For nearly 20 years IFBB figure pro Marie Allegro has made it her mission to help the next-gen fitness athletes make a mark when they strut the stage, and recently she’s made it part of her profession, with the creation of Stage Ready by Marie, her program that instructs and guides new competitors learn the ins and outs of everything from how to hit the front double biceps to how to apply the proper tanning lotions.
“I've always done this, and fitness has always been in the background,” says Allegro, who finished second at this year’s IFBB Karina Nascimento Pro Show. “I just never really slapped my name or slapped a label, everyone just knew me as Marie. Then last year, one of my clients said to me, ‘Marie, you need to brand yourself—get paid.’ I was like, yeah, I need to be recognized.”
Her website says it all: “Whether you need a tan, posing guidance, stage presence, or mental preparation...Marie provides a one-stop shop for all of your competition needs.” With anywhere from 10 to 25 clients at each session in her downtown studio, she can’t do it alone and is often helped by a bevy of IFBB pros such as 2017 NPC Universe Classic Physique winner Charles Donaldson, and Roxanne Edwards and Elizabeth Maurice help perfect everything from the walk, the strut, the pose, and the attitude to up-and-coming bodybuilders.
Brooklyn native Ulysses Montague was one of Stage Ready’s first clients, getting ready to make his debut in the Classic Physique Division A–165 at this weekend’s Brooklyn Grand Prix. Montague had himself adequately prepared in the gym and the kitchen, but when it came to putting together the total package, he needed a pro’s know-how to set himself apart from the rest.
“The hardest aspect of it has been posing. Marie, Charles, and the others have helped to clarify and simplify the posing and choreography,” Montague says. “I was familiar with the five classic physique mandatory poses [front double biceps, side chest, rear double biceps, abs and thighs, and favorite classic pose] and the quarter turns. However, I did not fully understand the mechanics and breathing of the posing. Marie’s classes have helped to bring clarity and understanding of the mechanics and breathing of posing.”
Today, Montague’s eagerness to learn is perhaps the exception and not the rule, says Donaldson, who has his eyes set on next year’s New York Pro. It was always ingrained in him from Day 1 that posing was as important in success as either carb counting or supersets, yet Donaldson sees the this final polish on a competitor’s repertoire neglected. Big mistake, he says.
“Lately I noticed a lot of competitors get onstage and just wing it,” Donaldson says. “They believe having a great body is all they need. They don't realize an OK body with great stage presence can easily beat someone with no stage presence.”
For anyone looking to make their first bodybuilding or show, or needing to enhance their stage presence, Allegro offers these five tips to help elevate swagger.
1. Record Yourself
“It’s one thing to take pictures or look in the mirror, but with video you get a different visual of yourself. If you just look in the mirror, you’ll see the same thing, but with video you’ll miss something and then be like, ‘Oh, I didn't know I did that.’"
2. Study on YouTube
"It’s good to see what other people are doing or what people have done in the past,” Allegro says. “Sometimes you’ll just like to get ideas from others, like what others do, and try to put a twist on it to make it your own style. But try not to copy somebody.”
3. Contact the Judges
“More often than not, they’d be more than happy to give you some guidance. Some judges may prefer a little more muscular, some not so much. Some prefer posing a certain way and some don’t. It’s good to have an idea who’s going to be the one judging you.”
4. Hire a Coach
“You may have a boyfriend or girlfriend, a mother or father helping you backstage, and that’s fine and dandy, but have they ever done a show? Do they know what to expect? There’s a bunch of other things that go on that you’ll need someone with experience to guide you. It may also take someone else to bring out the swagger in you.”
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
Simply put, “it’s like anything else. If you don’t practice your posing, you won’t know how to position your body, know how to stand, and how to give stage presence. Remember: If you’re coming out in a group of 20 people, what’s going to make you stand out? If you don’t walk out onstage with a confidence and stage presence to draw people’s attention, you’re just gonna get looked over. Practice!”