Written by Kirstyn Brown | Photography by Paul Buceta
Vanessa Tib is not your average fitness model.
Sure, she’s in amazing shape (okay, she’s ripped), with six-pack abs and a gorgeous smile, but when she’s not posing for the cameras in a sports bra and sneakers, you can find her in blue nurse’s scrubs assisting patients in a hospital in the Bronx. Vanessa became a registered nurse long before she set foot in the gym, let alone considered a career in fitness. But after the two worlds collided in 2009, she discovered she could have the best of both. Today, the 37-year-old full-time nurse is also an international fitness star with multiple magazine covers and appearances worldwide, and making a life of the two things she is most passionate about—fitness and helping others. So how does she keep it all together? Read on to find out.
SFM: When did you first start working out in a gym?
VT: In 2009 after working the graveyard shift as a nurse for over a year, I saw the need for me to start working on my own health. I was motivated to start resistance training after picking up a friend’s fitness magazine and seeing all the strong, muscular physiques of the fitness models featured within. I started training consistently 5-6 times a week and learned how to cook healthy meals. For me, training and eating healthy was done mainly to improve my health, and to become stronger and keep active. Within a few months of my new lifestyle, I made significant changes to my physique. Seeing my body evolve kept me going and motivated me to continue pushing myself.
SFM: When was your big break into the industry?
VT: After seeing all the positive changes in my physique, a friend suggested I do a professional photo-shoot with a fitness photographer. I took that friend’s suggestion and booked my first photo-shoot. My goal with booking that photoshoot was to have some nice photos of myself and to see my progress, but little did I know that the photographer was going to submit my photos to a couple of fitness magazines. Subsequently, I was chosen and published in two different magazines, with one of them featuring me on the cover. Seeing myself in those magazines made me happy, not only because I was in the magazines, but most importantly, because I was then in a position to motivate others to start training and living a healthier lifestyle, the way other fitness models motivated me when I saw their photos.
SFM: In your opinion, how has the industry changed since you got your start?
VT: Nowadays, there are definitely more people (and especially women) resistance training and interested in becoming stronger which definitely makes me happy. Back when I started training, so many women shied away from the weight room because of the misconception that having muscles would make them look too muscular or bulky. In the past, I often found myself educating people who would suggest that I stay away from the weights and instead do cardio, unless I wanted to “look like a man”. It is so great to see a confident woman, unafraid to go into a crowded weight room full of men and start lifting some heavy weights. It has been nice to see that shift and I hope it continues to grow. We need more strong, confident women in this world.
SFM: How has being in the fitness industry made you a better nurse?
VT: Every day I see a large number of people suffering from chronic diseases that could have been prevented or better managed if that person changed their lifestyle. I realize how important it is for us to stay active and live a healthier lifestyle, and I love sharing my knowledge and passion for fitness with my patients. Nursing is not just about pushing medications and performing tasks. It’s important to take the time to educate and promote wellness to our patients.
SFM: Despite being in the spotlight in fitness, do you feel you maintain a balanced lifestyle? How?
VT: Now more than ever, I find myself having a more balanced lifestyle. I remember my first year of training and eating healthy, I didn’t have a single cheat meal. I was so focused on my training that I did not want to do anything that could hinder my progress. As I get older and wiser, I realize that it is important to have that balance in life. Now, if I crave pizza or any other “cheat meal” I allow myself to enjoy it once a week or on special occasions. I find that doing this has allowed me to be happier and not feel restricted. Throughout the years in the fitness industry, I have met a lot of people who restrict themselves so much that they develop a bad relationship with food, deprive themselves, and become frustrated and fall off the wagon.
SFM: What is a piece of advice you would give someone trying to break into fitness modeling?
VT: One piece of advice I would give is to network and promote yourself. You have to get to know the industry, attend shows, talk to others in the industry, always look your best, and most importantly, always carry yourself in a professional manner. Remember that the most important aspect of being a fitness model is that you are in a position to be able to motivate and encourage others to think and start caring a little more about their health and well-being. To me, that is the real reward of being a fitness model.
Vanessa’s Top 3
Our cover model’s best advice for looking and feeling amazing.
- 1. Focus on eating habits. “You can change your body tremendously by just changing the way you eat. Learn about proper nutrition and start eating healthier.”
- 2. Exercise most days of the week. “You don’t have to lift weights to positively change your physique. Do something you enjoy, whether that be cycling, yoga, CrossFit, or bodybuilding. As long as you are enjoying what you are doing, that is all that matters.”
- 3. Learn to be your own best friend. “Don’t criticize yourself when things are not going as planned. Instead, focus on continuing to work towards achieving your goals one day at a time. Enjoy your journey and focus on becoming healthier and stronger.”