Was it really only eight years ago? During that time, Janet Layug has done pretty much anything a professional bikini sport can do.
Since winning the FLEX Bikini Model Search in 2013, she has accumulated enough hardware to fill a small room – Top 10 finishes in all 16 IFBB Pro shows she has participated in, including wins at the Arnold Classic Australia (2015) , Arnold Classic in Columbus (2019), and of course her crowning success as bikini Olympic champion 2020.
And now … she's really leaving the stage. Layug announced earlier this year that she won't be defending her Olympic title next month. But she doesn't leave the arena. The 32-year-old from Lakeland, Florida, will continue to devote himself to the sport, only in a different capacity.
"I feel like I have so much ahead of me," says Layug. “My personality is the type who accepts something and pulls it through to the end. And then after I hit a goal it's like, 'Okay, I want to do something different. What more can I do? ’This is how I feel now. I always stay hungry. "
In this exclusive interview with M&F, Layug talks about why she decided to retire from competition, what her future opportunities in the fitness sector could look like and the possibility of a future comeback on the Olympic stage.
What were the main reasons why you decided not to run in 2021?
For a long time I said to myself: Oh, this will be my last year. The three times second place at the Olympics is of course a real motivation to keep going, because you are exactly right. Last year I finally got the title after competing for many years … seven years of the Olympics. My biggest goal was of course to win the Olympic title. And I'm at the point in my career where I've evolved, I've been able to achieve all of these things and it really makes me feel fulfilled.
I love competitions, but there are so many opportunities in the fitness industry. Working with other women is very important to me, as is the focus on being able to inspire the new generation beyond the competition.
If you say you want to pursue other options, would your own show be one of them?
Yes. To be able to give back and have my own show, be part of other people's journeys and also connect with other companies in the industry – there are so many other business opportunities and other ways to connect with fans and followers to kick and interact. There is so much more to it than just performing and competing.
Are there specific business opportunities that you can discuss at this point?
There are some things in the works, but I'm currently keeping this at the low level. I definitely do a lot of the NPC side of the industry, doing seminars, and teaching and guiding these athletes to do the best they can and inspire them in every possible way. This is really the big thing I'm doing now.
You mentioned new audiences. In your opinion, which target group needs to be better served? Is there a certain demographics you have in mind?
I've always been a huge supporter of women. I want to do everything I can to give back and to help other women build their self-confidence, show them that women can do everything and that we are bigger and better than just the cliché that sometimes clings to us. But I also have a 12 year old daughter so I do projects that I can do more with her. With the younger generation, they see a lot on social media, they are getting information faster and faster and many of them want to compete too. It starts with this younger generation being a mentor and someone to look up to.
Speaking of social media, it gets overwhelming with all the fitness "influencers" – some legitimate, some not so much. What kind of presence are you trying to have on your social platforms?
Often, people get carried away on social media and it sends the wrong message, especially to the younger generation. I think it's so important to stay authentic through your social media and what you want to show the world and the information you want to convey to your audience. You never know who is watching. There are people all over the world who take everything you post very seriously. I always want to make sure that I post what I believe to be accurate information and what I believe to be authentic, and not to try to be something I am not. I think that is very important.
How much did the family, especially your daughter, contribute to your decision to withdraw from the competition?
She saw me from the start and saw how I achieved so much that I want her to reach me even more than just compete. I want her to learn that it's not like athletes in other sports. You can play in the NFL or WNBA or whatever, but does your career end when you're not really in the game or on the ground? it does not. It goes beyond that. What you learn from competing on stage – this process and journey, self-discipline, relentless and determined – you can apply to other aspects of your life.
Your professions over the past 10 years have been well known: a professional bikini competitor, fitness model, nurse, online coaching through JanetLayugFitness.com, and of course, you were pre-competition servers at Hooters. Can the various skills you have learned in these professions help you further?
Oh my god absolutely. Especially at Hooters. People think, oh, it's just a waiter job, but it's more than that. When you work in the restaurant business, you learn people, you learn social skills, you learn how to prioritize, you learn customer service. And also to win that
(Hooters International Swimsuit) Pageant showed me that I was inspiring other women to take up opportunities other than just working in restaurants. It's bigger than that. You're learning all kinds of organizational skills that carry over to everything else I do. And of course there are so many skills in nursing, but they all overlap. matter what job you do, you can apply these skills to any aspect of your life. It doesn't limit you to this job. Every job has a bigger purpose than you really think.
What will your workout look like in the gym if you don't compete? Are you going to withdraw a little or keep working hard?
Of course, when you train for a show there is a very strict program and it goes a little further than the average person who trains in the gym. But for me, I've been doing it for so long, it is instilled into me every time I do a workout. I always give everything and give the intensity. For me, I've always loved fitness and training. It's a part of me so I'll always train.
Would you ever come out of retirement and start again?
Well, I didn't say I would retire. I just said I was leaving the stage and stepping back from competitions this year. The word “retirement” feels like removing yourself completely from the industry. I don't like that word very much.
So could we see you on the Olympic stage again one day?
You never know. I just say that. Everyone likes a comeback, right?