With one look at Santia Deck, you can tell that she’s an athlete. The 27-year-old Atlanta resident and Olympic hopeful has run track since she was a kid. When she couldn’t overcome injuries on the track, she decided to take up flag football as an adult, and has been quite the force when it comes to rugby, too. Whatever it takes for her to get a chance to flex her chops on the world stage at the Olympics, she’s willing to train three to four times a week and eat clean to do. And whatever sport will get her there, she’s on board.
That’s why Santia’s so strong, packing muscles to the point where people refer to her as the “Queen of Abs.” Despite the fact that people praise the body she’s been able to naturally build, it was initially a struggle for her to feel comfortable in her skin. People told her as a girl that her muscles made her look masculine, and for some time, she tried to hide them, but no more. Nowadays, she serves serious fitness goals for her more than 323,000 Instagram followers, as well as inspiration for young women. Those who don’t know her will soon get to learn more about her when she stars in the upcoming reality show, FLEXX, set to premiere this summer on Amazon Prime. Not to mention, when she’s not playing sports, she’s also an author and businesswoman (she’s a trainer and sells apparel and more), so there’s definitely more to her than meets the eye — or the abs — and she’s looking forward to sharing her story.
We talked Santia about becoming a body positive advocate, the importance of knowing there is beauty in muscles, and how she was able to get and keep the title of Queen of Abs.
MadameNoire: Growing up, you felt a way about your body because you were always muscular. It wasn’t until college that you started embracing it. What helped you to do that?
Santia Deck: It was spring break and my friends were like, let’s go to the beach. We all were getting ready to pack up and go, and they were like, “Why don’t you ever wear a bathing suit? We’ve gone so many times and you’re always wearing a jacket or pants or a long-sleeved shirt.” I said, “Well, I feel like I look masculine.” That’s what I had been told all my life by many different people. They were like, “You have an awesome body! People would die to have your body.” So they said, “Let’s do a little challenge. How about you wear a two-piece and if you get any negative comments, you don’t ever have to wear a two-piece ever again.” So I was like, cool. I wore the two-piece to the beach and everyone was super nice and positive. People were saying, “I wish I had your body.” It was because of that one little challenge that my eyes were opened. I don’t have to look like the stereotypical woman to be beautiful. I just needed someone to push me and I had to step outside my comfort zone. Ever since then, I’ve been good to go.
You’ve spoken about wanting to be a positive role model for young women. Why is it important for them to see a body like yours at a time when there are so many altered forms on prominent women out here that inadvertently encourage women to get work done?
It’s important that I speak on that and be an example for women who may not have the typical body because this is a very lost generation, especially for women. We’re told to look like this, wear our hair like this, do this and do that to be wanted. For me, it took me a long time to accept myself, and I think the fact that I did and I’ve been able to speak at schools to different women who might have a muscular body type and tell them that they’re beautiful is important. There’s beauty in muscles, there’s beauty in fitness. I feel like I have to be that example because there’s not a lot of positive role models out here. Everybody’s looking up to these Cardi Bs and whoever and that’s the type of body that these young women feel like they need to have. It’s unfortunate that media brainwashes us to believe that, and it’s hard to not believe that because you see it everywhere. So again, I just try to tell them that you can be beautiful in whatever type of body you have.
When you weren’t able to go pro in track, how did you not let that get you down and instead, found a new path to make your Olympic dreams come true one day? Why didn’t you let that be the nail in the coffin for you?
Honestly, it was extremely hard to not fall into a black hole because I ran track since I was seven years old. That was all I knew. But at the same time, I was blessed enough to have a support system and my mom, who believed in everything that I wanted to be and do. I started my fitness business while I was still in college, so I had something to fall back on. Luckily, also, I found flag football. I found an escape from losing your identity when a sport ends. I was lucky enough to find something else to focus my attention on when track ended. I found football and was able to still use my speed, just in a different way. I think the fact that I was able to transition into something different, and then I had a business to focus on as well, I was a lucky athlete. I definitely feel like that’s something parents, coaches, schools and everybody should really give these kids, is other options. Teach them how to build a business and a brand while they’re still active so that when it’s over, it’s not like your life is over. If you don’t have that, then you don’t know.
As the self-proclaimed “Queen of Abs,” what’s been the key to a toned core and how do you keep your body tight? Though you have been muscular for many years, a person can always fall out of that due to bad habits. How have you maintained your muscles?
100 percent my diet. Believe it or not, people always think I’m on super strict diet, but I just make healthy decisions when I eat. I tend to stick to fish. I eat other meats sometimes, but not a lot. I eat a lot of veggies. I currently eat more fruit than anything. If I could be a fruititarian I would be [laughs]. Those are the things I eat mainly all day, every day. I don’t eat a lot of carbs, which is a bad thing for me because I’m an athlete. For whatever reason, I don’t like a lot of starches and stuff. I suffer a lot because of that so I’m trying to eat more carbs. That plays a role in weight gain as well though, so I tell people to limit their carbs to good carbs, because there are good carbs out there: sweet potatoes, black rice, things like that. I also drink a lot of water. That’s it [laughs]. I don’t have a super fancy diet, I just eat healthy.
Tell us about FLEXX! What made you want to be on this show?
It’s unique! It’s the first show of its kind. It’s actually shedding a positive light, and that’s what’s different. Every time we see reality stars they’re negative. So the fact that this is a positive show and it’s showing trainers in a positive light, not arguing about who stole somebody’s man, it’s good. It’s the behind-the-scenes of fitness trainers. Some of us are musicians as well, all of us for the most part own our own businesses, some of us have children. People don’t really get to see the behind-the-scenes of our lives, they just see, “Oh, you’re in shape!” “You work out every day and you’re super healthy!” But they don’t see the heartbreak, the challenges we face trying to run a business, people having to be away from their children, so there’s a lot that comes with us that people don’t get to see. I’m happy that we get to open up that door and really show people that you can be a business owner, you can work together, you can do good things and not have scandals going on. I’m happy to be a part of something that’s going to change the way that we look at reality shows.