Deni Kirkova wins first place at Miss Galaxy Universe 2016
Having a body that’s in good enough shape to win Miss Galaxy Universe is a dream many women may have. But how difficult is it?
My best friend Vicky and I gave ourselves just 20 weeks to get into the shape of our lives before entering a prestigious fitness competition – the Miss Galaxy Universe European Championships 2016.
As well as five training sessions a week, we led a vegan diet, eating tofu, pulses, quinoa and oats and banning all meat and animal products. I’d been an ethical vegan for a year so this didn’t bother me at all.
I lost 20lbs, going from 10st to 8st 9lbs and taking four inches off my waist – and came away with first place in the Beach Body category at the O2 in London.
I was by no standard overweight. But going from a regular-sized woman who works out when she wants and eats what she likes, to the discipline needed to become a ripped bikini competitor seemed daunting at first.
I wasn’t focused on winning, but just on working really hard to get results – so the fact that I did win was a huge shock; you could see it on my face!
Once I was on board, I had to commit 100 per cent to competing in Miss Galaxy and having Vicky on board with me helped keep me focused.
I was especially glad to be taking on this challenge as a vegan – which some people might think can be a disadvantage.
Our coach Lee Constantinou from Bodybuilding.com certainly believed that but after seeing my progress, transformation and energy levels as the months passed, he would now beg to differ.
But entering Miss Galaxy Universe – founded by former World powerboat champion and four times World fitness champion, Sarah Donohue – is about more than just parading in a skimpy bikini on stage.
Fitness shows – as opposed to classic ‘Arnie’ bodybuilding competitions – factor in presentation and poise to the judging criteria. Hair, tan and make-up are all crucial elements as well as performing a ‘T walk’ which involves a minute of carefully choreographed posing around a ‘T shape’ on stage.
The thing that sets Miss Galaxy Universe apart from all other fitness competition federations is the Cybex fitness tests themselves.
Contestants are put through their paces doing sprints, squats, bench press, pull ups and more to be bale to compete for title of Supreme Champion – which could earn them a £1,000 prize. The fitness tests allow the judges to see how fit the girls really are – as opposed to how fit they look.
Sarah Donohue says: ‘The fitness tests are great for female bonding and camaraderie. They are tough but fun and the girls are very supportive of each other which is rare in pageants, but we encourage team spirit.”
Danielle Martin, who has previously won first place Beach Body in the 35+ category as well as three other titles, said that competing in the contest gave her back her ‘mojo and zest’ as well as a whole new ‘family’.
She said: “Anyone thinking of competing should hold their nerve and jump in with both feet because the best thing a woman can every do is to fall in love with herself and Miss Galaxy Universe did that for me.”
With that ringing endorsement I began my journey.
Lee and Bodybuilding.com helped fine-tune my figure but as much as my body got me that trophy, it was also down to my posing coaching Lisa Welham and incredible bespoke Amethyst bikini by Allure Couture – not to mention the array of tanning, hair extensions, fake lashes and vertiginous platform Pleaser heels from Show Shoe Me.
Whatever was about to happen, we were both extremely proud that we had made it this far. Our bodies were toned, we’d practised our walks and even had sparkly dresses from Motel Rocks for the dress round.
During the day itself, we ate just 1,000 calories, knowing we had to be on stage at 7pm. We stuck to tofu, rice cakes, sweet potato and asparagus and while we were allotted 500ml of water, I cheated and had more as it was a hot day.
Then, it was showtime.
We were about to be judged first and foremost on our figures, natural beauty and skin tone, as well as our stage presence, our body conditioning and overall package and presentation.
The Beach Body category took about 10 to 15 minutes as each of us performed our walks. And as I did mine, the judges – including Alex Reid, powerboat champion Miles Jennings, Gladiator star Mike Lewis – were told that I was an ethical vegan.
I was happy and confident and up there on stage. I could hear screaming and applause but thankfully the lights shining in my eyes meant I couldn’t see the audience.
As they read out the top five, they got down to second place and I began to think, “Oh well, nevermind, it’s no big deal and good for the winner.”
But then they got to number one and called out my name. Saying I was shocked barely covers it: I was stunned to have come first. When they put the medal around my neck I couldn’t help but jump up and down.
I later found out Miles Jennings’ reason for choosing me. He said: “When Deni came on stage it was a bubbly little ray of sunshine with perfect skin, a radiant smile, beautiful hair and nicely toned and tanned figure. She was exactly the kind of girl you expect to see stepping off the beach at Club 55 in St Tropez but would rather hope she would frequent the beaches of Brighton and Bournemouth.”
I never thought I’d enter a bikini competition but now that I had, I definitely plan to do more. I would recommend it to anyone looking to transform their body and take on a new challenge.
My after weight was 55kg but I didn’t feel I’m wasting away. I was equipped with some lifelong diet and fitness tools. You don’t just go through something like this and forget it afterwards.
During my competition prep I earned a Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification from NASM UK meaning I can train people in the UK, US and worldwide. I want to help and inspire others to achieve their health and body dreams – on a vegan diet.
I went vegan more than a year prior to competing after having an epiphany that we don’t need to and shouldn’t hurt animals. We can live happy and healthy lives eliminating cruelty from food, beauty, and clothes. I’ve never felt so good, mentally and physically.
This is all I want – to inspire other to follow my lead, and to help others find health and happiness.
I also wouldn’t mind doing a few more of these fitness competitions! Feeling like a stage princess is something I never thought I’d get to do. I have Vicky to thank for taking my hand on this journey with her.
Read more about me here.
For more on becoming a bikini fitness model, check this out.