Most of us have been there: cringing at a photo of ourselves and wondering when we started looking like that. Maybe it’s the extra insulation you picked up over the winter. Maybe your rear has begun to sag and dimple. Maybe the definition in your arms is lost. Whatever the gripe – we vow to make a change. We promise ourselves to get back in shape and start eating better. And, for many of us, that’s as far as it goes.

Graham Ervin ’05, however, took it much, much further.

It was four months before her 30th birthday. She was fairly active – she played softball and took group fitness classes here and there. But it wasn’t cutting it. She needed to step it up, and she needed help to do it.

“I saw these figure competitors, and it was the physique I wanted: muscular, lean and toned,” says Ervin, who – upon a quick Google search for figure competitors in Charleston – tracked down International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Figure Pro Shannon Meteraud ’91 and asked her to coach her for a competition. “I wanted to do one competition for my 30th birthday, so I set that goal and said, ‘OK, you’re going to compete.’”


(l-r) Graham Ervin ’05 and Shannon Meteraud ’91

Meteraud, a co-owner of Tres Gym in West Ashley, is an expert competitive coach. She competed for 12 years and went to the Figure Olympia competition seven of those years. In case you don’t know, Meteraud explains, the Olympia is “like the Super Bowl for us. It’s what every pro wants to do. Getting there is everyone’s goal.”

Although she retired from competing in 2010, Meteraud is still active in the industry – and she considers this era in her career to be her best: “My biggest accomplishment is passing down my fitness and healthy lifestyle to others.”

Within a week, Ervin had lost 10 pounds.

“The weight just started melting off. It was amazing how fast my body changed,” says Ervin, who admits that not giving into temptation can be a struggle – as can waking up every morning at 5 a.m. to get her 70 minutes of cardio in. “There’s an internal struggle every single morning. You’re competing with yourself every day.”

“You just make it a priority,” agrees Meteraud. “You have to enjoy it, and I do. People find their niche, what they like. This is mine.”

And, admittedly, it’s a weird little niche. There’s an entire subculture built around this industry – the bikinis are all handmade by the same person, there are certain spray tans that must be used at competition, certain stage jewelry, makeup and eyelashes. And then there’s the posing – with every judge looking for something different on stage.


But Ervin learned it all, and – when her competition finally came around that October – she’d lost 50 pounds and she was pumped.

“At this point, it’s all about stage presence. And I was shaking – just being out there and posing, I guess it got my adrenaline going,” says Ervin, who took home second place at that very first show back in 2013. “I was just doing it for me, to challenge myself, and then I got second place and I was addicted!”

graham ervin

Ervin at the S.C. NPC Upstate Classic, where she took first place in Figure Class B and the Overall Figure championship

In June, she took first place in Figure Class B as well as earned an Overall Figure championship in the South Carolina NPC Upstate Classic.

“I started out not expecting anything – and here I am now,” says Ervin, who is an account supervisor for the public relations firm the Reynolds Group as well as running a blog about health and nutrition and being an affiliate for Royal Sport LTD and Isolator Fitness. She was also the official “poster child” for the 2015 Cooper River Bridge Run, appearing on the race’s website and banner and modeling its merchandise. “It’s changed a lot for me.”

Indeed, Ervin has come a long way since she saw that photo back in June 2013 and vowed to make a change.

It makes her feel pretty darn good to accomplish the goal she set out to do: “That’s what I’ve learned – don’t wish for it, work for it.”

This article was first published in the summer 2015 issue of College of Charleston Magazine.