspired me to open my own gym. How cool is that?!
Pull-up Article from Women's Health
After this shoot, the pandemic started and publications where pretty much on hold, BUT there was a great opportunity online. So I reached out to the contacts I created relationships with. They allowed me to host classes on their instagram pages: Women's Health, Oxygen, Popsugar, Strong Fitness Magazine, and tons of others. Let me remind you of this: it was because of the relationships I created before the pandemic, my expertise, AND my willingness to ask and follow up that made this happen.
If you are waiting for people or magazines to just find you, you are going to wait a long time. YOU need to get out there and be persistent on what you want, and you need to really love your craft.
My business tripled in income and clients during the pandemic. I started getting more clear on my audience and ASKING my audience how I could support them and give them what did they needed.
As my follower count increased, and I started getting more exposure for all my work, I figured it was time to see if I can get a cover again.
I created a FULL Deck Pitch to be both on the cover of Oxygen and Strong Magazine. I gave them statistics, my reach, my story, and how it would help their audience, article ideas, and so much more.
But after I sent this all out... nothing really came of it. I got some response, but it didn't seem like they had anything for a cover. So I decided to take a breather from thinking about it all.
I was frustrated. I had put together the most professional thing I have ever sent out and.... crickets.
I honestly started to become pretty depressed. I wasn't really sure what was next. While I was happy focusing on my Strong Feels Good Program, I really wanted more. I started to travel a lot to see if it would spark something. My cat of 18 years passed away, and I felt super alone, unproductive, and inferior.
But then I got called to be on a gig for Super Bowl commercial with Oikos Protein, a company I had worked with before and established a good relationship with.
I got the CALL to be on American Ninja Warrior again.
And last but not least, I randomly got a text from Lara after not hearing from her for months about a paid gig... that included a cover.
I had to read that text multiple times. My heart stopped. This could not be happening. Was this really happening? I must be dreaming.
I followed up, and when she called me, I didn't even listen to much of the project they had in mind. All I heard was, "you got the cover."
The moment where something seems so impossible, and it happens is truly an amazing moment. It makes everything else seem more possible.
And at that moment I also realized...that it happened at the right time..