Picture your average personal assistant and you probably envisage a spectacled person flitting between offices, penciling in important notes in their diary, not someone who spends hours sculpting their body in preparation for competitions where they will line up to be adjudicated by a panel of judges.
However, Hazendal’s Nerissa Ventura, 27, can, and does, wear both of these masks with equal fervour.
After competing in her first bodybuilding competition, the Conrad Nagel Xtreme Classic, last month, and winning the novice bikini body section, she has been selected as part of a team that will tour England later this year to face off against competitors from around the globe.
After first being introduced to bodybuilding by her husband four years ago, the mother of one first used it as part of her fitness regime but never imagined she would one day be tackling it as a competitive art.
“I never used to take my training too seriously, it was just a way for me to stay fit. That is, until I met my trainer, Shudley Toffar. Together we have been working since May last year to compete.
“This sport is a lot more mentally and physically challenging than many may imagine. Dedication and discipline are of the utmost importance. You normally start your competition prep around eight to 10 weeks before. My coach supplies me with a strict diet and training schedule but there are a lot of other things to take into consideration such as ensuring your costume is being made and attending fittings regularly as your body is constantly changing; having your tan, make-up and hair appointments booked in advance; staying focused and practicing your mandatory poses and routines and then just to train, train and train some more.
“In your week before you have the infamous ‘water drop’, where you deplete water intake to help get excess water out of the body. There is more strategy to it than simply not drinking water,” she said.
With all the preparations behind her, Ventura was finally ready to take to the stage last month at the Conrad Nagel competition. A ball of nervous excitement sat in her stomach but she tried to remain calm for the big event, which she called both scary, yet amazing. Little did she expect she would win her category and even less did she expect to be chosen to represent her country abroad.
“This was my first competition so of course I was nervous but the support I had was amazing. When I stepped on stage all I saw was the bright lights and the judges’ piercing eyes staring at me. It’s weird to know that all your hard work boils down to that, a panel of judges’ critiquing your physique.
“I’m a former Latin championship dancer and this helped me get through my routine. I am honoured to have won the title in my first competition,” she said.
After the competition she was approached by event organiser, president of the PCA bodybuilding federation, Kevin Schwartz, who asked if she would join the team. She jumped at the opportunity.
“It will be an honour for me to attend my first overseas competition. I have never been to the UK so that in itself is an exciting experience. I’m looking forward to meeting pro bodybuilders that I look up to and taking part in the interesting platforms on nutritional information and equipment that we might not have here in South Africa.
“Unfortunately the trip is self funded so I will have to cover costs of travel, affiliation, entriy fees and more and would humbly ask for assistance in making my dream a reality,” she said.
Trainer Toffar said: “Nerissa is a charismatic person. She is a super athlete that has tremendous potential. I don’t think there is a limit to how far she can go and I hope she will keep this up.
“She’s always being the best version of herself and always improving. I wish her well on her trip and wish her a flawless victory,” he said.
If you would like to assist, contact Nerissa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 074 530 8463.