Kelechi Opara is a Nigerian-born entrepreneur and fitness model currently living in San Diego, California. He was born to Nigerian parents and raised in Detroit Michigan but I lived in Nigeria for 7 years before going back again to the States. He stands at an impressive 5’9ft and weigh 182 lbs with a body fat between 4.5% on the regular and below 3% at certain times in the year.
So far, most of his modeling jobs have been by chance because he hasn’t pursued modeling seriously yet. “Every book, calendar and magazine I have been on was by chance. The author or an editor sees a picture of me and they ask me to do a shoot for them. I have turned down several opportunities in the past because of my former job.
Kelechi started modeling around 2004/2005 when he was featured in a book called Functional Fitness. With motivation and inspiration from his role model, international cover fitness model Obadike and his cousin /workout partner Peter Martin. “Peter has been supporting me from day one. He’s like a rock. I just recently met Obi; the guy is very humble and intelligent. In the short time I have known him, he has helped a ton. He’s currently helping me with a show I’m doing in April,” he comments.
I caught up with him to find out more about him, work and to get some tips on how to stay fit and healthy.
Ameyaw Debrah: What inspired you to get into modeling?
I remember it like it was yesterday still. Men’s Health had a contest for their readers. They wanted the readers to submit their pictures and the staff would pick the top 10. Then, out of the top ten the readers/people on their forums would vote for the people that they think should be in the magazine. My friends and some of the readers on the forum suggested that I should enter which I did. I wasn’t in the top 10 and it actually caused a small commotion amongst the readers in the forum to which one of the editors (Lou Schuler) answered why I wasn’t on the top 10. He said the reason was that I was too dark – he didn’t mean this in a racist way. He said darker skins are harder to photograph because it absorbs too much light. Sure enough, the top 10 that they picked were one light skinned black guy and the rest were white, which I didn’t notice until after he said what he did. Before then, I never really noticed that there were hardly any blacks on their cover. Although there is some validity to his answer, nevertheless I stopped buying Men’s Health and stopped visiting the site. This added fuel to the fire though – nothing out of anger.
Ameyaw Debrah: Which other forms of modeling would like to explore?As of right now, I am focusing on fitness modeling. However, I am open minded enough to explore any other opportunity that might arise. I am a rookie in this industry so the only thing major I have done is a book, calendar and magazine. My philosophy is the same as Henry Ford’s quote “the person who believe they can and the person who believe they can not are both right” so anything is possible in spite of the obstacles.
Ameyaw Debrah: What are the highlights so far for you?The highlights for me have been the aforementioned jobs I did with the book, calendar and magazine. Muscle Tech wanted to sponsor me however the fit wasn’t there. They wanted a bodybuilder which I’m not.
Ameyaw Debrah: What a routine day for you like?A routine day starts the night before, I write down what I plan to accomplish the next day. I wake up make breakfast and while I’m eating I answer the emails I have – the bulk of which are people who want to know how I stay in shape, tips, etc. Immediately after that, I attend to my shop to make sure everything is going well. After that I start working on the current business start up that’s coming up, which involves a lot meetings and designs. I usually hit the Gym later in the evening time. After I get back, I answer some more emails, and then call it a night after writing down what I plan to do the next day.
Ameyaw Debrah: What is your training or exercising regimen like?My regimen consists of heavy compound movements. I center my routines on exercises that will give you results fast. Much to my surprise, I have discovered people avoid these exercises because they believe it’s too hard. The ones who tried are surprised how fast they see results and how good they look. I rarely go past 10 reps (usually 6-8). Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get toned by doing an inordinate amount of reps with lightweight. However, I’m not saying never do light weights. I’m saying lift medium-heavy weights more so than you would light weights. In addition, most of my routine is designed recruiting the abs, and it doesn’t involve using a ball.
Ameyaw Debrah: Any special diets or habits?I cycle my macro nutrients and minimize my carbohydrates depending on the day for the most part. The reason I cycle my carbs, protein and fat is because just like your body gets used to exercising, it gets used to the way you eat. In addition there are days you don’t need to eat that much carbs, i.e. a day you know all you are going to be doing is sitting.
Ameyaw Debrah: What impact do social networks have on your job?Most of my jobs I have gotten through model mayhem. I only got one from a social network site and that was MySpace. The editor of a magazine saw my picture and asked me to send more so he can use. Unfortunately I was half a world away from everything. Luckily, a friend of mine, the super-talented Dexter Simmons came through for me. I was able to take the pictures in a war torn country which you couldn’t tell from the pictures.
Kelechi’s Fitness TipsNutrition is 80% of the game: Never skip breakfast, always have protein when you are eating carbs. Drink plenty of water throughout the day (boosts metabolism by 30 percent). Eat frequently (watch your meal portions you shouldn’t feel stuffed) to stabilize glucose and avoid slowing your metabolism.
Exercise: contrary to popular beliefs lifting light weight with an inordinate amount of reps doesn’t get you “cut” or in other words toned, lift medium to heavy weights as low as 5 reps and as high as 12 reps. Sprints are better than steady state cardio. Work your biggest muscle group more any other muscle, this means back and legs not biceps and chest. This does speed up your metabolism and helps your body burn more fat.
Cycling your carbohydrates: Lower your carbohydrates on the days you don’t do anything. Avoid carbohydrates at night time (or evening unless you are working out). So you could say that I’m an advocate of moderate to low carb diet. Carbohydrates isn’t bad however, it is the main reason for obesity in my opinion.
The do’s and don’ts of staying fit Don’t skip break fast Don’t avoid doing legs. I see a lot of men and women do the beach body workouts Don’t only do crunches and expect to get a flat stomach or six pack. Do sprints or HIIT (high intensity interval training) Do squats and lunges Do pull ups– a lot of them Do try to have a meal or snack with protein every 3 to 4 hours Do the muscles you don’t see twice as many times as the muscles you do see to avoid injury.