Syleena Johnson has over two decades experience at center stage, but those countless other times she was singing. This time, her body told the story of her dramatic transformation. The daughter of R&B legend Syl Johnson, Syleena began singing professionally in the late ’90s. Her 10th solo album, Woman, will drop on January 31, but she’s still best known for singing on Kanye West’s 2004 hit “All Falls Down,” for which she was nominated, with Kanye, for several awards, including a Grammy. She performed on the MTV Video Music Awards and Late Night with David Letterman. More recently, she starred on the reality TV series R&B Divas: Atlanta and Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars, and she currently co-hosts the TVOne daily talk show Sister Circle.

Early on, Wilson shows Johnson the ropes / Instagram video

Meanwhile, the 5’10” Johnson, who is married to former pro basketball player Kiwane Garris, had lost her once-slender form. This spring, she vowed to not just shed the fat, but reveal the results in an NPC figure competition. Of her trainer, IFBB Pro League classic bodybuilder Kevin Wilson, she effuses: “He took me from 236 pounds to 179 pounds in eight months with diet and exercise through my bulging disc, strained hamstring and calf muscle, and losing the entire feeling in my left leg. He gave me the proper meal plan each week, came on tour with me, pushed me in my weak moments and got me to that stage injury free.”

This past Saturday, the 43-year-old mother of two made her figure debut at the NPC Texas Cup and hauled away three trophies: third in open, fifth in true novice, and fifth in novice.

Quarter turn to the right / Michael Witherspoon

Afterwards, Wilson posted on Instagram to Johnson: “People don’t understand just yet, but you truly defied the odds these past couple of months and achieved a lifelong dream of competing in your first figure competition walking away with 3 amazing placements. I’m proud to be witness of your success and proud to be your coach and friend. This is just the beginning champ. Just wait to they see the final transformation 💪🏾💪🏾💪🏾.”

Wilson, Johnson, and the hard-won hardware / Instagram

“This has been a longtime dream of mine. This is not something I just woke up yesterday and said I wanted to do,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to live this life and not do all of the things that I think I can do. I just feel like we can accomplish our goals and dreams, all in this life. And so that’s what I’m doing. I’m just pursuing all of the dreams and desires and goals and wants that God puts in my belly.” 

Opening images: Instagram