As a young child, her parents encouraged her to take part in activities like swimming, gymnastics, and ballet as a way to overcome her shyness. As a teen on Puerto Rico’s national inline skating team, she had a chance to train, travel, and escape a stressful home life, where both of her parents had been diagnoes with bipolar disorder. 

In her 20s, De Iturrondo moved to Miami to pursue a career as a model. But after only two weeks, she received a call that her younger brother had been critically injured in a motorcycle accident. She rushed back to Puerto Rico to spend time with family, but her brother passed away a week later. She’d already faced the deaths of her father from cancer, her brother-in-law from a car accident, and a cousin. “When my brother died, everything hit me hard. I disappeared into a black hole, and I simply couldn’t function.”

Once again, fitness came to her resuce. “I remember crying in bed one day when a fitness commericial came on. I pointed to the TV and thought, ‘I remember how working out used to make me feel,'” says De Iturrondo. “I wanted to get some of that confidence back and stop feeling sorry for myself.”

De Iturrondo started going to the gym on a regular basis with her husband, photographer Daniel Figueroa Giilliani. Her changes quickly became noticeable both inside and out. Her husband ecouraged her to sign up for an NPC bikini competition, in which she placed second in her division. “I got hooked!”

Training and performing onstage was a way of making her childhood dreams come true. “I always used to imagine I’d be a balllerina or an Olympic athlete,” she says.

Like many bikini athletes, De Iturrondo has developed a strong social media following, with more than 408,000 on Instagram and a growing number of Snapchat users who tune in to see frequent videos. “I’m so inspired by the feedback I get everyday,” she says. 

Although she’s battling a few injuries, De Iturrondo keeps up her gym routine. “I always keep my downtime to a minimum between sets,” she says. 

While her workouts are full-body, she pays special attention to her famous backside. “I have a Latina booty!” she says, laughing. “I have to work to keep it under control, so I target it every other day.”

Out of the gym, you’ll often find De Iturrondo hiking, rappelling, rock climbing, and otherwise enjoying an outdoor active lifestyle. She also dreams of opening a training facility of her own, one that encourages all levels of exercisers. “I don’t want just another hardcore gym — I want to create a place where people can go to feel better about themselves,” she says. “I’ve seen how emotional issues can affect people, and how fitness can help them feel better.”