Fitness Competitor Mandy Stefanczak
The need to compete in fitness has been in my blood my entire life- it just took me 24 years to discover it. I grew up in a small 'cow town' forty-five minutes north of Boston with two loving parents and a best friend I also like to call my sister. When I was only 4 years old I began taking dance lessons and by the time high school rolled around- I was hooked to the stage! I began taking voice lessons and acting, performed in local musicals and even began pursuing formal dance technique in Boston. I had dreams of New York ahead of me but unfortunately those aspirations had to be put aside. My sophomore year I was diagnosed with a rare inner ear condition called Meniere's Disease. This devastating condition put my dreams on the back burner and required me simply to focus on getting through one day at a time. High school graduation was followed by a risky surgery on my ear that I now respect as truly saving my life. I was able to move on.
I enrolled in college as a theater major but quickly transferred to a sport fitness and leisure degree. I was learning to live healthier and it felt like a magic potion or a hidden secret. Simple lifestyle changes made my condition so much easier to live with and I could only imagine how beneficial it must be for people without any conditions! I decided that it was my responsibility to share all that I was learning with others. While in college I began teaching aerobics and personal training-something I am blessed to still be able to enjoy doing today.
I lived for creating new step routines or learning new strength moves on the Swiss ball, but a part of me still yearned to perform. A guy I was dating at the time was a DJ/Entertainer on the weekends and the company he worked for needed somebody to fill in. This was a terrifying experience since I never considered myself a music connoisseur or a personality of any kind. From local bars to weddings to major promotional events, I had the opportunity to learn how to develop a personality for the microphone and further enhance it with music. I love that even to this day I'm still learning!
In 2004 I decided to try my very first pageant, Miss Massachusetts USA. It was on my "Before I Die" list between skydiving and working in Walt Disney World (both already completed). I had no prior pageant experience whatsoever and feverishly studied all the materials I could find with the help of successful pageant mom. Out of 70 some odd girls I placed as a top 12 semifinalist and if I might proudly boast, the shortest one in the line-up! At the end of the show I was approached by a couple of judges who recommend that I pursue fitness or figure competition-coincidence? I think not.
That January I attended my first Camp Savage in Boston, MA and what an experience. I felt totally out of my league, but I persisted if nothing more than to prove to myself that I could do it. With the help of Cathy Savage and Paula Harvey, I had a routine in February and competed in my first show in South Beach in March-and I won! Nothing could compare to the magic of stage and having so many years of hard work finally come to fruition.
Over the course of 2005 I have enjoyed an incredible amount of success, partially through the titles awarded from competitions but mostly thought the friendships I've made. I now have friends from Florida to the Midwest to California who I look forward to meeting up with like a family reunion every time there's a show. Most important is my family here in New England-my Savage Girls. This support system is what makes us truly great-not only in the sport of fitness, but also as wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and professionals. Fitness is just a portion of health and wellness and to truly excel at one you must address and support the many others.
My life genuinely feels complete with the sport of fitness and figure now a part of it.
Fitness America South Beach Champion