FitGems Nation: You are making your pro debut at the Figure International in a few weeks! How does it feel to make your pro debut in one of the biggest shows of the year?
Monica Mark-Escalante: I will be making my pro debut at the Phoenix Pro on Feb 20. The irony is that the first show I ever did was in Phoenix. That means my first show as an amateur and a pro will both have been in Phoenix.
(Yeah, should have checked on the whole pro debut thing, my bad.)
(Monica winning 2007 Ironman Figure-Picture from Muscular Development)
FitGems: In 2007, you won the Ironman Pro Figure and was dubbed a future IFBB Figure Pro. Two years later, the dream became a reality when you won the Team Universe. Can you describe how it felt to finally call yourself a pro?
Monica: Turning pro in 2009 was a dream come true. Since I was 18 years old, I wanted to be a pro figure competitor. To finally accomplish that feat after all that time is an awesome feeling.
FitGems: In 2007 and 2008, you competed with a somewhat hard look, yet last year, you came in softer and apparently it did the trick. What changes did you make in your training between 2007 and now, and what changes (if any) do you plan to make as you enter the IFBB?
Monica: In 2007 and 2008, I came in harder than I did in 2009. During the 2009 prep period, I scaled back my cardio (relative to the previous 2 years), slightly increased my healthy fat consumption, and decreased the intensity/volume of my weight training. I also did not carb deplete/carb load in the days prior to the show; this helped me stay relatively softer come the pre-judging. These changes helped me to produce the physique that eventually helped me to capture the pro card.
FitGems: What is the ideal figure look to you? There are a lot of opinions out there.
Monica: In my opinion, my ideal figure is similar to the look I brought to the 2007 USA’s in Las Vegas. I came in well conditioned, tight, and fairly hard but still did not have any freaky striations on my body. I was also slightly more muscular as compared to the 2009 look. In my opinion, however, nice curves with good symmetry and proportion are the keys to winning physique.
FitGems: You look like a Hollywood starlet? Is Hollywood in your future (or at least a TV gig?) LOL.
Monica: I am flattered that you think I look like a Hollywood starlet, but I have never really thought much about becoming a TV star. I guess if Jillian (the trainer from the Biggest Loser) ever moves on, I might want to try out for her spot…hahaha.
(Monica's ideal figure look from 2007 USAs-Picture from Muscular Development)
FitGems: What changes (if any) do you expect with figure now that the bikini division has survived its first full year?
Monica: I don’t believe that many changes will take place in figure despite the new bikini division. Bikini and figure already have their own unique looks that differentiate the two classes. I just hope that figure does not eventually start to fade out like the “Fitness” division has over the years.
FitGems: What changes (if any) would you like to see in figure, or any of the female divisions for that matter?
Monica: Now that the bikini division is here, I would like to see figure winners to be able to come in well conditioned, tight, and fairly hard with a decent amount of muscle mass. Other than that, I don’t really see any changes I would personally make in the female divisions.
FitGems: I know you’re stoked to be on stage with Monica Brant, who’ve you mentioned is your idol. What does that mean to you, to have her as a competitor in your Arnold debut?
Monica: Being on stage next to Monica Brant will be one of the highlights of my career. I have admired her physique and her career over the years, so competing with her is a true honor.
FitGems: Where do you see yourself ranked at the Arnold? Top 10? Top 6? Dare I say…winner!? (I mean, we ARE guaranteed a new champion with the reigning champ Zivile Raudoniene in WWE)
Monica: I don’t like to make any predictions about my placing in shows. I do, however, set goals for myself. My ultimate goal is to win the Arnold, but I realize that I will be on stage with some of the best Figure competitors of the world. Cracking the top 5 at the Arnold would be a great place to start.
FitGems: Where do you rank the Arnold competition with the rest of the figure contests of the year, including the Olympia?
Monica: I rank the Arnold and the Olympia as the two most prestigious competitions a competitor can ever compete in. The women that compete at these events are all true champions and they have earned their right to be on that stage.
(A newly refined Monica @ 2009 USAs-Picture from Muscular Development)
FitGems: I heard through the grapevine (more specifically, Juan Carlos Lopez) that you are pretty strong in the gym. Is that true?
Monica: I think I know the story you heard about me being strong in the gym. I can’t really deny that I am fairly strong. I like to train hard, so through the years I would say that I have acquired a good amount of strength.
FitGems: What is one thing that most fans may not know about you?
Monica: The things most fans may not know about me is that I’m pretty shy. Sure I like to stand on stage and be behind the camera, but put me in a room full of strangers and I feel somewhat uncomfortable.
FitGems: Do you have any special talents (Oh yeah, as Mr. Brown of Meet the Browns would say, “NOTHING NASTY!!” Keep it clean as crystal. LOL. )
Monica: My special talents lie in the kitchen. I’m a creative cook and love to make healthy meals that don’t taste like “diet” food.
FitGems: After the Arnold, what plans do you have for 2010, as well as plans for your pro figure career?
Monica: After the Phoenix pro and the Arnold, I hope I get a qualification for the Olympia so I can focus on preparing for that and perhaps some shows around the Olympia. If I don’t qualify in Phoenix or at the Arnold, then I will probably try to qualify for the Olympia at the California Pro in May. As far as my figure career, I hope I can inspire others to be the best they can be on and off the stage. I would like to do more fitness modeling and eventually maybe co-author a book on fitness with my husband.
FitGems: Do you have any closing words for your fellow competitors and fans that will be seeing you at the Arnold in March?
Monica: My closing words for my fellow competitors at the Arnold are “keep training hard so we can bring an awesome lineup for the show.” As for my fans, I want to say thank you for your support.
FitGems: Where can fans reach you? Do you have a MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
Monica: My fans can reach me via my website at www.monfit.com. My face page is up for now along with my contact info as the site is still under construction. It should be finished soon. I am also on Myspace and Facebook.
(Welcome to the IFBB, Monica!!)
picture from RxMuscle
picture from RxMuscle
Thank you Monica for taking the time to do this interview, and on behalf of the FitGems Nation, we wish you the very best of luck in your pro debut in Pheonix and your Arnold debut in Columbus!