Many bodybuilding and fitness fans know India Paulino as the IFBB Pro Bikini competitor who has shone brightest on the biggest stages. Growing up, however, she didn't see herself as a competitor. She wanted to be part of the armed forces.
"I always had this thing for the military," Paulino said. "I almost enlisted in the Marines twice, but my mom freaked out. She was afraid. So in the end I didn't do that.”
India Paulino would become a police officer and serve as a street cop in the state of Florida. She patrolled the streets the midnight shift, which she said she loved very much. Whether it was traffic stops, domestic violence, alarm calls, or anything in between, the overriding mission was clear - to keep the streets safe. Although it was a different role than what she would have played in the military, Paulino found that serving as a police officer scratched her itch to play a positive role in defending her territory and her country.
Courtesy of India Paulino
"You can help a lot of people," explained Paulino. Turns out, this career path was actually a family tradition, following in her paternal grandmother's footsteps.
"She was in the military in the Dominican Republic," Paulino explained. She also revealed that she would support her 4-year-old son should he decide to work in law enforcement himself when he grows up.
"I would support him, of course, but it's scary," she says. “Especially now that a lot has changed. I don't know where it's going."
Aside from her usual patrol duties, India Paulino was a member of the Crime Suppression Team - a proactive unit that dealt with drug-related crime. She also trained to be on the SWAT team. Paulino described herself as super skinny, and she found resistance training to help her be at her best when duty called.
"Strength training has helped me gain weight and gain strength, which was very important as a LEO."
Although she has been in this career for eight years, she still contemplates if she could do more in this area.
"There were times when I wanted to do more, but I couldn't. I had to hand the person over to the next professional to get their job done. So whether it was taking a person out of a bad situation and taking them to a therapist or sadly to jail, that was it. We've done our part, but there are people I'm still thinking about and I wonder how they're doing."
There's one thing she knows she did, and that was to prove all her doubters wrong. Her passion met a lot of negative resistance. Paulino accepted this as a challenge and rose to the challenge.
"I finished . 1 in my class at the police academy," she said proudly. "I knew I was being convicted. I was totally feminine and walked in dressed "girly" or something, but when it came time to do what I had to do, I did. And I competed with the boys, not just the girls."
After hanging up her badge, Paulino became more involved in her education. Sports and athletics were a big part of her childhood dating back to her dancing days at the age of 3. She was also a cheerleader in her youth.
"I cheered in middle and high school," Paulino revealed. "After I finished school I started running and ran long distances - I still do."
Courtesy of India Paulino
She also began competing in physique competitions. In the 2010s, Paulino was one of the most active and successful bikini competitors in the IFBB Pro League. She would have 15 professional wins, including three wins at Arnold Classic's Bikini International. As with her LEO career, Paulino would face the situations where the pressure was high.
"I consider my mindset and mentality from my law enforcement career to be helpful," Paulino said. That mindset helped her make it to the Bikini Olympia seven times in her pro career. She would finish in the top six on six separate occasions. She described the feeling of being on the biggest stage with the best in the world as magical.
"Even thinking about it now gives me chills. I feel it," Paulino said. After a period of time away from sports to raise her son and to support her husband, fitness model and BPI Sports executive Whitney Reid, she began training in CrossFit and competed in the Tactical Games, a competition that tests skills and... Skills of all tactical athletes tests backgrounds. This helped her stay active in the fitness field and gave her an opportunity to build on the skills she had learned in her earlier career. While still active in the sport, Paulino plans to return to the stage in 2022. Having Whitney's support behind her is a huge asset as she plans her return to the stage.
"I'm so lucky to have someone who is so supportive," she said of her husband. "That's a big part of it. Having a spouse or partner who supports you does so much more, and it's not easy. He knows about it because he knows the industry.”
Until now, India Paulino does not know which competition she will participate in, but the main goal is clear - to return to the Olympic stage.
"I love adrenaline. I love working towards things," said the IFBB pro. "I'm happy for so many reasons. I love training now more than ever. I can't wait to get back on stage.”
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