Entertainment

Kim Kardashian’s Trainer Is The Most Inspiring Dominican Trainer That We Could All Use

You know how Latinas are just tearing up the world we live in and making it more just, more empowering and stronger than ever for the rest of us? Well, this is a story about that. More specifically, about the person who has trained Kim Kardashian for the last year every single day.

Even more on point, this story isn’t about Kim Kardashian. It’s about Mel Alcantara and her story of how she uprooted her life from the Bronx to Los Angeles to follow a dream. Her transformation story is just…well…see for yourself.

We all have Kim Kardasian’s body seared into our brains.

CREDIT: @kimkardashian / Instagram

It’s iconic. You can’t escape it, and Latinas everywhere are thanking Goddess that curves are finally being appreciated.

Let’s be honest, though: those curves take mad work. That’s where trainer Mel Alcantara comes in.

But we know next to nothing about the woman behind her A-list client.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Meet Mel Alcantara. She’s a proud Dominican from the Bronx, with a transformation story worth celebrating. She told HipLatina, “My mom worked two jobs in order to support all of my siblings, and we had the stereotypical drug addict and alcoholic father who wasn’t there or was there to make everyone’s life more difficult.”

“I spent most of my youth afraid. Fear is now my driver, I seek it, it is what propels me forward.”

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

“Growing up I was never athletic, never joined a sport in school, never had a support system to lead me in the right direction,” Alcantara told HipLatina. “Let me tell you, life tried to break me so many times but it [messed] up and made me stronger. I chose a different path for myself, you live the life you lead. Sometimes you have to make decisions that will break you because with change comes growth. Get uncomfortable!”

Read: 25 Inspiring Afro-Latinos To Celebrate For 

It wasn’t until she was depressed, binge-eating, smoking and 70 pounds heavier post-baby that she decided to make a change.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

The lifestyle she grew up with wasn’t enhancing her life. One day, she just decided to do a fitness challenge. Three Mondays later, she woke up at 5 a.m. and starting trying. Eight weeks later, she had lost 40 pounds.

Alcantara quit her successful careers in marketing and production to get a waitressing job and focus on her fitness.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

At that point, she realized she wanted to give this feeling to other people. So she quit her $60,000-a-year job and started to waitress at night and work out in the day.

Alcantara is proof that it is never too late to start getting yourself into shape.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Caption: “After so many years of zero self esteem I’ve spent these last years filling my bucket with self confidence. I worked my [butt] ON and this [butt] is not gonna look like this forever, ain’t nobody gonna tell me I can’t show it off. If you got it flaunt it 🤷🏽‍♀️ ”

Then, in December 2015, she signed up for her first body building competition.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

She decided she wanted to be more than just skinny. She prepped for 17 weeks and won in the Miss Figure and Miss Best Physique categories.

People started asking her if she could train them so she became a certified professional trainer.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Alcantara isn’t the kind of trainer that you grow to resent. She lifts you up. She helps you lift yourself up, until one day, you don’t need her any more. Alcantara maintains that you’re not training the body: you’re training the mind.

One day in May 2016, she got an email from one of Kim Kardashian’s producers.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Then, things got crazy for Alcantara. She told NBC that she told them, “Let me check my schedule,” but immediately moved from Brooklyn to California to start her new job.

Today, she trains Kardashian 5-6 days a week and a select few other clients.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Here’s a sample of what she has Kim do:

Lat Pull-Down Wide Grip: 3 x 15 reps

Superset High Knees: 60 reps each leg (120 total)

Straight bar Shoulder Press (also known as military press): 3 x 15 reps

Superset dumbbell upright rows: 20 reps

E-Z Bar Bicep Curls: 3 x 20 reps (use a 20lb bar)

Superset dumbbell tricep extension: 3 x 15 reps

200 Jumping Jacks

60 kettlebell swings (use 15 or 20lbs)

As a woman of color, she’s smashing all the stereotypes and lifting other women up.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

In an interview with HipLatina, Alcantara said, “Women think that if they pick up a dumbbell they’ll turn into men; this is utterly ridiculous, the human body doesn’t work that way.” Exasperated because of her own experience, she also explained that women who try to do low-carb, high-cardio, detox diets is “hormonally taxing to our bodies, unsustainable and quite unhealthy.”

Alcantara is a proud “reverse dieter” and we’re here for it.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

“I used to think being fit was being lean, being ‘toned’, losing weight. I thought constantly being in a caloric deficit was just the way of this ‘fit life’. BUT it’s NOT,” Alcantara told HipLatina. “My goal is not to spend my life counting calories, weighing my food, feeling shitty about having a ‘bad day’ of food vs a a good day. There’s enough guilt and suffering just living our every day lives.”

Read: Here Are 22 Keto Recipes That Will Feed Your Latino Soul

Alcantara advocates for the tried and true natural road to fitness: fitness.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Alcantara is also out there giving new mothers the motivation and inspiration they need to tackle that post-pregnancy weight. It’s not easy when you work a full-time job but Alcantara proves that it is possible and she wants to help mothers achieve their goals.

Sometimes, Alcantara’s posts look like torture, though, tbh.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

My point being that while she looks fabulous, it takes real, painful work to get to where she’s at. It took a major lifestyle change, but one that Alcantara says anyone could do.

But she doesn’t forget the fear and confusion she felt before she became a fitness star.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Alcantara admits that she was once confused and defeated when seeing the fitness gurus on social media. She constantly questioned whether or not she was even capable of the same physique and success. Fortunately, she pushed through and is now inspiring thousands of people every day.

Alcantara went through a phase of jiu jitsu.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Everyone has to start somewhere. Sometimes, it is the luck of the draw as to what you are going to be able to use to meet your fitness goals. There is also no direct path. Some times people diverge and change goals in the middle of their journey and it’s fine. Just be who you want to be and strive for the best version of that person.

Her message to beginners, especially women? DGAF.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

In an interview with PopSugar, she shared, “I remember the days of feeling intimidated by the gym and especially the weights in the gym. I always walked in and thought to myself, “Let me go straight to the treadmill or elliptical where I belong! Women don’t have confidence in the gym because they were told all their life they’re not good enough, they’re not pretty enough, they’re not strong enough! Constantly being judged by men and more so by other women.”

To this day, she has to deal gender inequality at the gym.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

The air of feeling like the weights zone is a male zone isn’t make believe. She told PopSugar, “Ultimately, I bring the fire, dedication and skill to the gym, so the other trainers respect and appreciate it and recognize me as such. The best way to overcome any sort of inequality in the gym or otherwise is to outwork and out-talent those who honestly waste too much time worrying about and looking at other people.”

Beyond the fitness, Alcantara inspires us to go after our dreams, whatever they are.

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Basically, don’t waste your life thinking about what you want to be. Start a plan and chase after the person you are meant to be.

Oh, and her secret to her relationship with her husband?

CREDIT: @fitgurlmel / Instagram

Intimacy is one of the greatest things that keeps a relationship going. Some well done PDA can go a long way.


READ: 6 Latina Fitness Gurus You Need To Follow On Instagram Right Now

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She’s Running: Meet Amanda Farias, The Bronx Puerto Rican-Dominican Vying For New York City Council

Fierce

She’s Running: Meet Amanda Farias, The Bronx Puerto Rican-Dominican Vying For New York City Council

Courtesy of Amanda Farias

In 2017, right before young women of color across the country gained mainstream attention for their historic political campaigns, Amanda Farias ran for New York City Council. She didn’t win, but she did come in behind Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr., a longtime politician with vast name recognition, and that alone was a feat for the then-28-year-old, her community and the Black and brown 20-somethings her race inspired.

Nearly two years later, the Puerto Rican-Dominican community leader has put her hat back in the ring, now vying to succeed the man who beat her not long ago in District 18, which covers the Bronx’s Castle Hill, Clason Point, Harding Park, Soundview and Parkchester.

“I always knew I was going to run again,” Farias, 29, told FIERCE.

The Soundview-raised, Parkchester-living Bronx candidate — who has spent years working to get more women to run for office as the Director of Special Projects for former New York City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, the New York State Coordinator for New American Leaders and the co-founder of Women of Color for Progress — was inspired to announce her run early after recent homophobic statements made by Díaz Sr., a socially conservative Democrat who has a long history of opposing same-sex marriage and abortion and recently said he would not be “ratting out” a man who committed sexual harassment.

“That was my way of showing up: announcing, despite the rumors, I would challenge this person, because he, who doesn’t represent our values, could no longer represent us,” she said.

We chatted with Farias about her campaign, what she learned from her first race, how she intends on putting the needs of her community first in office, why New York City needs more women in government and much more.

FIERCE: Why did you decide to run for New York City Council?

Amanda Farias: So it was for a lot of different reasons. I was actually working at the New York City Council for about four and a half years and, in the middle of that, I started doing constituent casework. I was learning how city agencies work and where city agencies lack communication to the communities or what actually is happening in communities and how that is translated to the voter. Then I started managing the women’s caucus. No female elective in the council moved up in that time. Together with my then-boss, former councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, we started to think how do we create a pipeline of women into the council and what does mentorship look like. When I first started, we had 18 women. Four and a half years later, we went down to 12. We were just trying to figure out the best way to get more women in the council. In that process, my boss realized I was in a district where a council member couldn’t run for another term. She tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to run. That was never in my plans. I never thought I would be asked to run for office or view myself as someone going to run for office. I was very happy making sure the work was getting done in the background. I said no a bunch of times. Then, I did a training with New American Leaders, and there was a room filled with women of color filled with the same self-doubt I had who were already doing the work and cared about their communities and had the values to best represent them. That’s when I decided to take the plunge and run to represent my district.

FIERCE: This was in 2016-2017. You’ve recently decided to run again, prompted by homophobic comments made by Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr.

Amanda Farias: Yes. So I ran in a five-way race and came in second. I was perceived as the biggest underdog, the one person no one had to pay mind to. Yet, I showed up in a big way. I knew I was going to run again, but there was no reason to really announce it so early. But seeing someone who is supposed to be our representative, not only supposed to represent my community and all of its members, but also someone who is supposed to be an elected official in New York City, a progressve city, a city that fights for marginalized communities, makes his comments about a group of people where we live even harder. I try to be the best ally I can be every day and I try to learn the best way to show up for LGBTQ+ communities, so to see someone who is supposed to be representing all people and ensuring our rights are protected be that disrespectful, that disconnected, especially in this political atmosphere, was horrifying to me. I couldn’t let this go without showing up again. That was my way of showing up: announcing, despite the rumors, I would challenge this person, because he, who doesn’t represent our values, could no longer represent us.

FIERCE: I know that among your priorities are job creation, infrastructure, housing, public safety and health and good government. Why are these issues particularly important in your district?

Amanda Farias: Overall, when I think of all those issues and how they connect with my community, the main theme is access. When talking about job creation, housing, good and transparent government, you’re directly talking about how voters and community members in my district do not have access to those things that make their lives better. We are in a transit desert. Our train is not ADA-compliant. These things negatively impact community members and their socioeconomic standing. Looking at an open, transparent and honest government, my district doesn’t have any democratic clubs. There is no process or organization right now, or in my entire life as far as I know, of folks trying to get community members to get out the vote and involved. There’s not groups giving them a better understanding of what it means to be a registered voter, a Democrat or even the levels of government in this convoluted system and who you can blame for your problem. If I have a pothole on my street, who do I blame for that? Transportation is a big deal for me, but so many people blame the city for the subway but really it’s under state control. But because we live in the five boroughs and the Metro is here, it’s easy to assume it’s a city responsibility. It’s about accessibility. People need to be knowledgeable on what’s impacting their daily life and how they can be an active participant in changing it.

FIERCE: In an interview with City & State you said, “my main goal is prioritizing the community and the community members and making sure they’re actually getting the resources they need, the money that they need, to be moved into the district and representation that reflects their views and ideologies and their values.” How do you intend on doing that on city council?

Amanda Farias: So there are a lot of ways a city council member can be impactful. Other than being an advocate in legislation and policies that have a lasting and direct impact in districts, you also have a budget that is super influential in bringing people and resources into the district. When I win city council, I want to see how much money is going outside the district and how to re-appropriate those funds for organizations showing up for the community. We need to ensure it’s reaching the people within our district lines. When I worked for former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, there were times we offered up pieces of our office during nights or weekends for residents who didn’t have space to work. I want to replicate that and show up for residents in that way.

FIERCE: You are a young, second-generation Caribbean Latina woman from Soundview. What do you think your identities can bring to city council that’s fresh and needed?

Amanda Farias: I was born and raised in my district, someone that still lives in the community and goes through the same community problems and issues. My family hasn’t waged out of the district. I’m still facing the same struggles every day that my community members are facing, and I think that’s what makes me one of the best people to represent the district. I was recently telling a story to someone about my family and how there are so many communities that don’t have people, representatives, that come from the same background and same neighborhoods and are still really close to that. I feel there’s a disconnect when you have incumbents, officials, even if they’re doing great work, that don’t understand the struggles of the people, that aren’t late to work every day because of the MTA. My mom is living in a one-bedroom apartment with my two brothers. My mom doesn’t have a living room. Most of my life, I didn’t have a living room, because we couldn’t afford it, we needed another bedroom. People are living doubled or tripled up, even more now with all the families that came from Puerto Rico. This is real shit people go through and it should be a priority. I hope to do that. I think that’s what makes me different.

I’m also someone who has taken the time to learn the system, to be civically engaged. I understand the democratic process. And I didn’t leave. I want to be here. I want to make my community better and get them the representation that they deserve. People need fighters and advocates. I tried to do that in multiple capacities and I hope to keep doing that.

FIERCE: Of course, you are more than your identities. After graduating from St. John’s University with a master’s degree in political science, you started your political career mobilizing Black and Latinx communities for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, spent five years working in the New York City Council, serving as director of special projects and managing the city council’s women’s caucus, ran for New York City Council in 2017 and have since been committed to getting more women in office through your work as the New York State coordinator for New American Leaders and even co-founding Women of Color for Progress. How do you think these experiences and the insight you’ve gained through them prepared you for this office?

Amanda Farias: I think it’s kept me really humble and has kept my values at the forefront on how I move through the work that I do. I feel like these roles I’ve taken on, the work I’ve done, has shown me communities of color are lacking true representation, real people who understand real issues and make those connections. By working for New American Leaders and founding an organization to uplift women of color, it’s empowered me to make sure I’m not only moving forward in this world but reaching behind me and bringing people with me.

FIERCE: On a more personal level, what would representing your people, the teachers that taught you in public school, the service workers that feed you, the elders that offer their daily bendiciones, the families that nurture you, mean to you?

Amanda Farias: I honestly would just be extremely grateful. It’s my way of giving back. The community has sacrificed for all of us, trying to ensure we are learning things we need to learn, getting opportunities, taking advantage of them when they are in front of us. This is my way of giving back, of showing my appreciation for everyone that works so hard to help me, my family, my single mom. The community really helped me move along through school and activities and keeping me off the street, making sure I had a roof over my head. Literally, it takes a village.

FIERCE: As we discussed, this is your second time running for city council. What lessons have you learned that you think better prepared you for this race?

Amanda Farias: I will say having an all-women team kicks ass. We showed all the way up in my first race, and I was really grateful to be willing and open enough to take risks with first-time people that were willing and open to give me everything they had. So going with your gut and building a good team are two. Also, I learned to not always play nice. I was concerned a lot before. I always thought, don’t say this, don’t say that. I don’t want to be made as an abrasive, aggressive person. I don’t want to be perceived this way. I was being very politically strategic. Looking back, there are times I wish I had been more aggressive and less worried about perception. It’s a different time now. It’s my second go around. We also had some great wins in 2018, but running between 2016 and 2017, it was a lonely place for a young woman of color. I had to think strategically and about what would work best for me and the team.

FIERCE: Much of your work has been, and continues to be, in getting more women elected to public office. What does New York City gain with more women in power?

Amanda Farias: Smarter policies, equity in legislation and in budgeting. But I think the sole fact of having a woman in a room, or woman of color in a room, who has experienced something completely different from the average ratio of men in that room, uplifts half the population of the city and the nation. Getting different perspectives from women on how to look at policy or how to create budget priorities is really important. We’ve had historic pieces of legislation, like having free tampons and pads in bathrooms, because of women. It’s not like women didn’t exist before this. Menstruation is a taboo topic, yet this resource is critical to low-income or young people. When we have women in office, we think holistically. We take holistic approaches to budget items and legislation.

FIERCE: Considering this work but also that this is your second time running for office, I think you can offer a lot to young Latinas who aspire to run. Do you have a message for Latinas with political dreams but perhaps see those as unfeasible?

Amanda Farias: I would say to keep fighting. Be the luchadora that we all are, that we know that our ancestors fought for and made us to be. I love the quote, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” That’s what I try to live by every single day. But I think on a larger scale, we need to ask for help, advice and mentorship. These things are important to ensuring we are moving forward, personally and professionally. We need to make an ask of people in our lives who want to see us do well. There are a lot of people who believe in you, so make the ask.

Read: She’s Running: Denver City Council Candidate Candi CdeBaca Says Building A City Starts With Building Up Its People

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Felipe López: What You Need To Know About The Legendary NBA Star Being Called Dominican Jordan

Entertainment

Felipe López: What You Need To Know About The Legendary NBA Star Being Called Dominican Jordan

felipelopez13 / Instagram

Latinos have smashed almost every glass ceiling in professional sports in the United States. It is common to see Dominicans (did anyone say Alex Rodriguez?), Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and Mexicans, among others, hit the ball out of the park or pitch the perfect game in professional Major League Baseball.

World boxing is dominated by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans (Saúl Canelo Álvarez just signed the richest contract for any athlete in history with streaming service DAZN, $350 million for eleven fights over six years). However, there are two sporting arenas that remain elusive for nuestra gente: the NFL and the NBA. Latinos who have become stars in basketball or football are few and far in between, which makes the improbable journey of Dominican NBA player Felipe López all the more extraordinary.

López’s life and career is the subject matter of the new film Dominican Dream, which launched at the Tribeca Film Festival this May 2019. Here are some facts for this true legend and one of the many faces of Latino pride in the United States professional sports landscape. 

Here’s all you need to know about the film that honors Felipe López.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Joining great documentaries on basketball, such as the unmissable Hoop Dreams, this feature directed by Jonathan Hock tells the rags-to-riches story of our beloved López, who in 1994, at the mere age of 17, was the hottest prospect in basketball. His journey all the way to the NBA was a given. Los sueños sí pueden cumplirse. This film is part of ESPN’s series 30 for 30. The director had previously helmed Through the Fire, the story of another young basketball star, Sebastian Telfair. You can watch the trailer here

He was once known as “the Dominican Michael Jordan.”

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Felipe’s smart moves, athleticism, and quick reactions earned him the moniker of “the Dominican Michael Jordan”. To be compared to the greatest basketball player of all time is quite something, and that in itself turned Felipe into a bastion of Dominican pride. In fact, Felipe wanted the film to be more about immigration than the courts. He told CBS: “Jonathan Hock introduced it to me not as a basketball story, but more as an immigration story. I loved it because to me, it’s a topic that we are living. There are so many migrating families going through adversity coming into the country.”

His journey in the NBA was bittersweet.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Felipe was touted as the next big thing in professional sports after being an absolute star in St John’s High School. He played only for four seasons in the NBA, which makes his journey a bit of an anticlimactic and tragic one for some. After the NBA, where he played for the Vancouver Grizzlies, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Washington Wizards. He never got to hold the prized championship trophy. 

López moved to the United States with his family when he was only 14 years old.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Luis Felipe (his full, telenovela name!) was born on December 19, 1974, in Santiago. With his family, he then settled in the New York area when he was a teenager. Just three years after arriving in los estates, he was gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, perhaps the most important sports publication in the world. 

His dad was also a sportsman: de tal palo tal astilla.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

Like many in the isla bonita, Felipe’s dad had a fondness for baseball. He participated in the amateur baseball league of the Dominican Republic. 

He played for Rice High School in New York City. Guess who else came out of New York high schools.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

No other than NBA stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) and Dean Meminger, who at the time was also considered top prospects. 

He played college basketball for St. John’s Red Storm.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

This team is proudly New Yorker and hails from St. John’s University in Queens. The team plays in the Big East Conference and has one of the biggest followings in the NCAA. What a way to start! 

López made quite a mark in his college team.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

He is one of the top four scorers (he recently went from third to fourth place) in the team’s history. Not bad for a recent migrant trying to achieve his dreams, eh! 

He was first picked by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1998 NBA Draft.

Credit: front. Digital Image. Beckett Upper Deck

He never got to play with stars like David Robinson, as he was quickly exchanged for Antonio Daniels and went to play for the Canadian team Vancouver Grizzlies. The fact that the NBA was just testing the ground in the Canadian market might have contributed to the bumpy road that Felipe had during his first steps in the league. One can only imagine what he could have accomplished with the San Antonio Spurs. 

He played 112 games for the Grizzlies.

Credit: fvi8ne1512773910. Digital image. The Sports DB

As happens with a lot of professional athletes that are traded like objects (there are serious ethical issues with this), Felipe was then sent to play with the Washington Wizards in 2000. He then became a free agent and played with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team with which he last saw action in the NBA. He signed with the Dallas Mavericks and trained with Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Clippers, but never played a game with these teams. We can see that his career was full of ups and downs, through which he kept his cool and a positive and generous attitude. 

His game in the NBA never quite reached the level of his high school and college days.

Credit: felipelopez13 / Instagram

In the NBA he averaged 5.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and one assist per game. To be honest, these are OK numbers, but nothing too impressive by superstar standards. 

He was a pioneer, though: he was the first high-school athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, sí señor.

Credit: Instagram. d10b86e6-71d7-4f85-bb60-be89cc216aeb-782×1024. Digital image. The Big Hoop. 

Can you imagine being a Latino kid in the 1990s and see this cover? The Statue of Liberty on the background and a playful yet imposing Afro-Latino dynamo being the face of basketball? There perhaps too many expectations around Felipe’s career, which he acknowledged in an interview for SI, saying he wasn’t able to“make it all come together … and make it be the story that everyone wanted it to be.”

He is generous by nature and he established The Felipe Lopez Foundation

Credit: https://www.felipelopez13.com/foundation. Digital image. 

As a teenager, Lopez saw a way out of trouble (he was too busy shooting hoops!), but he knows that not all kids have the same opportunities. Out of his church in the South Bronx, he offers a space for kids from 5 to 17 years-old to be better students and better peers. Way to go, hermano! By the way, he also works with USA Basketball to develop clinics all around the country. We think that Felipe’s Dominican-American Dream is alive and well, thank you very much.

READ: Learn How Basketball Superstar Carmelo Anthony Got Where He Is Today In 21 Steps

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