Jana Roller had worked hard for two years — and lost 135 lbs. — to prepare for her first bodybuilding competition, so when she noticed her photograph was not included in an online gallery from the show she was understandably upset.
“It’s disappointing because everybody expects their photo to be there,” the professional photographer and trainer, 29, tells PEOPLE. “It is a competitive industry, so of course when you step up there you’re expecting to be judged on how you look. But it was disappointing.”
Roller decided to reach out to the photographer to find out why her photograph had been omitted.
“[He said] that because my physique wasn’t as great, he decided to err on the side of caution to avoid me asking him to remove it or edit the photo,” she shared on Instagram. “He assumed I was embarrassed.”
But Roller had the opposite feeling when she saw photos of herself from competition day — she was extremely proud of what she saw.
“When I saw it, I was like, this is amazing,” she says. “When I look at it, I see the progress that I’ve made, but also I can see what I can do to improve in terms of where I want to take myself in competition. When I look at that photo, I see one small step in a very long journey. It was really important to have that to see it, and it made me really excited.”
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While Roller knows she was not “stage lean,” she doesn’t feel this is a reason for her photograph to not be included with the rest of her competitors, as she worked just as hard as they did to be ready to step on that stage. That’s why she felt it was so important she speak up and talk about her experience being shamed by the photographer.
“I’m not the first person to step on a stage that isn’t stage-ready — I’m just vocal about it,” she says. “I got messages from fellow competitors saying, ‘I’m so glad you stepped on stage.’ My photo has [brought to light] an underlying issue that is much bigger, and many people that are trying to make those changes are relating with it, and so many people are resonating with it. I want to be that inspiration and support for people that want to do it for themselves too.”