She gyms six times a week, a motivational speaker empowering young women, and is a trilingual traveller. Meet Tanya Compas.
Hannah: Has achieving highly in fitness always been a life goal from a young age?
Tanya: No. From the age of 12 in secondary school I played football for six years and trained in Jiu Jitsu for seven years earning my junior black tag; that’s where the interests stemmed from. I then went to college and began street dancing which was fun. Then when I went to Kent University, I fell out of sports; then fell back into it again.
H: Did you have entirely different aspirations when you were younger?
Tanya: I wanted to be a vet. My nan fostered cats (which many people find weird, but I love) and I’ve always owned pets but I wasn’t good at science so gave up on that dream.
H: What’s one of your most important life mottos?
Tanya: Nothing great can be achieved in your comfort zone. In fitness, in anything! I discovered this during my gap year. I volunteered for a year in Peru working in boys’ orphanages…
H: Hablas Espanol?
Tanya: Claro que si, hablo espanol!
*Hannah jumps in pleasant surprise*
Tanya: I’ve never felt so out of my comfort zone in my life. I lived in a rural indigenous community, at the beginning of my time there I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish and now I am fluent! I grew so much as a person. It taught me to be grateful and that If you don’t push yourself, it’ll be difficult to achieve anything.
H: How often do you work out?Tanya: 5 or 6 times a week.
H: Was it hard to do at first, and how strict are you on yourself?
Tanya: I started off only going a couple of times a week. On my first gym visit, I came with a laptop to listen to music while working out; I had no idea what on earth I was doing! Now I’ve got the mentality that I need to go to the gym. Work (for everyone) can be stressful, and it’s so nice being able to switch off as soon as I enter the gym. It’s my therapy! You focus so much on your breathing and the music.
H: What type of music?
Tanya: I listen to a lot of Trap music..Young Thug, Fetty, Future, etc. when doing high-intensity exercises, especially when lifting weights, and when stretching I like to listen to slower music by the likes of Lauryn Hill, India Arie and Kehlani.
Tanya: At first, a bit, but now, it doesn’t faze me. At the beginning I’m looked at like “woah, why is she here?” but then they realise I’m working out just like them! They know I’m there to exercise and train hard, not just to look pretty and take selfies (Although a selfie is always mandatory for me at the end of a workout).
H: What inspired you to spend this summer in the states?
Tanya: Since leaving college, I have worked with youth in Brazil, Colombia and Peru, after finishing university I wanted to travel the U.S, but also continue my youth work. I worked at Camp Mendocino, which is a summer camp run by the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. I worked specifically with the oldest girls at the camp and eventually became a role model for them. I gave a lot of motivational talks as impacting the youth is something I care deeply about. Too many girls are looking at bad examples of role models on social media, and it’s making a dangerous influence. It was important for me to build a trusting relationship with them, and it was such an incredible camp and became my home from home. It is an amazing place for youth from disadvantaged areas in San Francisco to escape their environment and act like kids again.
Tanya: You have to come face to face with your insecurities. In camp, we did exercises with the younger girls (in confidence) to openly speak about what they did (and didn’t) like about their bodies. One girl said she loved her dark skin, but felt the need to explain why she loved it because society and social media, in particular, has led her to believe that dark skin is not beautiful. I just had to step back and remind myself of what I came there for – to empower! No young woman should ever have to label her skin colour as a disadvantage. I had to stress to the girls that despite my insecurities, I love my body – each and every muscle from head to toe. Tell yourself every day how much you love yourself; the more you say it, the more you believe it! It’s so amazing seeing how each young lady I came across had changed their thought processes in such a positive way by the end of camp. It felt great being a part of that.H: And you continued those travels after two months in camp…and went to Mexico – alone!
Tanya: Yes – I recommend it. I don’t particularly like to travel in big groups, so this was good for me, and I learnt a lot about myself. But of course you do get talking with locals and other travellers – again, it’s about stepping out of your comfort zone. Speaking a foreign language also helps too.
H: Do you feel free?
Tanya: I do feel free. I’m free to be myself. I’m not defined by anything I’ve done in my past – my health, my choices, anything.
Photographer – Cris Blaize
Writer – Hannah Ajala