It’s not every day Kim Kardashian finds your Instagram and shoots you an email asking for workout advice. But for Melissa Alcantara, it’s her reality. The 33-year-old fitness guru wasn’t always a trainer, though; she got into wellness just a few years ago after the birth of her baby girl. But once she set her mind to overcoming her pregnancy weight gain and postpartum depression, she hit her stride.
Melissa began posting about her fitness journey on Instagram—starting with Weight Watchers, then Jiu Jitsu, then bodybuilding—before eventually becoming a personal trainer. After she created her first fitness program, Melissa’s 8-Week Body Sculptor, she received the fateful email from Kim asking if she’d be her trainer. And now, between training clients, taking care of her daughter, and writing fitness programs, she’ll appear on an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians (very casual).
We’re blown away by Mel’s drive to succeed. Read more about her story below.
You got into fitness after your pregnancy. Tell us more about what drove you to start training and eventual enter bodybuilding competitions.
After I had my daughter Bella, I didn’t know what to expect when it came to how my body would look or how I would feel. I guess I didn’t really think about it, I was more preoccupied with if I’d be a good mother and if I was ready for my life to completely change. But, when life settled in and I saw that my pre-baby body was not coming back on my pregnancy diet, it really brought me down.
I then started all sorts of “diets” and my usual “starve yourself” method before I realized this only works for a short time because it isn’t sustainable. I was so damn tired of the shortcuts! One day I snapped. I was lying on the couch watching tv, I felt lazy, I was unhappy with my body and with myself...I was tired of being tired and being in limbo land about what I needed to do.
The answers were not going to fall out of the sky and into my lap, so I decided I had to do something about it, something different, not the lazy shortcut way I always reverted to. The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again expecting a different turnout. So I knew I had to get uncomfortable and do something I had never done before.
I decided to do a home workout program I saw an infomercial for, I saw these people’s transformations and thought ‘if they can do it, I can too’.
So I downloaded the program and just started. I knew nothing of fitness, of exercising, of form...I did not know what to expect or if I would survive, all I knew is that no matter what I wouldn’t give up before giving myself a real HONEST chance.
What drove me to start was knowing what I didn’t want and paving the way in the opposite direction.
You have a history of leaving secure, salaried jobs to chase your dreams. Could you walk us through those experiences? How did you work up the courage to leave?
Fear in my life has been a driver. Most of the time people are afraid to make choices and decisions for themselves because they are left with the responsibility of their choice, of their life. I learned very early on in my life that no one will be there for you more than you, no one will take action for you to accomplish the things you want like you.
Not once did I think I was not capable. I am smart, I am determined, and only I can “eff” this up, that’s the beauty of it! I always felt I was in control of the outcome of any decision because I took all the steps possible to get where I wanted to go, not leaving one stone unturned. And, if none of that worked then it wasn’t for me and in that case I wouldn’t want it anymore.
The belief in myself is what gave me the courage, the knowing I was doing everything in my power, in my control, to make things happen for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I get scared to death but my fear of unfulfillment is stronger than my fear of failure. I know that in order to succeed you must be willing to fail and keep moving forward, it is actually the recipe to live a fulfilled successful life; I never let a job define me. I’m forever evolving and forever changing.
Where does your passion/drive come from?
My passion and drive come from a place deep down within me. I didn’t grow up with a support system, with parents or family who encouraged me to do things, to be the person I wanted to be, who told me not to worry and that things would be ok.
I didn’t have time to be a kid and experience life the way I saw other kids experience it. I started working at a very young age and before that I stayed home cooking and cleaning for my younger brother and I.
After seeking approval from a distraught mother and absent father, approval that never came, I realized that no one was there for me but me and I had to survive for me. And although it was a very hard life to live, it taught me to live in fear and use it to my advantage...it taught me to take charge of my life and in that I learned that anything is possible if I put my mind to it, if I get uncomfortable enough to change, to be the person I want to be.
Authenticity—being who you truly are and striving to be the best version of you—is the best way to “sell” yourself.
You’re now Kim Kardashian’s trainer, after she found you on Instagram! What social marketing tips do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to be discovered by dream clients?
I’m sure you’ve heard this before but authenticity, being who you truly are and striving to be the best version of you is the best way to “sell” yourself.
It’s all about being real, and sharing your experiences; people want to relate to you so if you’re not willing to share some bad along with the good then you’re missing out. Remember there’s an audience for you out there, trying to satisfy everyone is where you lose yourself and become “just another person on the ‘gram.”
What is it about you that sets you apart? For many people that’s a hard question to answer, but it’s easy, it’s right in your face, it is exactly who you are at that moment. It’s all about staying true to yourself and your audience. Energy is felt through social media so if you are fake, you will be sniffed out quickly.
Whose career really inspires you?
Honestly, my own. I made something of myself with my own grit and determination. I lived it, I’m still living it, it wasn’t easy and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s your morning routine?
I wake up very early in the morning usually before the sun rises.
I put the “water for coffee” to heat to the perfect temperature.
I read a meditation of the day or a few pages of a book about something that I’m currently learning to incorporate into my life, something else that helps me continue to grow.
Prepare my coffee and drink it by the window where the light of the sun comes in just right.
I shower, brush my teeth and wash my face.
I usually don’t do anything before any of the previous events happen. I then go about my day dependent on how I feel and how much time I have. I may or may not have breakfast before I start work or go train myself.
What are the common challenges you've seen among female business owners and entrepreneurs?
“I don’t know”
“I don’t have”
“I see other people doing the same thing”
Those are just examples of the same basic challenges: fear of failure. We usually start by thinking “hey I want to have my own business and turn my passion/hobby into money.” “BUT”, is what’s usually followed by that statement and it’s a combination of lack of money, time, support, flexibility. Fear of failure.
When we want to start our own business, specially for professional women, you have to be willing to fail miserably while having to run a household, give up your career, which comes with insurance and retirement, and then you will be faced with preconceived ideas of how to start or run a business. Fear of failure.
The good news is that there are more women owned business than ever before and we are moving toward a collaborative culture where women support each other so that we can thrive and achieve financial freedom outside of a “job.” Failures turned into success.
If I can give any advice to women about business it would be to skip getting a job and start whatever business they think about as early as they can, the earlier you fail—over and over again—the more successful you’ll be when it counts.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find new roads + switch gears to find success?
This actually goes back to my only piece of advice for women either wanting to or starting a business, the earlier and more often you fail the more you will learn that failure is a HUGE part of success. These are opportunities disguised as challenges. Early humans burned themselves when they came in contact with fire, now we have an innate response that keeps us from getting too close to it...plus it literally burns.
The second part has to do with adopting a mentality of having rather than not having, by this I mean thinking and acting as if you will grow and things will get better. By seeing failure for what it is, part of success, and changing the mindset we will get through the hurdles and re-create creation all over again ;)
If you weren’t working in health, what career path would you choose?
I’d probably be a fighter—I’m actually a competition level blue belt in Jiu Jitsu and I’ve trained Muay Thai—of some sort lol which is kinda like being in health, except you really need healthcare LOL. Or, I’d be a hairstylist.
What are you most excited for in 2019?
2019: The Year of Mastering Manifestation (taking responsibility for being WOKE, purposeful, and reborn to achieve my potential).
I have a few interesting opportunities coming down the pipeline, they range from career to media opportunities. But, more importantly, I’m looking forward to not just 2019, 2020...2050, I’m looking forward to a lifetime of growth and opportunities because I’m inviting those into my life. The way I see things, every year I’ll be more excited than the previous one.
Photography by Annie McElwain Photography
Photoshoot skincare provided by Dermalogica