Fil-Am wins top prize in Fit for Fashion Season 2
Patricia P. Esteves (The Philippine Star) - March 16, 2016 - 10:00am

SINGAPORE — A Filipino-American banker from New York City was crowned as the grand winner of the reality TV show Fit for Fashion Season 2.

Thirty-two year-old Jackie Zapata bested 14 contestants, including fellow Filipino Kyle Ramirez and Australian Sam Gaskin in the finals, to take home the $100,000 prize money.

Last night’s finale, which was aired on Star World, was held at Singapore’s iconic Capitol Theater during the Digital Fashion Week.

“It’s been a whirlwind. A lot has happened for the past 10 weeks that I was in the competition and I’m still processing it. I feel happy and grateful at the same time,” Jackie told The STAR.

Jackie, whose parents hail from Tarlac City, admitted that she had always focused on winning since Day 1 of the competition.

“I think one of the things that I always practice is visualization. So, a day before the finale, I was visualizing that the hosts will say my name as the grand winner. Believe it or not, I was playing it in my head. What I think I want in this competition was to make success almost like a muscle memory. I want to get used to the feeling of being triumphant,” she said.

On the final moment, when she, Kyle and Sam were standing together on the podium and host/judge Louise Roe was set to announce the winner, Jackie said she was already visualizing it’s going to be her.

“I told myself, Louie’s gonna say my name and get used to that feeling because you’ve been feeling it up until now nothing is gonna change that, and when Louise said my name, that visualization became a reality. So I have learned to make success a muscle memory,” Jackie said.

Jackie also made sure that she matched the muscle memory with hard work and determination.

Louise, in a separate interview, recalled an episode when the contestants were struggling on a boat challenge that was a test of endurance. The rest have given up but Jackie refused to budge and in her agony, she let out a loud, piercing scream that Louise could never forget.

“Jackie just let out a primal scream and I never quite heard a sound like it and I was like, whoa, this girl is on a mission, because to have that kind of energy, to scream like that, it comes from someone who’s out there to slug it out and win,” Louise said.

If Jackie came more determined to win than the rest of the contestants, it was because she wanted to prove that she could rise above her physical limits.

Coming into the show as the girl with an injury, Jackie dislocated her elbow after a cross-fit workout gone wrong. She wanted to prove to herself that her injury would not deter her from winning.

It was the very same injury that weighed her down in life in general, Jackie said. After the accident, she said she didn’t want to exercise anymore and indulged in unhealthy habits, like eating junk foods.

It was through the prodding of her boyfriend Rusty Thompson, who was a contestant in Fit for Fashion Season 1, that she decided to join the show and give it a try.

Never did she imagine that it was going to change her life. Jackie is grateful that she learned how to make her injured left arm stronger again during the competition, thanks to the fitness trainers on the show, Mitch Chilson and Christine Bullock.

“I have to thank Mitch and Christine for making my weak arm strong. One of the things that they taught me was to focus on my injured arm and see where my capabilities were and bounce it out. I had to learn how to build strength in other parts of my body that was straining because I felt I was compensating on my muscles in a certain way. And to keep a slow and steady pace from my lowest strength, I was building on my mobility. It does take time,” Jackie shared.

“I focused on training mobility, strengthening it and then halfway through the season, I wasn’t even thinking about the pain in my injured arm anymore because I’m starting to feel my strength back,” she said.

Jackie stressed that if you have injury and you are working out, it’s important to listen to your body.

“The key thing is not to hold back when you start to feel the pain or tension but to keep pushing just to take the line where you are uncomfortable, but you’re doing good,” Jackie said.

At the finale last night, she was wearing a lace see-through dress on the runway and wasn’t shocked to know that it was so sexy and revealing. She was not even coy if she looked scantily clad in the dress, in front of many viewers.

For Jackie, it’s time to flaunt the slim body she worked hard for 10 weeks.

“I did know that before the live show that I was going to wear that dress because we had a fitting and I love it. I’ve been working so hard for this new body that I want to showcase it. This entire journey was about taking risks. It says I’m gonna take a risk and find the most daring dress to show the world. That this is who I am and I embraced it. I wasn’t scared to wear it,” Jackie said.

Her journey at the show was all about taking risks, she stressed.

“It was a risk that I took because I don’t know how I will come out of the journey. It took a lot, I have to learn how to trust myself because I did not have that before, and it would be a disservice to me and the team behind me if I say it was easy,” Jackie said.

“It wasn’t easy. It was hard because at the beginning you go into it with enthusiasm. Thinking like I could do this and it’s gonna be fun. But it’s a lot of sweat, tears and a lot of soreness. They put us through a lot to break us down so we can build ourselves up again. My journey was a lot of discovery, believing in myself and looking up sore the next morning,” she said, remembering about the bruises she got from sliding, running and slipping but picking herself up, grueling challenge after grueling challenge.

Her stint on the show also made her discover a lot about herself, her tenacity and how much she can take. It wasn’t only at fitness that she had to be good but also in fashion and diet.

“For two months and a half, I was processing about the things that I discover each day or night about what I can bring on to the rest of me. It was just me discovering new strengths and weaknesses that I had to work on. It was very much up and down, but in the end, I took charge and overcome my weaknesses,” Jackie said.

One of the valuable things that she learned on the show was how to create balance.

“You have to learn what makes you feel good, what habits make you feel good. So that I will only be doing what will nourish me in the end. And of course, I could still have the late-night pizza, but in moderation. The show has taught me a lot about balancing the good, the bad, the stress and de-stressors and try to make a new pattern for myself,” Jackie said.

The show also made her realize that fitness is not just about muscles and not associated with men alone.

“For this season, it’s very much breaking the boundaries and breaking the pre-conceived notion that fitness is just muscle. Fitness is a lifestyle for men and women and anybody can achieve that. I’m glad that I put that this season,” Jackie said.

“I can say that all the male and female contestants did an amazing job and they all realized their fitness goals, whether they wanted to become thinner or stronger. This show encompasses the fitness of your health and your body and your mind. It’s not just the men who can achieve that but women, too. Women can put it all together,” she said.

Kudos, too, to Kyle who showed true grit and determination in overcoming all the difficult challenges to snag a spot on the finals.

“I might not have won the grand prize but I’m proud to say that I gave it all my best. I know that I emerged a winner as well because I have endured and persisted until the very end,” said Kyle.

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