A woman of many talents, whether she’s co-hosting her hit TV One daytime talk show Sister Circle or performing on stage while promoting her new album WOMAN, whatever she sets her mind to, Syleena Johnson is sure to succeed in. These days, her latest venture that she’s had success with is fitness competitions.
The 43-year-old recently transformed a longtime goal she had to possibly hit the stage and flex her muscles in a fitness competition and made it a reality. She trained for eight months, and took her fans along for the ride with a docuseries on her social media called “From 1 Stage 2 the Next.” By the time she was ready to make her debut in December for the NPC Texas Cup, she was 50 pounds lighter, ripped, and full of confidence. She would walk away from her very first competition in the women’s figure category with three awards.
We spoke with renaissance woman Johnson about fitting her fitness journey into a packed schedule, the stern dietary changes she had to make to be ready for the big day, and why taping herself and sharing those videos with fans during her training ultimately helped her reach her goal.
MadameNoire: I’m very intrigued by your work in the fitness competition realm. I know you just got into it. What was the inspiration for you to see that goal through from start to finish?
Syleena Johnson: I’ve always wanted to bodybuild, for two decades even, and I just never got around to it. Something was like, this is the moment. This is the time. So I documented it and I created a documentary called “From One Stage to the Next.” It shows you, well it shows me, going through all of the different things I had to go through to be able to get to the fitness stage in the midst of performing on the singing stage and also being a talk show host on that stage. I was just kind of bouncing around from stage to stage to stage in my life. There is always the mom and wife stage. There are all these different stages in your life you have to perform on. So we created a documentary following all that. We started last May recording. It took me eight months to get in shape for the fitness competition. I had to drop over fiftysomething pounds. The motivation was just to be able to do something I’ve always wanted to do. I just didn’t want to be 80 years old like, “Man, I wish I would have done it.”
On your journey, what were some of the hardest habits to break?
Oh my God, cheese and wine. Those two were it right there. Cheese and wine and not getting enough sleep. Sleep is very, very important when you’re training, and it’s hard to find that extra sleep.
Can you take us to the day of the competition and how you were feeling? You were very successful for your first outing.
It was surreal. I had to take off work for three days before the competition so that I could rest completely. I did nothing but lay in the bed with my legs up because that’s actually when the muscle happens. The muscle builds when you rest and so I did nothing but lay in the bed and eat fish and asparagus six times a day. I was super, super sick of that, but it was exciting. I couldn’t wait to show the competition what I had learned and I couldn’t wait to learn myself and see the other packages the women had brought to the stage. It was just fun. It was really fun. I can’t wait to be back in that same shape and that same mindset. I’m supposed to be training for one right now, but this WOMAN tour and the press, it’s a lot so I may have to push it up to give myself real time.
I was going to ask you if you were training to do it again. You may need a break.
This one is April 11, but I think that’s too soon. I think I’m going to have to push it based on the fact that I’m not getting the rest I need right now. I’m swelling right now, which is counterproductive.
But that being said, are you at least able to keep up the healthy eating habits and diet you acquired?
For the most part because I have a chef. When I’m at home I have meal prep. On the road though, it’s much harder.
Did sharing your journey through the documentary and on social media help to hold you accountable and aid you in being successful?
Yes! Absolutely. It took two months for me to even talk about it. I trained for two months and had dropped the first 25 pounds before I even said anything about it. I knew that people wouldn’t believe me. Even my closest friends, I knew they wouldn’t believe me because people say they’re going to do stuff all of the time, but something that strenuous and tumultuous, that’s something where people have to see you doing it. So, it was just me following my dreams, following through with it and doing it. I needed to tell everyone because the accountability for me was one thing, but then the accountability for all of us, all Black women who are watching Sister Circle every day, and me sitting up there talking about it but at the end of the day, I’m not in my best shape, that’s hypocritical. So I wanted to show them I could do it with them and we can all do it too, together.