Mariséla Taylor grew up as an only child in a single parent home. She lived with her mother, and while she had a relationship with a man that she thought was her father, that connection was never confirmed. She called her grandfather the man that acted as her father during that time.

She described her younger self as a “tom boy,”

“I grew up around a lot of my cousins, and most of them were males. So, I grew up playing sports and was roughhousing with the boys,” said Taylor. Growing up in Fort Bragg, NC, her favorite sport was basketball, and she played through middle school and high school. It wasn’t long after high school that she would join the United States Army. For her, committing to service was as much for family as it was for country.

Mariséla Taylor family standing on the front porch
Mariséla Taylor

“I went into the military because I got pregnant my senior year, and I had my first daughter,” she recalled. “I still wanted to go to school, but I needed something with stability. At the time, I thought the military was my best option.”

Mariséla Taylor wasn’t a stranger to the concept of military life because her mother served in the U.S. Marines. Mariséla joined the Army, but she was concerned about the athletic and physical requirements that came with the job. However, she found out that she could handle more than she initially thought. Taylor excelled in every physical test, challenge, and commitment she faced. Even though she excelled, she feels her greatest achievement in the military was her role as a Master Fitness Trainer.

“I was able to help other soldiers. I was able to help them lose that weight and be prepared for what they need to do. Even now, I can see them still making progress and doing things they love.

It was also during her time in service that she discovered bodybuilding, thanks to her Sargeant.

“He had started talking about bodybuilding and I was like ‘what was that?’ At the time he brought that up, I had just met my husband.”

She and her husband both trained, and her husband had entered shows before they got married, but the competitive side of it wasn’t appealing to her at first. After initial reluctance, Taylor eventually opted to explore the possibility of training and competing.

“We went to the gym one day, and I fell in love. The next day, I got a coach,” she said. Even though she was already excelling athletically, the acknowledgement of her improvements and the thought of winning onstage was what drew Mariséla Taylor to compete.

“I wanted to see the rewards after (the training).”

She would see those rewards come early on. After being stationed in Hawaii, Taylor entered her first contest, the 2017 NPC Aloha Muscle Championships, and she won the Bikini Class A championship. In

2018, she won her second straight show, the Shawn Ray Hawaiian Classic. That same year, her husband, Brian Taylor, turned pro in Men’s Physique.

It was also around this time that she decided to determine once and for all who her father was. There was a man in her life that was believed to be her father, but a DNA test concluded that he wasn’t.

“I didn’t feel bad about it because he did give me effort when he didn’t have to. So, it is what it is.”

Mariséla Taylor focused on her deployment, training, and by this time raising her three kids alongside her husband. That was until one day she received a package that included a genealogy test. She submitted the test and found out she was of Mexican and African-American descent.

Even though she was serving on deployment and occupied with other aspects of life, she was determined to get her answer. Then one day while waiting for physical training to begin, she was contacted by someone who provided a name for her to consider. After years of uncertainty, a DNA test concluded that she finally knew her father was, and she went to California to meet him for the first time.

“I went there in March 2020 to meet him, and I found out that I had two sisters and one brother,” she said proudly. It was pretty nice.”

Mariséla Taylor in uniform
Mariséla Taylor

Now that she knew more about who she was, Taylor moved on with both her military career and her competitive ambitions. After seeing Brian turn pro, she wanted to do the same. Her first pro qualifier was the 2019 Junior Nationals, where she placed 10th. The closest she got that year was at NPC Nationals, where she placed third. Being that close gave her more drive to earn IFBB Pro League status. However, she hit a roadblock at the 2020 North Americans, where she failed to place in the top 15. This led her to making changes in how she approached competing.

“I decided that I wanted to take the rest of that year off, and I wanted to get a new coach. I just wanted a different approach.”

That approach put her back in the right direction. Taylor won the 2021 NPC Battle of Texas, and she finished sixth at Nationals. Not what she wanted, but it beat 16th place. In 2022, Taylor went all in on competing at multiple national qualifiers so she could get experience, learn more, and hopefully apply it to get that pro card she longed for. That journey came to a dead stop at the 2022 North Americans because she won the show and the pro card in her first attempt that year. She feels that the way it played out, winning the overall at the show that she failed to place in two years prior was symbolic and fitting.

“Just like in the military, some can get fast-tracked to E7, then they get stuck. I think some athletes are the same way. They get to the pros quickly, then their lack of muscle maturity leads them to getting stuck. My journey led me to keep going and growing, and I think that was better overall for me.”

Taylor is no longer active in the military, but she already has three pro shows under her belt, and had placed in the first callout in two of them. While she was pleased to be competitive, her goal now is clear. She wants a win, and she wants to go to the biggest show of them all.

“The ideal is to do as many shows as my body will let me while staying healthy. My goal is to qualify for the Olympia.”

You can follow Mariséla Taylor journey by following @madisaylaa on Instagram.