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Many bodybuilding and fitness fans know India Paulino as the IFBB Pro Bikini competitor who has stood on the biggest stages under the brightest lights. However, she didn’t see herself as a physique competitor when she was growing up. She wanted to be a part of the Armed Forces.
“I always had this thing for the military,” Paulino said. “I almost enlisted in the Marines twice, but my mom freaked out. She was scared. So, I ended up not doing that.”
India Paulino would become a police officer, serving in the state of Florida as a road officer. She patrolled the roads on the midnight shift, which she said she loved doing. Whether it was traffic stops, domestic violence, alarm calls, or anything in between, the overall mission was clear — keep the streets safe. While it was a different role than the one that she would’ve played in the military, Paulino determined that serving as a cop scratched her itch of playing a positive role in the defense of her area and country.
“You do get to help a lot of people,” Paulino explained. It turned out that this career path was actually a family tradition, following in the footsteps of her paternal grandmother.
“She was in the military in the Dominican Republic,” Paulino explained. She also disclosed that she would support her 4-year-old son, should he decide to be in law enforcement himself when he grows up.
“I would obviously support him, but it’s scary,” she says. “Especially now that things have changed a lot. I don’t know where it’s headed.”
Aside from her usual patrolling duties, India Paulino, was on the crime suppression team — a proactive unit that handled drug crimes. She was also training to be on the SWAT team. Paulino described herself as super thin, and she found resistance training to help her be at her best for when duty called.
“Weight training helped me put on weight and gain strength, which was very important as a LEO.”
Even though she was in that career for eight years, she still contemplates whether there was more for her to do in that field.
“There were times I wanted to do more, but I couldn’t. I had to pass the person onto the next professional to do their job. So, whether it was removing a person from a bad situation and take them to a therapist, or unfortunately, jail, that was it. We did our part, but there are people that I still think about, and I wonder how they’re doing.”
There is one thing that she knows she did, and that was prove all of her doubters wrong. Her passion was met with a lot of negative resistance. Paulino accepted that as a challenge and rose to the occasion.
“I came out No. 1 in my police academy class,” she said proudly. “I knew I was being judged. I was all super feminine, and came in dressed ‘girly’ or whatever, but when it came time to do what I needed to do, I did it. And I was competing with the boys, not just the girls.”
After she hung up her badge, Paulino committed more to her training. Sports and athletics were a big part of her childhood going back to her days of dancing at the age of 3. She was also a cheerleader in her youth.
“I cheered in middle and high school,” Paulino revealed. “After I finished school, I got into running and ran for long distance – I still do.”
She also began competing in physique competitions. Throughout the 2010s, Paulino was one of the most active and successful Bikini competitors in the IFBB Pro League. She would rack up 15 professional wins, including three victories at the Arnold Classic’s Bikini International. As she did with her LEO career, Paulino would rise to the occasion when the pressure was on.
“I credit my mindset and my mentality from my law enforcement career helped,” Paulino said. That mindset helped her make it to the Bikini Olympia seven times in her pro career. She would finish in the top six on six different occasions. She described the feeling of standing on the biggest stage with the best in the world as magical.
“Even me thinking about it now gives me chills. I feel it,” Paulino said. After some time away from the sport to raise her son and support her husband, fitness model and BPI Sports executive Whitney Reid, she started training in CrossFit and competing in the Tactical Games, a competition that tests the abilities and skills of tactical athletes from all backgrounds. This helped her stay active in fitness as well as provided her an opportunity to build upon the skills she learned in her previous career. While she is still active in that sport, Paulino is planning a return to the stage in 2022. Having Whitney’s support behind her is a big asset as she plans her return to the stage.
“I’m so fortunate to have someone whose so supportive,” she explained about her husband. “That’s a big part of it. Having a spouse or partner that supports you does so much more, and it’s not easy. He’s familiar with it because he knows the industry.”
As of now, India Paulino doesn’t know which contest she will enter, but the main goal is an obvious one – return to the Olympia stage.
“I love adrenaline. I love working toward things,” the IFBB Pro said. “I’m excited for so many reasons. I love training now more than I ever have. I can’t wait to be back onstage.”
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