By Andrew Carruthers, Editor-In-Chief. Photography by Sean Levitt @sean.levitt.photographer
In 2016 we received an entry into the USN Face of Fitness Magazine competition from what looked to be a very shy, young girl who was ready to embark on her journey into Fitness. 4 years later, overcoming her fear for weight training she has evolved into one of the most beautiful girls currently gracing the IFBB Elite Pro circuit. What started out as a personal goal to build a bit of muscle has become a Pro card, multiple Bikini Championship wins and one of the most photogenic and beautiful women we’ve seen come out of Sean Levitt’s camera.
Full Name: Shelby Jessica Neves.
Lives: Pretoria, South Africa.
Trains: Planet Fitness Olympus.
Competing for: 4 years.
Training for: 4 years.
Competition weight: Depends, between 53 – 55kg.
Most Notable Achievements:
Winning the USN Face of Fitness 2016 and winning the Overall SA Bikini Fitness Championships. Receiving my IFBB Elite Pro Status/Card Winning 2 x Arnold Classic Africa titles (1 x Amateur; 1 x Pro lineup). Top 4 at IFBB Elite Pro World Championships.
We haven’t seen you for a while, what have you been up to?
I’ve been prepping for my next competition, working and studying.
What made you get into the whole competing thing?
I always admired it (even though back then I never thought I was capable). My main goal was to build muscle and so when that started happening I started feeling more confident to give it a try.
How do you feel you’ve improved over the past few years?
I have made improvements and progress since I started. I have grown overall both physically and mentally.
What do you think is the main reason behind why you’ve improved so much?
Most certainly having the correct guidance, which comes from my coach Tarryn Zelow. A determined mindset, dedication & perseverance are key too.
What was it like winning the USN Face of Fitness competition?
It was truly amazing. 100% one of the most positively overwhelming feelings I’ve experienced.
(Side note on Shelby’s 2016 USN Face of Fitness win). When we received Shelby’s entry into the competition that year, she was almost disqualified because she hadn’t submitted the correct amount of photographs that were required by the application form. With over 300 entries that year the selection process was beyond demanding and exhausting. Shelby’s application also got pushed to the side for reasons I have mentioned above. I also thought at that time that her application wasn’t real and that someone out there was sending in a “fake application”. But the pics she did submit were so good that I decided to contact her and ask her to re-apply to the competition. The re-application was submitted in time and the rest is history.
Tell us a few things about your training and how it has evolved over the years.
Since I started training with Tarryn, my training programs always consist of 6 weight sessions per week, sometimes more. I have tried different styles/methods which has made me a lot more familiar with variations. I’m not afraid of weights like I used to be.
What are some of the hardest lessons you’ve had to learn in this game?
One of the hardest lessons I would say, is that the power of one’s mind is crazy. If you are not in control of that, your mind can play games on you which can leave you experiencing a range of different negative emotions/feelings.
Where does the future lie? What are your future goals and aspirations both short term and long term?
Short term goals: bring my best package yet to the Arnold Classic Africa (May 2020) & to be ready before the time, which is always a goal for me.
Long term goals: qualify for the annual IFBB Elite Pro World Championships & place in the top 3. Keep a maintainable shape/condition at all times.
What motivates you?
The drive to be better than I was before. My own self-pressure motivates me too.
Who has inspired you throughout your competitive career and why?
My coach, Tarryn. There are a few female athletes, and male in actual fact that inspire me as well.
Tell us a few bad habits you have?
Sometimes I pick on foods in my off-season & then I struggle to stop (I’m working on it though & getting better).
What’s your favourite cheat meal?
At the moment Sushi (prawn avalanche to be exact).
Run us through a typical day in your life.
I wake up around 07h00. I start by going to the gym first thing in the morning for fasted cardio, so I’ll have to be up earlier than normal. I prep a few meals for the day, sit down and work/study etc. Every second day I do grocery shopping. I do all my weight training around the middle of the day. Then I work/study in the afternoons into the evenings. Sometimes I watch a good series before bed, if I have time.
What’s the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to you in the gym?
A guy told me he’s noticed me training in the gym and wanted to know why I train my shoulders.
What’s your favourite body part to train?
What’s your least favourite muscle group to train?
For some reason at the moment it would be quads.
What’s your favourite thing to do outside the gym?
I love researching and learning.
Famous last words?
Same as always – “Never give up on the things that make you smile.”
For more on Shelby, check her out on Instagram: @shelbyjneves_ifbb_elitepro