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If you’ve ever been mocked for your appearance, know this: You can have the last laugh. Just ask Priscilla Aqilla. Back in high school, Aqilla was a little heavy—especially below the waist. And her classmates noticed.
“I was always picked on for my big lower body, my big legs,” recalls Aqilla. “It was really heartbreaking for me.”
But with the aid of weight training, which she discovered while playing volleyball in high school, Aqilla slowly transformed her physique into the envy-inducing body you see here. Now her muscular legs are a point of pride, and she’s competing in fitness bikini shows, booking modeling gigs, and piling up the followers on social media. Here’s what else the 23-year-old stunner told us about her unlikely foray into fitness, her love for glute training, and her favorite cheat meal.
So how did you go from pudgy high school volley ball player to the toned woman we see now?
When I started lifting weights, I realized that I didn’t have to shrink my lower body, I could build it. With diet and training, my body started changing and my legs became more defined. I started losing a lot of fat around that area, and I started seeing strong legs, really defined quads, and I loved it. I was like, “You know what? This might not be bad after all, having big legs.”
They were a blessing in disguise.
Right. A lot of girls now, they look at my lower body and they’re like, “Oh my God, how did you get quads or a butt like that?” I’m like, “It’s a mix of genetics and being in a fitness lifestyle.”
You turned an insecurity into a strength.
Yeah. I have a younger sister who has the same issue. I tell her every day, “Look, you do not have to be ashamed to have a nice lower body. This is something that a lot of girls nowadays want and pay for. You’re blessed. You need to learn to love yourself.”
Your father is a former United Nations interpreter from Brazil, and your mother is from Portugal by way of Sri Lanka. So how many languages do you speak?
Basically, four—English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Tamil.
What is your training like these days?
I train six times a week. I split it between upper-body and lower-body days. At the end of every workout, I do 30 to 45 minutes of cardio.
What’s your diet like?
Right now I’m prepping for a bikini show, so my nutrition consists of 50% protein, 20% carbs, and 30% fat. I get one cheat meal on the weekends to help maintain my energy and metabolism levels.
Do you have a favorite cheat meal?
Kenny’s Burger Joint has the best burgers in Dallas. I get a Juicy Lucy—a big old cheeseburger with fries and a cookies-and-cream shake.
What’s your No. 1 training tip?
It’s not about how much you can lift or how many reps you can do. It’s about form and that mind-muscle connection. Focus on time under tension and the tempo of the exercise. For example, with Bulgarian split squats, I go down for four seconds, I come up in one second, and I don’t hold on either end.
Got a favorite exercise?
I like different kickbacks: cable kickbacks, kickbacks on the Smith machine, kickbacks with dumbbells. They hit different parts of your glute muscle, so that’s my glute-training secret. Also, hip thrusts. I love going heavy on hip thrusts. I can really feel the burn.
We couldn’t help but notice the tattoo on your chest. What’s the story behind that?
I got it two years ago. It’s a mixture of a mandala design and a little Amazonian tribal design. To me it represents femininity and growth.
How do you feel about guys hitting on you when you’re at the gym?
I don’t have that issue, because when I’m training, I have a mean, intimidating face. Plus, I usually go to the gym with my boyfriend, and he’s always on the lookout.