"I dropped out of my law degree at uni to become a full-time bikini bodybuilder"

A former student has told how she dropped out of university while training to be barrister - to follow her dream of becoming a professional bikini bodybuilder. Mel Wilkinson, 28, now devotes five days a week working out for three hours at a time in the gym after quitting her law degree in a bid to make it pro. She gave up her course following her first year at Birmingham City University and has since spent thousands on entering amateur competitions across Britain. Mel will now have the chance to turn professional when she competes at the International Fitness and Bodybuilding Federation (IFBB) in Portugal this weekend. The super-fit personal trainer first got into bodybuilding aged 18 but only began getting into pristine shape for competitions during lockdown. Mel, who is 5ft 1ins and 52kg (8st), is currently consuming under a thousand calories a day and lifting 200kg weights in preparation for shows. She estimates she has spent around £5,000 pursuing her passion - including £900 on bikinis and thousands on hotels, beauty and hair treatments. Mel, of St Peter's, Worcester, said: "I wanted to be a barrister and I was training for my law degree but I always thought I was going to do my fitness on the side. "But I really started to get into the fitness industry at around 17/18 and before I knew it I was living the lifestyle of a bikini bodybuilder. "Before then I wasn't particularly healthy, I was a typical student going out all the time. "But I soon realised my true passion lay with fitness and I gave up university to follow that dream and got into bodybuilding and nutrition. "My diet was never too bad at uni but I went vegetarian and now have a lot of fish and eggs as well as protein shakes and snack bars. "Some people have said I'm mad for giving up law but I don't care because I really feel this is what makes me the happiest and it doesn't feel like work. "It wasn't until lockdown that I started to train in order to compete and I did a couple of shows during the pandemic. "Since then I have done another nine across the country and now if I win his competition, I can technically call myself a pro. "I am very passionate and goal-orientated and I am determined and devoted to making it as a professional. "I do two hours of cardio a day in the gym, five days a week, alongside an hour of weight training. But with my job I'm pretty much always in the gym. "I've done competitions in England, Scotland and Wales and I'm getting sponsorship for my bikinis now, which is great as they cost £450 each. "I worked out I had spent around £5,000 pursuing this so it's an expensive hobby but one I absolutely love doing." Mel, who also works as a personal trainer and female online coach, says she aims to inspire women to feel strong and confident in their bodies. She added: "I wanted to take that passion into helping other women become best versions of themselves too. "I think female bodybuilding is going to get more popular because more and more girls are working out. "But people may think it is more glamourous than it is but the glamour is only on the show day. "It is a male-dominated industry, but I love how many girls are going into it and not caring anymore." But she said her decision to compete as a bodybuilder didn't go down too well at first and raised concerns among her family. Mel, who lives with partner Lloyd Tonkin, 27, added: "My family was concerned because it can look like you're just losing weight, but if you're coming from a healthy mindset it's not that. "Sometimes we have ex eating disorder people who come into it because they realise they have to eat in order to look their best. "I still consider my diet to be pretty normal but I always like to eat a meal four times a day. "For competitions I tend to bulk up about 10 to 12 kilos and then you diet in the run up to the show so I'm currently consuming under a thousands calories a day. "When I'm focusing on building muscle I'm eating around 2,000 calories." Mel, a former shop worker, believes the profession still had certain stigmas despite the discipline, training, and dedication bodybuilding requires. She said: "People also think it's just a beauty pageant and it's easy and you just put a bikini on. "But it is a lot of hard work that goes into it, but people just think it's something anyone can do, but you do have to be passionate about it. "People just think bodybuilders are just vain because of how glamorous the pageants look, but that's just the show day, it doesn't look like that all the time. "You need to have thick skin when people are commenting. "As a female, you can get really caught up in what people are saying about your body. "I have been upset when people have pointed out extra body fat but I know that being yourself is more than enough."