TEANECK, N.J. — Portia Moldez walks onto the stage at her first body building competition at the Marriott at Glenpointe and laughs.
It's was the 28-year-old's first time competing and she isn't quite sure of what she's doing.
The one thing she knows, though, is that she's going to bring home a trophy — if not for herself, for her coach.
"I just want to make him proud," said Moldez of Daine Chang before taking the stage for finals during Saturday's National Physique Committee Eastern USA Championships.
And she did.
Moldez of Dumont placed fourth place in the novice division and fifth in the open division out of a class of 15 competitors.
That Moldez put in work every day was undeniable. But Chang says it came down to one thing:
"The more you want it, the easier it is."
Chang says he sees much of himself in Moldez, beginning with the fact that he took fourth place in novice at his first NPC competition in 2010.
"I started just like her," said Chang, who will be vying for his pro-card at the Muscle Beach competition in April.
The only difference was he did it all on his own.
"I had doubts. I didn't know if I was doing it right, I didn't have anyone telling me how to train."
"I had to figure it out as I went."
Much of his time was spent scouring the internet for tips on increasing muscle mass while burning fat — a very difficult feat. He checked out books on posing techniques and stage etiquette.
And while Chang of Hackensack says he's always had a knack for the sport, it took him more than talent to get him where he is today.
It all started in 2001, when the owner of a Saddle Brook gym saw him standing outside and eating a McDonald's breakfast sandwich.
At first, the owner told Chang not to eat in front of people trying to get in shape. Then, he offered him a job.
Soon after, Chang left his career as a doctor's assistant at an area hospital to pursue personal training.
A friend encouraged him to compete in body building, which Chang says changed his life for the better.
"Fitness made me mentally tough," he sad. "I can pretty much be given any task and know that I'll get it done if I keep pushing."
"It made me who I am."
He learned to balance family, work and friends. He learned how to lean out while putting on an incredible amount of muscle mass.
It took time, he said. Five years until he won the overall NPC competition.
And now, Chang is on a mission to help his athletes achieve all he has, all while he continues to better himself. He has clients throughout Bergen County — mainly Englewood, Cliffside Park, Fort Lee and Teaneck.
"Seeing them do well makes me say, 'Hey, I can't slack,'" he said. "They depend on me."
The week before Moldez' competition was when she needed her coach the most. It was "peak week," the most draining mentally and physically, and she had just lost her grandfather.
"I came in at the gym one day wearing my sunglasses to cover my puffy eyes," Moldez said. "Without knowing what’s going on, he immediately gave me a hug and said 'You are tired, go home and get some rest, I do not want to see you working out… and when you need someone to talk to, I am here.'"
It was then Moldez knew choosing Chang as her coach was "the best decision I've made in my life," she said.
Without her support system — Chang, her colleagues and her closest friends — rooting for her from the crowd and sending her words of encouragement on her toughest days, Moldez wouldn't have done as well as she did, she said.
But, if not for Chang, she said, "I'd be lost."
DAINE CHANG INSTAGRAM: @dtcfitness