Stacie Venagro of Cranston hasn’t just taken the Rhode Island fitness world by storm; she has made waves on a national level for being the three-time World Miss Fitness, one-time Miss Fitness Universe and two-time regional award winner.
That’s all been done while starting a business and giving birth to her first child - and, yes, she continued training during the pregnancy.
Venagro exudes confidence because of her accomplishments. But it’s not like she was pushed into the fitness world right from the get-go - it took a dabble here and a dabble there for her to be set on this world champion course.
Growing up, the now 32-year-old was a dancer, gymnast and acrobat, saying she could do any of these “all the way up until I’m 100.” But after she started college, she not only gained the “freshman 15” in her first year at RIC, but came to the realization that the dance world that she’d been a part of essentially ends at the age of 18, and if she wanted to continue pursuing her passion for fitness she’d need to look elsewhere.
Because of the weight-gain, she said, she went to a nutritionist named Joe Cummings.
“I started working out, eating healthy, and I felt great after six months,” she said. “I loved fitness and health and I developed a passion for it.”
As she began this personal plight to peak health, Venagro was also pursuing a degree in criminal justice, which she got after transferring out of RIC and to CCRI. After finishing her education there in 2009, her goal was to become a police officer, which she pursued but wasn’t able to get hired, despite her standout performances in the agility tests.
Meanwhile, she worked full-time at a “desk job” for Carousel Industries and, more important to her, was continuing her fitness career by attaining a personal training certificate and doing personal training on the side. As she built clientele, she began doing boot camps in June of 2012 at the Cranston West track.
While doing personal training out of a Warwick dance studio, she was approached by a woman, who told Venagro that she needed to talk to Cathy Savage. All Venagro knew at the time was that Savage was from Massachusetts and was involved with “a fitness thing” and bikini competitions.
But that introduction became the first step on a brand new fitness path for Venagro.
Savage was the coach of Team Savage, a Boston-based team that competes in local, regional, and national fitness competitions, including the big one, “World Miss Fitness.”
“I did my routine for her and her jaw dropped,” Venagro said of their first meeting. “She was like, ‘who are you, where did you come from, and you’re like not even human.’ She taught me how to pose and I started competing with Team Savage at the next Boston show.”
After she did her routine at that first show, Venagro got off stage and was immediately told by Savage, “You’re with me, you’re getting sponsored, I want you, and you’re going to Vegas in a couple months.”
The competitions themselves require a toned physique and impressive-looking body, since they’re performed in bikinis, but also require strength, agility, precision, and a creative choreography, as it includes dancing, aerial flips, handsprings, and basically every other gymnastic move you can think of.
So, after wildly impressing at her first competition, Venagro was sent off to her first national competition in Las Vegas that November.
In order to go, however, she needed to have the financial backing to get there. That’s where her job at the time, which was still at Carousel Industries, came in.
“My boss’ boss, Rock Losey, saw pictures from my first competition, which I was a little uncomfortable about since I’m in a bikini. He called me into his office and I didn’t know what to think, maybe I was going to get fired. But he told me, ‘I think this is going to be a wonderful opportunity for you and you should do it,” Venagro said.
Then, Losey took it upon himself to raise $1,200 for Venagro, enough to sponsor her fully, including her flight, hotel, food, photo shoot, and anything else she needed during that first Vegas trip.
And in terms of the trip’s worth, that first competition paid off big-time for Venagro. In a competition with 19 other women from all around the world, the Rhode Island native placed first, prompting people there to ask, “Where did this girl come from?”
The health and fitness training for these competitions is tough but doable, according to Venagro, who had been working on this for years.
“I was a natural athlete and I just had to tweak my food. Working out was still the same, which included five to six days of weight training and three days of hitting and cardio.”
After experiencing this initial success, she continued competing in 2013, going onto win a regional show at Foxwoods and then the world’s competition the next November in Vegas, which was the first time anyone had won back-to-back world shows.
While tearing it up in the fitness and bikini competition world, Venagro was starting a new fitness endeavor back home in Rhode Island: her own gym.
Through the clientele she built up in boot camps and personal training, she was able to start her own business, Stacie Venagro Fitness, at the dance studio she was teaching classes at. The studio had just bought a new building and had room for her.
Since she left her previous job and began this business, she has gained traction in the RI fitness world through “word of mouth” and, of course, the name recognition of the world champion. In April of 2015, she found her very own building to set up in off of Park Avenue in Cranston, where she currently does group and individual personal training.
While continuing her competitions and starting this Cranston-based business, Venagro started her most important endeavor yet, which had nothing to do with fitness: the birth of her first child, a baby boy.
Her son, Aidan, is now 19 months. Caring for a newborn becomes a new job in-and-of itself for most parents, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all for Stacie Venagro. Citing the only real difference in her health, fitness, and diet plans being less sleep, Venagro says that she continued her clean eating and tough workouts - even during the pregnancy.
“As long as I could stomach the workout, they told me to keep doing it,” she said. “My doctor said keep doing what you’re doing, all you need to add is 200 calories. My trainer told me not to up my weight.”
She also came to understand the controversy of doing strenuous workouts during pregnancy thanks to a 2016 article about the “fitness mom” that went viral, with people from George Takei and Lou Ferrigno to People.com posting about her.
“I got tons of negatives comments but they didn’t really bother me because I realized they were people’s opinions,” Venagro said. “But people who know me know that this is her, this is what she’s doing, and she wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize her body. I was working closely with my doctor, I wasn’t doing anything out of the norm, and I even kept doing box jumps with my 9-month belly.”
She continued running her business, which Aidan actually “helps” out with during sessions now, and also hasn’t given up her goal to become a four-time world champion, which she aims to do on November 17-18 in Las Vegas. She says this trip might be her last, but she’ll still be involved with Team Savage, doing choreography for the competitors, and “will always get that itch to go back on stage.”
She also has some fitness advice for women who are pregnant, saying “if you’re somebody who already works out then continue what you’re doing while working with your doctor. As long as your body lets you, keep doing what you’re doing, but take rests and don’t increase weight.”
“Schedule your workout like it’s a meeting with your boss, like it’s a non-negotiable. You can’t change it, you can’t miss it, and you can’t skip it. Us as women, we put the children first, the husband first, our work first, but we never put ourselves first. I’d like women to know that they’re worth it too, so take some time for yourself to go to the gym or even just go get a manicure.”
Stacie Venagro has already made her mark on the fitness world, and will continue to do so in Cranston, and perhaps in Las Vegas, for years to come.