Contest Update: Voting for the Underdog, a “Real Ordinary Person” to be on the Cover of a Fitness Magazine in a 2020 International Competition

This is a follow-up story to my Aug 16 blog post, This story is dedicated to everyone who voted, supported, and encouraged me, including my local community and NVM, with a special kudos to the active members of my monthly Fitness Challenge Team.

Throughout 6 weeks of the voting process for a chance to win $20K and be featured on the cover of Hers Magazine in the 2020 Ms Health & Fitness Contest, I wobbled between 32 contestants, and finally landed at 4th place in the first group phase.

Why I entered the contest?

  • To see if a “real ordinary person” could be featured on the cover of a fitness magazine
  • To explore the “public voting process”
  • Curiosity: to see how far I could go!

The competition is judged on your feature photo, personal tag line, profile and additional fitness photos. A Ms Health & Fitness 2020 “personal voting link is created for your own profile to share with others.

Judging is done by the general public through free votes via Facebook or a paid option to donate votes in the competitors’ names for the contest’s charitable organization. Voters can vote via Facebook multiple times (but only once every 24 hrs). Votes accumulate over the voting period.

The highest number of votes received by one contestant overall, wins the competition.

Easy, right? No running races, power-lifting or gymnastics required to compete.

Screen shot: Contestants choose a profile photo and write a personal tag line for their entry. Voters can vote for free via Facebook or purchase Warrior Votes. Photo courtesy of C.B.
Screen shot: Contestants need to answer these three profile questions for their entry.
Screen shot: Contestants have the option to add additional photos for their entry. Photos courtesy of Natalie J. McMillan, C.B, J.RM, JY & CY.

From what I understand, contestants are separated into individual groups of about 30 to start the voting process. My own group had 32. I don’t know how many total groups there are or how the groups are categorized. My guess is that entries are sorted randomly into groups based on when they’re received and there may be hundreds of different groups, depending on how many women entered the contest.

Although there are no gymnastics required to compete in this contest, I was physically doing cartwheels and headstands in order to get votes!

Securing votes from the general public in this competition relies on:

  • The number of Facebook, Instagram and any other social media followers you have
  • How well you promote yourself for votes
  • How frequently you ask for votes
  • Any connections you may have from the army or army veterans as there is an option to donate unlimited “Warrior Votes” for $1 USD for each vote in the competitor’s name. Proceeds support the contest and help fund Homes for Wounded Warriors, an organization that remodels handicap accessible homes for disabled veterans. Anyone can purchase these votes but if you have any personal connections to the army, you’re likely to have an “army” of supporters.

Voting started July 20 for each 30-person group with the Top 20 round, then the Top 15, Top 10 and Top 5 rounds until it’s narrowed down to the Top 2 women in each group. This group moves on to the semi-finals and finals, where public voting is reset until they determine the winner.

As each round is completed, the photos of the contestants that didn’t make it to the next round are “faded to grey.”

Screenshot: Entrants are divided into groups of 30 for the initial voting process., then voted into the Top 20, Top 15, Top 10 and so on. As each round is completed, the colour photos of the contestants that didn’t make it to the next round are “faded to grey.”

The toughest part of the competition was asking people to vote for me.

It’s awkward and causes me anxiety but I did it because pushing myself out of my comfort zone will make me gutsier and taking on scary, new and challenging things make people stronger.

Getting votes became an ongoing daily task coming up with words, ways and photos to promote myself via Facebook, Instagram, email, text, and my blog.

I was afraid of annoying my friends, co-workers and FB groups with constant reminders and didn’t want to push or scare them away.

Screen shot: Facebook posting to remind people to vote for me.

The base of my strategy for securing votes was sharing my own personal fitness journey with others and making others believe that you don’t need to have humungous muscles, be the fastest racer or an elite gymnast to be on the cover of a fitness mag.

You just need to try your hardest, be real

and be you.

Photo courtesy of Natalie J. McMillan.

In the process of trying my hardest, sometimes it leads to inspiring others to try hard too. In April, I decided to help others better their health during the pandemic by forming and leading a free online Facebook fitness group where our members were invited to participate in various monthly fitness challenges, check in daily with their progress and encourage each other with positivity.

Leading this fitness group saved my mental health by finding my own self-purpose – during a period when I was depressed, suffering anxiety and feeling “useless” when the pandemic overwhelmed our lives.

Our fitness team formed a healthy online community built on connections through exercise, perseverance, encouragement, laughter and support. One of the key successes in this group, is that people are trying, every single day.

Screenshot: Facebook posting from our online monthly Fitness Challenge Group.

I’m not extraordinary like some other competitors in the Ms Health and Fitness competition, although I have great admiration for fierce athletes.

But I can do cartwheels, cross monkey bars and mastered my first yoga headstand at age 50 this summer!

By entering the contest, I “kept it real.”

I wanted to show that an underdog – a free-spirited 50-year old kid at heart, who loves encouraging and inspiring people, could win a chance to be featured on the cover of a fitness magazine.

It’s not an impossible goal.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”

Audrey Hepburn

At random times throughout the day, if I visited my personal dashboard of my voting link, the names of my three most recent Facebook voters were displayed and disappeared into cyberspace when the next three voters appeared.

I recognized some of the names, while others must have been voters from the general public or friends of friends, etc.

It surprised me whenever someone voted for me or shared my voting link on their Facebook pages, including members (many I’ve never met) of various Facebook groups I belong to in my local community.

I was grateful each time someone told me they voted or encouraged me to keep going.

An elementary school friend who shared my link also voluntarily sent daily reminders to her own Facebook friends to vote for me! Another posted a link to the song “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, one of my favourite 80’s songs; it brightened my mood on a day I was feeling “campaign fatigue”.

About a dozen people voted for me by purchasing “Warrior Votes”, including a fellow blogger I admire and follow but never met, and I discovered that one friend, I’ll call him the “Pilot”, donated over 250 votes in my name – wow! While his support made me blush, it also made me proud and those votes boosted my ranking.

It lifted my spirits and kept me going knowing that people took the time out of their busy days to vote – for me.

This contest has been an unusual and somewhat thrilling experience, watching my “bikini dancer’s pose” image bounce between the other 31 profile photos, along with any of the voters who were following my progress and cheering me on. I quietly cheered on the other underdogs in my group.

As I saw other contestants “fade to grey”, I wondered when I’d be next to lose my bright colours.

I wondered how many people were voting for me and the others, whether any contestants used those suspicious, questionable paid voting services (I didn’t —because it felt like cheating!) They instantly bombard and message your Instagram account by “promising votes for cash” if they see contestants post anything about themselves about voting on their Instagram feed.

I pondered about whether the Top 2 competitors (army veterans) were receiving lots of paid Warrior Votes due to their associated army status to stay in their unmovable positions, or if they were simply promoting themselves well.

The night before the August 20 voting deadline for the Top 5 round, where I was glued at 6th place for the previous 4 days, I posted a link to my prior story on two local community Facebook groups I belong to, introducing myself and my cause, asking members to vote for me. I also posted my usual daily voting request on my own Facebook page advising my friends of the looming deadline.

When I woke up the next morning to check my profile, I got boosted to 5th place by 9:26am and then secured a 4th place spot by the 8pm deadline!

That’s when I realized that voting works!

Screenshot: When I woke up the next morning (Aug 21) to check my profile, I got boosted to 5th place at 9:26am and then secured a 4th place spot by the 8pm (11EST) deadline!

However, by Sunday, Aug 23 after 7pm I was knocked down back to 5th place as Becky Keller moved up to reclaim her 4th position, but by Monday I bounced back up to 4th place. The top 3 competitors Debrah Thomas, Erin Walters and Kelly Sherl remained in their current positions.

On Sunday, Aug 23, I was knocked down back to 5th place, but bounced back up to 4th on Monday.

Although I’ll never know the total number of votes I received, the number of people or all of the names of those who voted for me and how often, I realized that with a combined total of only 350 Facebook, Instagram and blog followers, and an unknown number of people from the general public, just enough people voted to get me to place 4th in the Top 5 round of an international fitness competition!

I’m the only Asian, non-Caucasian contestant (and 50-year old kid at heart) who made it to the Top 5 round in my group.

Not bad for an underdog!

Maybe it’s not all about big numbers.

Hope inspires people & people inspire hope.

It’s the belief that others have in you and your goals, their encouragement and dedication to support you.

Faded to grey at 4th place.

I may have faded out in this contest, but I still have my inner shine and gratefulness for what I believe to be an extraordinary group of people who believed in me.

It’s not the cover of a fitness magazine,

but to me — it’s a win.

The contest is still running, and the final winner will be announced October 8. Two army veterans who were in the lead in my group, will now move on to the Wildcard round (2nd place finishers in each group) and the semi-finals and finals (1st place finishers in each group) While other competitors have bounced up and down during each round, these two popular army warriors (Deborah Thomas & Erin Walters), have stayed within the top 3 spots in my group since the start of the competition. Go super women – I’ll be cheering you on!

FINAL UPDATE OCTOBER 15, 2020: The two army veterans in my group phase didn’t make it to the finals. The official winner of the Ms Health & Fitness Contest is 55-year old Kesia Newbrough.

According to her profile: “Kesia plans to use the prize money to kickstart her own non-profit organization to help homeless and out of work veterans through education, employment, and community support.” Kesia was the only competitor in the final round of 8 competitors who mentioned “veterans” in her profile. Congrats, Kesia Newbrough!

Screenshot: Finalists (8 contestants, October 2020)
Screenshot: Official Ms Health & Fitness 2020 Winner – Kesia Newbrough, October 15, 2020

Feature photo: “Flexing those biceps that two 9-year old girls at the playground told me were SO BIG” Photo courtesy of Natalie J. McMillan.

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