Alex Tilinca is a lot like other 18-year-olds in their freshman year of college.
Having reached the end of his first semester as a marketing major at Hofstra University, the teen is putting all his attention on his studies for upcoming final exams.
Being a good student, he’s stepped away for a short time from his favorite sport, amateur bodybuilding, where Tilinca doesn’t just compete in competitions, but he’s an award-winning transgender competitor in the sport.
Last August, Tilinca enter the Teen Classic Physique competition in the Bronx and took home the first place trophy beating out cisgender bodybuilders.
“It was like the universe was telling me to keep going. Don’t stop,” Tilinca told New York Newsday. “This is what I’m meant to do with my life. It shows it’s possible to do what I want to do.”
While he’s talking a breather from the sport to focus on his studies, he still has an amazing physique.
In a recent Instagram post, he told his 18,000+ followers he’s letting his 5’3” body “situate” at his current weight (165 lbs) and giving his body “a breather to really settle.”
Tilinca says he didn’t set out with the intention of becoming a bodybuilder. He started lifting after having top surgery two years ago and wanted to put on some weight.
“I just wanted a little more muscle,” he told Newsday. “But I really think once you get the bug, it’s very, very hard to just stop.”
“When I saw bodybuilding, I saw it as a tool of control over what you look like,” Tilinca said. “For someone being trans, that’s amazing. It’s really empowering. If you don’t like something, you know you can change it. It’s like sculpting your own body.”
Newsday spoke with two-time Mr. Olympia runner-up Sadik Hadzovic, who has coached Alex, about the empowering nature of bodybuilding.
“I can relate to what Alex went through,” Hadzovic told Newsday. “When I was 18 years old, I hated my body. Whether you are a man or woman or transgender or not, it doesn’t make a difference. We are all the same. We just want to improve ourselves and be a little bigger, a little faster, look a little better.”
Obviously, Tilinca’s progress in the eighteen months he’s been working out has yielded incredible results. In the below post on Instagram, he weighed 130 lbs. and had 5-6% body fat.
The National Physique Committee (NPC) is the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States and often viewed as a stepping stone to competing at the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBF) competitions.
The IFBF hosts the annual competition that awards the Mr. Olympia title. Tilinca says his ultimate goal is to become the first trans man to win the biggest prize of all in the bodybuilding world, Mr. Olympia.
Newsday notes that the National Physique Committee doesn’t have any specific rules in regard to transgender competitors on its official website, and so Tilinca never told anyone he’s trans.
He just put his head down and worked hard on his body.
It’s important to the teen that the world see transgender people not as “victims” but as people who can “do anything they set their minds to.”
And he’s proving that one rep at a time. Go, Alex!