Built like daddy

Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office Detective LaTonya Sullivan competed and won the Women's 35-plus Class B competitions in bodybuilding on April 26 at the Best Western Landmark in Metairie.

Thirty-six year-old LaTonya Sullivan remembers always watching her dad lift weights and body build while she was growing up. In fact, her dad had his own gym in the backyard that he allowed everybody from the community to come stay fit. However the weight dropped in 2000 when her dad, Leroy Sullivan, was injured in an explosion at the CF Industries Nitrogen Plant. Since that time Leroy Sullivan hadn’t lifted a single weight bar. Instead, LaTonya Sullivan bears the weights in her own hands.

“As a little girl, I always watched my dad body build and I always said I wanted his muscles,” LaTonya Sullivan said.

About two years ago, she started doing personal training with Ken Falgoust and once she saw her body beginning to transform she decided “why not do it for a purpose.”

She signed up to compete in the National Physique Committee’s (NPC) Bayou Muscle Championships on April 26 at the Best Western Landmark in Metairie, an automatic national qualifier. The show had four contest categories – bodybuilding, physique, figure and bikini. LaTonya Sullivan won first place in the Women’s 35-plus Class B competitions and Overall Winner of Women’s Figure Master’s over 35.

“It was a big accomplishment,” LaTonya Sullivan said, a detective for the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.

LaTonya Sullivan had to have a complete change of lifestyle in preparing to compete physically. Her workout schedule increased to six to seven times a week and sometimes every day in a week. She eats seven to eight times a day and prepares all of her food at night for the next day.

Due to the nature of her job, she sometimes eats her food cold.

“I do what I have to do because I know I have to get my meals in,” LaTonya Sullivan said. “My diet is very clean and I eat everything healthy.”

LaTonya Sullivan said before changing her lifestyle and cleaned her diet; she used to deal with high blood pressure.

“Now I don’t deal with it anymore,” she said.

Bodybuilding has given LaTonya Sullivan an opportunity to continue her father’s pastime, improve her own health, but those aren’t the only factors that keep her driven. She also has a six-year-old nephew who is immobile.

“I felt like this was giving me the opportunity to be strong for those who couldn’t be strong for themselves,” LaTonya Sullivan said.

Even for her 13-year-old daughter, LaTonya Sullivan said it shows anything is possible if “you put your mind to it.”

She was awarded a medal for the first place win in her division and for the overall title she received a trophy. If you ask her where the awards are now – she said her dad has them.

“I did that for him and my nephew,” LaTonya Sullivan said. “My dad can’t lift anymore, train his body like he used to, so I’m taking care of it now. My daddy is a good role model; he was always about being in shape and eating right and working out. It meant a lot to me.”

Leroy Sullivan said when she dedicated her accomplishments to him it “made me want to cry.”

“Sometimes as parents we wonder if we have done a good job in raising our children,” Leroy Sullivan said, the Mayor of Donaldsonville. “Although I can say all of my children are doing a good job and I’m proud of them for accomplishing things in life. It made me full because, her first medal means nothing to her but that it means more of her giving it to me than her keeping it and saying this is ‘what I won.’”

Leroy Sullivan remembers his life before the plant explosion and said he is humbled and grateful that LaTonya Sullivan “saw my dedication back then to weightlifting and saw it as a goal for her to accomplish.”

“It took a lot of dedication on her part to accomplish her goal,” Leroy Sullivan said. “I’m very proud of her because it showed that if she wants to do something she can do it.”

Leroy Sullivan said not only was his daughter’s accomplishments inspiring to him, “it was also inspiring to other people in the community.”

“People have been asking if she can train them,” Leroy Sullivan said.

LaTonya Sullivan added, “I just want to thank my trainer Ken Falgoust, my mentors Lori Canova, Ryan Cline and Blake Prejean, and my family and friends for all of their support.”