“She’s a bit feisty,” said my friend Nick, as we sat waiting for the subject of my next interview.
A successful businesswoman, fitness expert, prize-winning fitness model, mother, and Albania’s only female bodybuilder, Dorina Mema is an unstoppable force of fierce femininity, determination, and confidence.
Sitting down next to me, she asks the usual questions about why I am here, what I am doing, and if I like it. As I start to explain, a warm smile spreads across her face and she nods in agreement. Like most Albanian’s, she is happy to hear the positive things I have to say about her country and its people.
I ask her to tell me her story, starting right at the beginning. Taking a deep breath and a short pause she starts to tell me about her past- growing up in Kruje, marrying young and having a daughter, studying economics and law, and then working in a construction firm managing contracts and finance. A fiercely intelligent woman, she is fascinated by science, mathematics, and theology- particularly in relation to the human body. She has studied the Quran at length with a focus on Islamic esotericism and he believes strongly in the purity of the mind and body and keeping your body in a state that is as God intended.
One day in 2011, she was sat in her office looking up diets and fitness on the internet. At this time in Albania, no one was interested in fitness in a serious way, and her fascination with the mysteries of the human body led her to start reading and studying more about it.
“The human body is amazing and within it, we have the answer for everything, but we don’t yet have an answer for who we are,” Dorina says.
It was then that she started taking her health and fitness seriously. She stopped drinking and smoking, began taking immense care of her diet, and training her body to be in peak condition. One day when researching fitness, she came across the World Bodybuilding & Physique Sports Federation (WBPF) and she decided to compete. Self-taught, self-trained, and self-motivated, she found herself a European winner as well as the first ever Albanian woman to be successful in this field. Since then she has gone on to win a number of prizes internationally and has risen to fame as a pioneer in the world of women’s health and fitness.
She has also started to develop her own diet. Based on five years of research into the Quran, the Golden Ratio, and Fibonacci’s number, she is developing a fitness programme and diet that puts food into this natural equation. The results so far have been astounding and whilst it is still in the testing stage, she is immensely proud of her work as this is a concept that no one has explored before. She explains that people have offered her large sums of money for her secrets, but she has refused to part with them. Once she has perfected it, she wants it to be available to those who need it and for those that need help, not just as something to make a fortune out of and for this reason, she is keeping it to herself- for now.
The conversation then switches to the attitude that prevails in society and that is the attitude of not wanting to work for the results that you want. Vehemently against steroids and dubious health supplements, Dorina doesn’t believe in quick fixes. She believes in pushing yourself and your body, honing and putting love and dedication into making yourself the best version of yourself that you can be. She explains that she doesn’t do what she does for fame, or for money, but rather she does it to show others that they can improve their bodies and lives, and to motivate people to make changes in their lives. She cares deeply about her clients and this shows when she talks about how she wants to change the mindset of the public here in Albania.
But I couldn’t help wondering, how does she feel as a woman in such a male-dominated area, and particularly being from Albania which is an incredibly patriarchal society. When I ask her this question, she laughs and then looks me straight in the eye, replying; “Anything a man can do, I can do it better.”
Personally, I can’t think of a better answer to that question. She explains that she often receives negative comments telling her she looks like a man and she answers them with facts, science and images of her in evening wear, looking like anything but a man.
She then continues, “Men tell me oh you look like a man, or oh this is not a thing for women but I think that this just comes from their own insecurities. It bothers them to see a woman doing something better than them, looking better than then, being stronger and fitter than them. So not only can I do everything that they can, better than them, but as a woman, we do everything with more empathy, consideration and feeling.”
Dorina runs her own gym and trains some of the highest profile VIPs in the country. She travels a lot, Qatar, Egypt, America and beyond, and she counts amongst her friend’s Qatari royalty and leaders figures in sports and fitness. She recently climbed Kilimanjaro and she talks passionately about the experience and the people she met along the way.
I admire this woman’s drive and tenacity. She is inspiring and energising to be around and hearing her talk in such a commanding way about her work, her future, and what she has achieved is truly impressive. She doesn’t take any prisoners and her confidence is both infectious and commendable. The way she combines her belief in the Quran, her passion for being the best version of yourself that you can be, and a pure desire to help humanity and the people around her, should serve as an inspiration to anyone that comes across her.
“As women, we are the strongest- not only physically but with our emotions and responsibilities as well. It is in our nature to think of others and to be sensitive, and we are entrusted with the development of life. This is what makes us stronger- the combination of physical and emotional strength.”
It is refreshing to see a strong woman who doesn’t give a damn about what anyone thinks about her. Dorina Mema knows what she wants, how she is going to get it, and she knows she can do it herself without asking anyone for anything. What I have taken away from our meeting is the message that nothing good in life comes easy and that if we want to succeed, we need to be prepared to put in the work to achieve it rather than resorting to quick fixes and easy ways out.
Whilst bodybuilding may not for every woman, the concept of bettering yourself and taking care of your body to the best of your ability should be listened to. I left our meeting feeling energised and positive after being in the presence of such a physically and emotionally strong woman.
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