Hans- July 2003
Photography by Gene X Hwang
22 year-old bodybuilding prodigy Kristy Hawkins hit a most-muscular onstage
at the NPC Junior Nationals in Chicago, you'd probably assume that she
was a jock when she was at high school. In fact, nothing could be further
from the truth. As a teenager, Kristy was an unathletic grade A student
with a passion for science. "I'm secretly a huge nerd," she
says with a laugh in her soft-spoken voice.
It's the morning after
the pre-judging at the Junior Nationals. Kristy is sitting in the lobby
of the Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel, trying her best to relax before the
finals in the evening. Tanned golden brown, she is wearing typical pre-contest
attire: a t-shirt with the words "Go Hard or Go Home" emblazoned
on it, baggy sweat pants and flip-flops.
Kristy was one of
a new generation of twenty-something female bodybuilders to emerge from
the Junior Nationals. Onstage the previous night at 5-foot-3 and 130 pounds,
she looked fantastic, with incredible mass and thickness for her age and
a striated chest, ripped quads and killer calves.
most people in the audience in Chicago didn't know, however, is that alongside
competing as a national-level bodybuilder at the tender age of 22, Kristy
is a chemical engineering whizz who graduated (summa cum laude and with
honors) from Texas A&M University last year and is about to go Cal
Tech University to begin a PhD.
On campus at Texas
A&M in College Station most of the students have never seen anything
like Kristy. "I get a lot of stares," she laughs. "Most
of the time I don't even notice, and my friends are like, 'Those guys
over there are staring at you.'" Of course, most of them have no
idea about bodybuilding. "Everyone's supportive," she says.
"But you get a lot of questions. I have had some negative comments,
but not enough to worry me."
Kristy Hawkins was
born in Longview, Texas, where as a child she struggled with her weight
and suffered from eating disorders at a young age. "I just didn't
eat right and I didn't exercise," she says. When she was in middle
school she went to the gym with her mother, a teacher. But unlike her
mother, who did aerobics, Kristy started lifting weights. She loved it,
and by the time she was old enough to drive and pay for her own gym membership,
she was pumping iron every night after school and eating six meals a day.
But even though she
was eating and training like a bodybuilder from the time she was in high
school, Kristy loved it because of the way it made her feel, not the way
it made her look. "I wasn't aspiring to be a bodybuilder when I started
out by any means," she says. "I didn't really know what it was
about or what I was getting myself into at all. I had no idea I would
take it this far. I just loved being in the weight room and the way it
made me feel. It was empowering."
Kristy's senior year in high school friends from the gym persuaded her
to do a couple of local bodybuilding shows, and she has competed every
year since then. Last year, Kristy began competing in the NPC, winning
the lightweight class at the NPC Michigan at the first attempt. This year,
Kristy came back bigger and harder, winning the middleweights at the NPC
Ronnie Coleman in Texas, the middleweight and overall at the NPC Pittsburgh,
the heavyweight and overall at the NPC Lone Star, before competing in
the Junior Nationals in her best condition yet at 130 pounds. "This
year has really been a good year for me," she says. "Before
it was just a hobby. But this past year I was like, 'I really want to
take this as far as I can.' I'm really pleased with the size I've put
on this year."
Since completing her
BS last December, Kristy has spent six months doing research into materials
synthesis at Texas A&M before starting grad school. She was accepted
at a number of top-ranked universities with full tuition and a stipend,
including MIT, and finally decided on Cal Tech. "The faculty that's
there is excellent, and it's more of a sense of community, whereas MIT
is more of a business. And who wouldn't want to live in California?"
One thing Kristy is
looking forward to about living in California is being a little more anonymous
than she has been the last five years in Texas. In the weight room at
College Station she trains in sweats even in summer to avoid stares and
comments. But on a recent visit to the Cal Tech campus in Pasadena, she
was surprised to discover that being muscular is no big deal in southern
California. "I was about six weeks out and so I was pretty lean and
vascular and everything, and no-one looked twice," she says.
Kristy ended up placing
fourth in the middleweight class at Junior Nationals, an impressive placing
for her first national-level show. After competing four times this year,
she now plans to take some time off to make some improvements to her physique.
"I brought my back and my delts up a lot this year," she says.
"I want to get my legs bigger, and abs that's my weakest bodypart."
near the top of her weight class, Kristy says she is likely to step up
to heavyweights, if not this year then the year after. Her goal is to
get to Nationals, and then to see where it takes her. "I would like
to compete at the Nationals - to compete for a pro card, whether or not
I get it," she says.
After completing her
doctorate, Kristy hopes to do research for a pharmaceutical company or
perhaps even a supplement company. Kristy admits that combining competitive
bodybuilding with her academic career can be tough especially in
the last six months while she's been on an almost permanent contest diet.
But she says her work in chemical engineering also helps her in bodybuilding,
especially when it comes to diet and supplementation. "When I read
about supplements I can understand how something works," she says.
"I still rely a lot on other people, but you want to be educated
about it. You don't want to blindly follow advice."
In any case, Kristy
says, one of the things she loves about bodybuilding is that it's not
easy. "People always ask me why I do it," she says. "It's
because not everyone can do it. It's the challenge. It's pushing yourself.
You don't get a break. And for me it's been 26 weeks!"
Hawkins' E-mail address is
(Please be aware that Kristy is very busy and may not be
able to respond to your e-mai!l)
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