Hey Araliya! Thank you for doing this interview! Let’s start by getting to know a bit about you and how you first started lifting?
Hey! Thank you for choosing to interview me, I’m excited to tell you my story!
I’m 25 years old, born and raised in Queens, NYC! I’ve been lifting for about 5 years now, but only started competitive powerlifting last year. One of my close friends, Rouzeen Imaan, became a personal trainer and dragged me from the elliptical to the squat rack, and the rest is history.
How did you first get into powerlifting?
I was living in Vancouver, BC for one of my internships about 3 years ago. At the time, I was lifting just for fun. One of the trainers at my gym offered to do a free session. He asked me what my goals were and I told him I was only interested in getting stronger; I wasn’t concerned with my physique. He told me, based on my goals, I was a powerlifter. That was actually the first time I ever heard of the sport!
What’s your biggest motivation?
While I was in Vancouver, I was living away from my parents and close friends. I was in a really unhealthy relationship, I was at a job where I was unhappy with the work I was doing, and I felt alone. I started to contemplate suicide, and eventually planned it out. At this point, I was already cutting my wrists. The day I planned on attempting suicide, I went to the gym after work, what I thought would be my last gym session, and deadlifted 185lbs. That was the first time I ever deadlifted that much weight! I was ecstatic and I realized that I didn’t want to end my life at that point; I wanted to keep going and see how much weight my body was capable of lifting. Powerlifting really helped me through that rough patch in my life, and it has continued to help me today and every day.
I’m so moved by your story, and so happy that you found the sport. Tell me about the tattoo you got to represent this!
I’d been back and forth on this idea of something that represents strength, and also includes a semicolon.
A semicolon is used when an author chooses not to end a sentence; in this case you are the author and the sentence is your life. I’ve had a semicolon on my powerlifting belt for a year now, that says “L;FT”, and at first I wanted to get that tattooed on my arm where my cuts were. Instead, I decided to get an elephant with a semicolon on my thigh to represent both mental and physical strength.
"A semicolon is used when an author chooses not to end a sentence. You are the author and the sentence is your life. You are choosing to continue.” A few years ago, I was suicidal. That was when I first started cutting my wrists. I felt unwanted, and I didn't see the purpose in my life. Around this time, I already had started lifting and found it to be my escape from the real world. The day I planned out my suicide, I deadlifted 185lbs and that was the day I realized I wasn't ready to end my life. I wanted to see how much I could push my body, how strong I could become. After that day, I was dedicated to my sport and ready to see how far I could go. So in a way, powerlifting truly saved my life; I probably wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for this incredible sport. The semicolon represents continuing on and the elephant represents how strong I've become, both mentally and physically. Just a reminder to those out there who have gone through something like this or who are currently going through this: you are not alone and it will get better ❤❤ Thank you @maggiechotattoo for your incredible artwork! . . @girlswhopowerlift @projsemicolon #elephant #elephanttattoo #powerlifter #powerlifting #girlswhopowerlift #semicolon #semicolonproject #semicolontattoo #tattoo #inked #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthrecovery #thightattoo #selflove #youareenough
My legs have always been the strongest part of my body, and I’ve always loved how strong and graceful elephants are.
What are your current numbers?
It’s pretty cool to say I was at 185lb deadlift 3 years ago, and now I’m at 300lbs, with a 225lb squat and 110lb bench. I have a mock meet next weekend so those numbers may change!
Woah, that’s awesome! Aside from just getting super strong, what would you say your favorite thing about powerlifting is?
Definitely the community. I’ve met so many amazing powerlifters, including Jeff Barreto who pushed me to sign up for my first meet and Todd Whelan for coaching me over the past year. And of course all the other female powerlifters I’ve met at these meets! It’s amazing to watch other females also be empowered by the sport.
I totally agree, it’s my favorite part of being a coach.
What’s a personal goal of yours not related to lifting?
I’m currently an MPH Student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, so I hope to finish my degree by 2018. I also LOVE to travel; I took my first solo trip to Peru last year and I definitely want to do another solo trip before 2017 ends.
Thank you so much for sharing your story! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I hope other women out there fall in love with powerlifting as much as I have. Powerlifting truly saved my life, and I hope it helps other people who have also suffered with mental illness.
For those out there who have gone or are going through a mental illness, you are not alone and there are so many people out there, including myself, who truly care about you.