Three years ago, Melissa Alcantara transformed her body after pregnancy and posted a before and after shot on Instagram. As one of the billion active Instagram users, the odds of getting noticed by Kim Kardashian West, who boasts 190 million followers, are pretty much impossible. However, while exploring the platform at 4 a.m., Kardashian West stumbled on the photo and just like that, Alcantara’s life was forever changed. “My intention never was to be a personal trainer,” Alcantara explains. “My intention, even to this day, is just to be a better version of myself. And I think that if more people did that, they would actually reach their goals more often.”

After catching Kardashian West’s attention, Alcantara moved her family to California and began her life as a trainer to Kardashian West. Prior to her social media discovery, Alcantara was a normal woman who woke up one day and decided to turn her life around. “I gained 70 pounds when I had my daughter,” Alcantara says. “I was 200 pounds and I decided to do a fitness program called Insanity, which I’d seen in an infomercial. I was willing to give it a real chance, because I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror anymore.”

Alcantara committed to the high-intensity exercise program, and about six weeks in, she began seeing results. The change, although subtle at first, sparked something in Alcantara and made her fall in love with wellness. “I started losing weight and feeling better overall,” Alcantara shares. “Making a decision for yourself makes you feel better above anything else—more than the workouts or eating right. It took a few weeks to lose those first few pounds and almost immediately after that, it really started coming off and I lost 40 pounds with Insanity.”

After months of tireless work, Alcantara became hooked on bettering her physique and started entering local bodybuilding competitions. It didn’t take long for the people in her life to get curious about the secrets to her success. “I started training a couple of people in between jobs,” Alcantara says. “I knew that a better way of learning was through teaching. If you can teach something, that’s how you know you really know something.” Alcantara had only been training others for a few months when Kardashian West found her, and for the past three years, she’s been the media mogul’s go-to trainer.

Photos by Tyler Sawyer

Photos by Tyler Sawyer

Although working with Kardashian West has made Alcantara one of the most coveted fitness figures in the country, she doesn’t consider herself to be a “personal trainer.” “My main focus isn’t to personally train, but to inspire people to make decisions for themselves,” Alcantara explains. “When you put more focus into being a better person, saying yes to yourself and doing good things for yourself, the other things in your life will follow. In the beginning of my journey, I wanted abs, but I didn’t realize saying yes to myself [was what] helped me with so many other things. That helped me to choose the job that I wanted, to see my worth and be the person I want to be every single day. That’s what I want to give to people—more than just a nice butt.”

Alcantara helps her clients see their own potential and reach their goals by leading through example. She works out alongside her clients and motivates them through her own actions. “I don’t just drill them into doing things, I work out with them so they can see my struggle,” Alcantara says. “If they’re picking up 15 pounds and say, ‘This is light, I suck. I’m not strong,’ I pick up the same weight and struggle just as much. I try to show people that a lot of the fitness world is a fantasy and that the real-deal things happen behind the camera. It takes a lot of work and mental breakthroughs to make this happen.”

Over the years, Alcantara has come to realize she’s a fighter. She fought hard to get the body she has and, more so, to change the path life was leading her down. After taking control of her life and becoming the person she’d always wanted to be, Alcantara ornamented her body in flower tattoos. “I grew up with no self-esteem,” Alcantara shares. “I was always this girl who kept her head down and didn’t feel like I was worth anything. These flowers on my arm say I’m powerful and resilient. That I don’t give up, I keep moving and I have control.”

Alcantara is living proof that anyone can take control of their life and make an impactful change. She started her journey as someone without an athletic background, but through plenty of blood, sweat and tears, she became an inspiration to anyone who wants to get in shape. At the end of the day, no matter where you start or what your goal is, everyone has the potential to be a better version of themselves.

Photos by Tyler Sawyer

Photos by Tyler Sawyer