Estefania Sofia Bencomo Penella, known to her friends, family and customers as “Fefa,” is a 29-year-old Venezuelan who arrived in TT in 2014 and has been growing in the business and sports world.
Born in Maracay, Aragua state in central Venezuela, she grew up on the island of Margarita.
Bencomo Panella came to TT to learn English and now she live in Port of Spain.
Since then, for the past nine years, she says, her love and appreciation for the people and culture of TT grown and she has become as a woman, businesswoman, and "better human being."
“TT has its challenges, like any other place in the world, like any other place in the world for migrants, but thanks to God and many local people, doors have been opening for me to decide to stay here and contribute to the growth and development of this beautiful country.”
Bencomo Panella said she has become a support and example for women in TT.
Seven years ago she suffered an accident that led her to appreciate her body and dedicate herself to improving her mobility and love for herself.
“I was a passenger in a car...I suffered multiple fractures, including a fractured neck, face, damage to my spine and arms. I was incapacitated and helpless for over six months, but with love, patience, perseverance and dedication I was able to make a full recovery.”
That mishap led her into the world of physical training and turned her into a high-performance athlete.
“During this time of my recovery I met Caryn Tovar: She is a coach and my friend. We share the same passion and love for fitness that drove us to promote quarterly programmes with training plans and nutrition online to help hundreds of women, mostly local, become the best version of themselves, improve their lives mentally and physically and promote healthy lifestyles.”
In 2019 she decided to began the work on becoming a high-performance bodybuilder with Tovar.
After four years of hard preparation, finally, in 2023, she had the physical and mental opportunity to make the jump and enter a major competition.
"Earlier this year I contacted local trainers Natasha Ali (posing class trainer) and Alexander Thomas (diet trainer, athletic level) about this new challenge I wanted to take on and they told me, 'It will be difficult but you can do it, no doubt.'"
Bencomo Panella refuses to take "no" for an answer.
"I persisted in my search to find a fitness trainer. Because of my accident history I understood that I had to work harder than anyone else, and I found Ian 'Jamesy' Adams, a trainer in the D'Dial Fitness Club, Long Circular Mall. With him I completed the technical team and preparation began."
On September 9, she was rewarded for so much effort.
Bencomo Panella participated in the Senior National Championship TT Bodybuilders Fitness Federation, winning first place in the tall women category.
Her coaches were proud not only of her title, but of her perseverance as a woman who had overcome physical and mental obstacles.
Adams said, "We did a similar preparation to the rest, trying to control her mind to be able to advance in the rest of the training stages, and Bencomo Panella demonstrated that to be a champion in life you need a big heart, discipline and a positive and persevering attitude."
Ali and Thomas believe in her as a fundamental example to develop any physical, mental, business as well as the challenges of life itself.
"Bencomo Panella is an example of work, motivation and dedication when you want to achieve a goal in life. We should never give up, and she has shown it," said Thomas.
Her effort and dedication also transferred to business.
Bencomo Panella modelled carnival costumes, swimsuits for various brands and managed the social networks of several companies in the last five years.
In her desire to be an independent and successful woman, with a little money saved she decided to open her own business in 2020, women's swimsuits that she sells online under the label @withlovebyfefa.
"I started with just 20 pieces. The store has been expanding.
Becoming an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster full of rewarding ups and downs, doubts and uncertainty, but is one thing remains very clear: how grateful I am for each and every one of my clients."
She can be reached on her Instagram accounts @withlovebyfefa and @estefaniabencomo, in which she showcases her business and her life as an athlete.