Mariséla Taylor grew up as an only child in a single parent home. She lived with her mother and although she was in a relationship with a man she believed to be her father, this connection was never confirmed. She named her grandfather the man who acted as her father during this period.
She described her younger self as "Tom-Boy".
"I grew up with a lot of my cousins, and most of them were men. So I grew up playing sports and messing around with the boys," Taylor said. Growing up in Fort Bragg, NC, her favorite sport was basketball and she played in middle and high school. It wasn't long after high school that she would join the US Army. For her, service was as important to family as it was to country.
"I went into the military because I got pregnant in my senior year and had my first daughter," she recalls. "I still wanted to go to school, but I needed something with stability. At the time, I thought the military was my best option.”
Mariséla Taylor was no stranger to the concept of military life because her mother served in the US Marines. Mariséla joined the army but was concerned about the athletic and physical demands that came with the job. However, she found that she could handle more than she initially thought. Taylor has excelled in every physical test, challenge and obligation she has faced. Although she excelled, she believes her greatest accomplishment in the military was her role as a master fitness trainer.
“I was able to help other soldiers. I was able to help them lose that weight and prepare for what they need to do. Even now I see that they are still making progress and doing things they love.
During her tenure, she also discovered bodybuilding thanks to her sargeant.
"He had started talking about bodybuilding and I was like, 'What was that?' When he brought that up, I had just met my husband.”
She and her husband both trained, and her husband had competed in shows before they got married, but the competitive side of it didn't initially appeal to her. After initial hesitation, Taylor finally decided to explore the possibility of training and competing.
"One day we went to the gym and I fell in love. I got a coach the next day," she said. Although she had already excelled in sport, it was the recognition of her progress and the thought of winning on stage that prompted Mariséla Taylor to compete.
"I wanted to see the rewards after (training)."
She would see those rewards coming soon. After being based in Hawaii, Taylor competed in her first competition, the 2017 NPC Aloha Muscle Championships, and she won the Bikini Class A Championship. In
In 2018, she won her second consecutive show, the Shawn Ray Hawaiian Classic. That same year, her husband, Brian Taylor, turned pro in men's physique.
It was also around this time that she decided to establish once and for all who her father was. There was a man in her life who was assumed to be her father, but a DNA test revealed he wasn't.
"I didn't feel bad about it because he made an effort when he didn't have to. So it is what it is.”
Mariséla Taylor focused on her ministry, education and raising her three children with her husband. Until one day she received a package with a genealogy test. She submitted the test and found that she was of Mexican and African-American descent.
Despite being on the job and busy with other aspects of life, she was determined to get her answer. Then one day, while waiting for the physical training to begin, someone contacted her and gave her a name to consider. After years of uncertainty, a DNA test concluded she finally knew it was her father, and she headed to California to meet him for the first time.
"I went there to meet him in March 2020 and found out I had two sisters and a brother," she said proudly. It was pretty nice.”
w that she knew more about who she was, Taylor moved on to both her military career and her competitive aspirations. After seeing Brian turn pro, she wanted to do the same. Her first professional qualifier was the 2019 Junior Nationals where she finished 10th. She came closest that year at the NPC Nationals, where she placed third. Being so close gave her more drive to achieve IFBB Pro League status. However, she encountered a roadblock at the 2020 rth Americans where she failed to make the top 15. This prompted her to make changes to her approach to the competition.
"I decided I wanted to take the rest of the year off and I wanted to get a new coach. I just wanted a different approach.”
This approach got her back on the right track. Taylor won the 2021 NPC Battle of Texas and finished sixth at the Nationals. t what she wanted, but it beat 16th place. In 2022, Taylor competed in multiple national qualifiers to gain experience, learn more, and hopefully apply that to get the pro card she craved. That journey ended with rth Americans 2022 because she won the show and the pro card on her first try that year. She feels the way it went, winning the overall win at the show, which she failed to place two years earlier, was symbolic and fitting.
“Just like in the military, some can be taken to the E7 quickly, then they get stuck. I think some athletes feel the same way. They get to the pros quickly, then their lack of muscle maturity causes them to get stuck. My journey has pushed me to keep going and growing, and I think that's been better for me overall."
Taylor is no longer active in the military, but she has three pro shows under her belt and has placed in the first callout in two of them. While she was pleased to be competitive, her goal is now clear. She wants a win and she wants to go to the biggest show of them all.
"The ideal is to do as many shows as my body allows while staying healthy. My goal is to qualify for the Olympics.”
You can follow Mariséla Taylor's journey by following @madisaylaa on Instagram.