MTV show 'Made' crafted new lifestyle for UConn student
It's 6:30 a.m., and while most college students are fast asleep awaiting the dreaded sound of their alarms, UConn sophomore Brooke Dragon is taking on the gym with her morning hour of cardio.
Dragon's dedicated exercise habits and hard work ethic were jump-started on the MTV hit "Made"--a TV show that transforms aspiring teens into the person of their dreams, when she realized her goal of becoming a bikini fitness model competitor.
When the cameras for "Made" began rolling, Dragon was unaware of the multitude of possibilities that lay before her in the world of fitness modeling. But as soon as Dragon watched her trainer on the show, Tianna Ta, an International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) bikini pro, compete at a national competition, she realized the aspirations that she wanted to fulfill on "Made". "I realized an industry I was never exposed to before. This could be a career path for me," Dragon said.
To sum up the requirements of the bikini division of modeling competitions, Dragon had two words: beauty and fitness. To achieve the toned, lean physique desired, Dragon's trainer, an IFFB bikini pro, held her to a strict daily diet and exercise regimen that consisted of two hours of cardio and one hour of strength training, along with a diet of frequent, small meals free of processed foods.
The connections Dragon created through "Made" allowed her to create an impact on the fitness modeling world from the start, landing a stint as a spokesperson for the online wellness giant Bodybuilder.com. In addition to creating a video clip for the industry's web site, Dragon will travel with the Bodybuilder team to the Arnold Classic fitness model competition in Columbus, Ohio to help promote the image of health and wellness, especially for those who are new to the sport.
Yet Dragon's aspirations have not always been so lofty. While she had always led an active lifestyle, her diet and exercise habits lacked ambition in comparison to her parents'--her mom is a dance studio owner and her dad a former bodybuilder. Although Dragon felt the pressure to be extremely fit from her family, she had never desired to improve her fitness level until a few peers made hurtful comments about her body.
These comments, however, were Dragon's wakeup call: she was tired of being self-conscious and decided she would lose weight to improve her confidence and satisfaction in her physical appearance. "I decided I needed to work out for me, and I had to do it now," she said.
Although Dragon's new lifestyle presented its fair share of challenges, she was open to change in order to be at her best for her bikini competitions. And the new lifestyle was a severe adjustment for the 20-year-old, who prior to "Made" had little experience with strength training and had once made doughnuts a regular part of her diet. Most importantly, however, was the drive that Dragon gained through her new routine.
"When I train, I have to be straight-edge," Dragon said. "It's one of those sacrifices: you have to hold down and do what you have to do. If you want something that badly, you're going to do whatever it takes to get there."
Since training on her own, Dragon has scaled back her workout regimen slightly to allow enough time for her academics, but she still makes time for an hour and a half of cardio and a half hour of strength training each day. In fact, prioritizing healthy lifestyle choices, Dragon said, is her secret to getting (and staying) in great shape. "It's all about giving yourself time to change. People need to know that it's not going to happen all in one week or even in one month."
And Dragon is giving herself ample time to prepare for her upcoming competition, the Team Universe Nationals in July, where she hopes to achieve professional bikini modeling status. In addition to becoming a bikini pro, Dragon plans to earn a degree in Nutritional Sciences at UConn in order to become a registered dietician.
But for now, Dragon is content with her progress since filming for "Made" began in mid-September of 2012. While she's impressed with her increased fitness level--she's lost 15 pounds since September--what Dragon is most proud of is the mental and emotional changes that have accompanied it. The pangs of self-consciousness and insecurity have been replaced with confidence and self-assurance.
"["Made"] was a very emotional thing for me to go through physically and mentally, but it made me do things that I would never normally do," Dragon said. "It matured me. I know where I need to go and know how to plan the steps to get there."
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