JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
A self-described shy person, Staff Sgt. Miceala Simmons, 59th Medical Wing learning resource administrator, attributes her bashful personality to genetics.
"My biological father is shy and an introvert," she said. "When I was younger, I liked keeping to myself and being alone.
But, since 2013, Simmons has trained for a sport that requires her to be very much in the public eye and in the presence of large crowds that gaze at her every move: bikini modeling.
After a year of training, she made her bikini-modeling debut at the Adela Garcia Classic June 21 in Pflugerville, Texas and placed fifth in the Bikini Class D category.
In the audience was a select group of people invited to cheer her on: her 3-year-old daughter Angelica, co-worker Master Sgt. Melissa Wiest and Melissa's husband Joe Wiest.
The learning resource administrator said she was shaking as she stepped out in front of the crowd.
"I tried to block the crowd out and keep my eyes on the judges," Simmons said. "I was nervous and shaking so bad when I was on stage."
Melissa Wiest, 59th Medical Wing Airman Medical Transition Unit section chief and a competitive bodybuilder herself, said she encouraged Simmons to compete in the event, adding she was proud to see her on stage for the first time.
"I told her that she's a winner regardless of where she finished because she beat out individuals who didn't have the courage to get on the stage," said Melissa Wiest. "I applauded her and shouted out her name then gave her a hug after the show."
For Simmons, getting through her first contest was the culmination of a 15-week "emotional roller coaster."
"It was like my mind was playing tricks on me," she said. "I looked in the mirror and asked myself, 'Am I good enough or am I going to be competitive enough?' Eating is the worst sometime because you just want to go out and eat ice cream, but I couldn't because I was preparing myself for the show. I love to eat steak and burgers, but I got to a point to where I couldn't have those foods."
The staff sergeant also worried about related details.
"Who is going to watch my daughter while I'm on stage? Is my suit going to fit because I ordered it online? Is something going to pop out of place?" Simmons wondered. "I just wanted to be perfect on that day."
Being involved in a sport that demands a strict training and diet commitment is a complete 180-degree turn for the staff sergeant who previously considered herself an "anti-workout" person.
Fitness training piqued Simmons' interest, while deployed in Balad, Iraq, in 2009. She met a fellow Airman who was a bodybuilding competitor at the gym. The staff sergeant attended a bodybuilding show with her new friend in Balad and immediately decided to pursue bodybuilding when she returned to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., her permanent duty station at the time, in the summer of 2010.
But just as Simmons was about to embark on her fitness journey, she encountered a detour, or a blessing, she said. The learning resource administrator learned that she was pregnant with Angelica while in the process of transferring to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
Simmons gave birth to her daughter in April 2011 and developed postpartum depression following the pregnancy. "I had issues of dealing with everything alone as a single parent, having no support system and getting acclimated to a new place," the staff sergeant said.
After two years of overcoming depression, the fitness competitor decided to go back to the gym and pursue her goals so she could be a better role model for Angelica.
"I didn't want to use my daughter as an excuse for not being able to do anything," Simmons said. "I didn't want to be one of those people who didn't work out because they had kids. I believe you can still work out, take care of a family and go to school."
"I was a full-time student at the time, while I was preparing for the competition. I was doing a lot at one time, and it was all very motivating to get myself back together and do things that I wanted to do in the beginning."
Placing in the top five of her category has boosted her confidence to compete at a higher level as she tries to become a nationally qualified bodybuilder.
"The hard work and emotional roller coaster I went through as a single mom to get through that point lets me know that I can compete and go into the next competition stronger," Simmons said. "I know what areas I can do better at and go in stronger next time."
The staff sergeant aims to compete at Houston's Phil Heath Classic in March 2015, and is currently taking a short break from her competition training. However, Simmons said she keeps up with her workout routine which consists of a random body workout on Mondays, legs on Tuesdays, cardio and plyometric training on Wednesdays, back and biceps on Thursdays, triceps and chest on Fridays, legs on Saturdays and back, biceps and shoulders on Sundays.
"I am worried about my legs because they are long but small," Simmons noted. "I focus on different parts and work on tightening up my body."
Simmons said she is undecided on whether she wants to continue competing as a bikini model or enter figure competition. Whatever category she enters in, the fitness model will be prepared.
"The diets are different," Simmons said. "When I get closer to show prep and I make my decision on what I want to do, it will help me decide what I am going to be eating."
In addition to her training, the learning resource administrator said she went to National Physique Committee workshops to gain more knowledge about the sport.
"A lot of people don't take bikini competition seriously, but I felt like I took it seriously," the staff sergeant explained. "Some competitors think they can just put on a bikini and be dolled up, but it is much more than that. I do a lot of research and make sure that I am ahead of the game."
She has two people in her corner who know she can excel in the sport.
"Simmons now has the experience and knows what to do to get better," said Melissa Wiest. "She knows her weaknesses and what she has to work on to do better next time. She is going to do well."
"She's got great genetics," said Joe Wiest, a bodybuilding competition coach. "She just has to continue putting in the time and commitment to preparation and she will do very well."