When people approach Sasha Brown about her work in the fitness industry, it’s often to compliment her on her modeling shots, or to reminisce about meeting her at one of the many expos she’s worked, but rarely about her career as a competitor. In fact, some of her fans don’t even know she competes. But for a farm girl from a small town in the Ukraine, Sasha’s got quite the history on stage. More than anything though, she has the drive and the desire to achieve her dream and become an IFBB Pro.
Sitting in the break room of the gym where she trains clients in Studio City, CA, Sasha smiled as she recalled her start in the fitness industry. “If you’d told me, Sasha, one day you’re going to be on stage competing with some of the best bodies in California, I’d have said, are you crazy? I didn’t even want to go to the beach in a bikini.”
Like many people who start out with a hope to lose weight and get fitter, Sasha never had any idea she’d be competing on the national level someday. But what started with small steps like keeping a fitness diary, and actually committing to cardio, soon turned into a passion for all things fitness.
“One morning I woke up and I looked at myself in the mirror and I saw a six pack. And I couldn’t believe it was me.” Sasha counted several times to make she what she was seeing wasn’t just a dream. When the reality of her achievement sunk in, she knew getting on stage might be more than just a pipe dream.
Sasha went to her trainer, the renowned fitness coach Kim Oddo, and told him that she was ready to compete. With Oddo’s help she entered her first competition, the San Diego Bodybuilding and Figure Championships and placed 2nd. Just one week later, she competed again and took 1st and overall at the NPC Max Muscle.
When you take first and overall at only your second show, it’s easy to think the road ahead will be smooth, but Sasha soon found out that there’s a big difference between the local and national stages. “Kim took me to a national qualifier and when I saw the level of competitors there, I got scared. It’s really a higher level, you see perfect bodies and you start comparing yourself to other people.”
But comparisons with other competitors wouldn’t be the biggest of Sasha’s problems. Even though she brought a better and better package to the stage, there was one opponent who she couldn’t defeat, no matter how hard she tried: the citizenship barrier. You see, Nationals are truly nationals, and if you’re not a US national, you can’t win your Pro Card. For Sasha, who was still a Ukranian citizen, this meant that no matter how well she did, she lost.
“I couldn’t compete because I wasn’t a citizen,” said Sasha. “At that point I was kind of ready to give up.” But Sasha’s competitive fire wouldn’t let her quit. She found out that if she won the Ukranian nationals, she could compete at the world championships for a chance to get her Pro Card.
Sasha took the thirteen hour flight to the Ukraine, determined to prove that she still had what it takes to be a champion. She won the Ukranian Championship, and with it, the right to represent Ukraine on the world stage. Things were suddenly looking up again, but just before she was ready to compete at the European Championship, Sasha suffered a neck and back injury and had to pull out.
The injury was crushing. “I actually took a break for nine months, kind of let myself go,” said Sasha, thinking back to the dark days when it seemed like her dream had died. But looking at herself in the mirror, Sasha didn’t want to backslide into a life without fitness. If she couldn’t compete without being a citizen, and it was too hard to win internationally, there was only one choice left, to become an American citizen.
Becoming an American was one of the greatest things in Sasha’s life, both because it meant she her adopted home became her official home, and because it meant she could go for her Pro Card. “As soon as I got it, I called my coach and said, I’m ready and I’m coming back.”
Kim whipped Sasha back into shape and a few short months later she was on stage at the 2011 NPC Team Universe. A top five finish after her long layoff gave Sasha the confidence that she could make a comeback.
After all her trials and tribulations, Sasha knew that her dream was within reach. There were so many points along the way where she could have given up, but her pride wouldn’t allow it. “The biggest problem is that some people don’t realize how hard it is to get to that point that you’re competing nationally,” said Sasha. “People don’t want to hear ‘I can’t eat that piece of cake, or I can’t come to your party because I have to do cardio.’ They take it personally. And it’s hard.”
But for all the personal sacrifices, Sasha wouldn’t give up her lifestyle for anything. “I love my nutrition plan, I love working out, I have a lot of support from my friends who understand what I’m doing.”
And this year, she’s determined to make that dream of being a pro a reality, as much for the fans and friends who’ve supported her as for herself. “I just want to show people that it’s possible to reach your goal. If you want to get that body, if you want to see that six pack, you can get there. It’s hard work, but you can get there.”