Tracie Johns hadn’t worn a bikini in years.
It had been 20, at least. Years before she had her daughter. Before she and her husband tried time and time again to have a second child but just couldn’t. Years before her abdomen gained a long scar, a reminder of her hysterectomy.
Since her early 20s, Johns stayed away from the revealing bathing suits, sticking with the more conservative one-piece suits or tankinis. When her family went to Myrtle Beach, she’d leave on a T-shirt. And when a camera would appear, she’d run.
Her rising weight had been a problem for years. She didn’t exercise much, spent a lot of time on the couch and ate what she wanted. She was having heart palpitations, was on multiple medications for high blood pressure and had been told by doctors that she was pre-diabetic. After her surgery she weighed at 253 pounds. Doctors said her weight was causing her to have sleep apnea.
She didn’t want to have those health problems any more. For years, she’d needed to make a change, a serious lifestyle change. And in 2013, she finally found the momentum to do it, the determination to feel better. An earlier story by the Gazette-Mail highlights Johns’ efforts to regain her health.
Two months ago, Johns slid her spray-tanned, toned body into a tiny, orange bikini in November 2015. The bedazzled suit sparkled under the show lights as she competed in her first bodybuilding, physique contest. You could hardly see the scar. Her big, bright smile distracted from it.
In every pose, as she flexed her biceps and tightened her glutes, she had that bright smile on her face. Even standing next to her giant fourth place trophy in photos, it’s her smile that fills the frame.
That smile is filling something else this month — the cover of “Woman’s Day” magazine.
For her significant weight-loss, dropping 110 pounds, Johns was selected to be featured on the cover of the February heart-health issue of “Woman’s Day” magazine. The national magazine hit stands late last week, showing Johns smiling and raising her arms to the sky. She’s between two women who also lost 100 pounds or more. Photos of the three women before their weight loss are overlayed on the cover to show their physical changes.
It’s a surreal feeling seeing your face on magazine racks, Johns said. The Scott Depot resident said that she isn’t a subscriber to the magazine, but her mother-in-law is. Between her friends, family and co-workers at Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso PLLC, she’s received tons of copies of the magazine.
“People just keep bringing them to me.”
“Woman’s Day” representatives reached out to her in early October of 2015. They found her from an online fundraising campaign she started on GoFundMe. It was to help raise money for her to participate in her first bodybuilding competition, the NPC 2015 Muscle Mafia WV State and Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix Bodybuilding, Figure, Bikini and Physique Championships.
She told the magazine about her workout routine. About how she got her start walking on her treadmill in her garage. And how she progressed significantly after gaining a personal trainer, Justin Smith of SmithFit Training in Poca, and started eating a much cleaner, healthier diet.
She told them about the bodybuilding show, which was her final goal during her two years of losing weight.
She reached her weight goal, 147 pounds, in November 2015. That same month, “Woman’s Day” flew Johns to Los Angeles for a day-long photoshoot.
“It’s like you see in the movies,” Johns said. “They have the air blowing on you. Every time you have a hair out of place or your makeup is messed up, they run over and fix you.”
She tried on three different outfits before landing on the pink top and purple bottoms she’s wearing on the cover. With all the food you can eat, makeup artists on the ready and a huge closet of activewear to choose from, Johns enjoyed her one-day celebrity treatment. She flew back from the whirlwind adventure, but had to keep the excitement to herself. The magazine required her to not share the news until the issue hit stands.
She knew the story would run in the February issue and that the weight loss section would include stories of how she and the two other women, Jessica Larche and Kirsten Helle, used walking as a way to regain physical health. But they didn’t tell her that she would make the cover.
“It was mid-December when we got an email that said, ‘You guys look beautiful on the cover,’” Johns said, smiling.
Her face reached an even higher level of excitement, that look of just giddy joy, when she said the February issue would be included in giftbags to all of the attendees of the Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards held annually by the magazine as a way to raise awareness for heart health.
Who attends the Red Dress Awards? Celebrities.
Johns said she is excited about it. She admitted that she wanted to model when she was younger. She thought a degree in fashion would be fun.
That was years ago, back in her early bikini days. Before she gained all the weight. Before she started hating herself in photos. Before her health issues popped up.
There’s no way she’d go back to her old, unhealthy habits, Johns said. She’s gained too much — more energy, greater confidence, improved physical well being.
And besides, she’s a cover girl now.
Reach Anna Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4881.