Giovanna Cicerchia strengthened both her body and her faith on NBC’s newest reality show.
The Wyckoff, NJ resident was one of 20 contestants (10 male trainers and 10 female trainees) who competed in Strong, a rigorous, boot-camp-style competition that tested physical, mental, and emotional resolve. Sylvester Stallone, creator of the Rocky movies, was one of the executive producers.
“Did I get stronger from Strong?” said Cicerchia. “Yes, I did. But I got stronger in a way that no one will ever understand… I know that the Word of God is true.”
Cicerchia, 38, is the mother of three young children and the wife of her childhood sweetheart, Louis Cicerchia. The couple attends Abundant Life Worship Center in Lincoln Park, NJ, where they are involved in children’s ministry and worship ministry.
“That’s my home, that’s my heart,” she said of the church.
Prior to Strong, Cicerchia had already been on a fitness journey for about a year. “I was training trying to lose weight…and get healthy as a mom,” she said.
Between her second and third child, she suffered a miscarriage which caused her to gain weight. “I was depressed,” she said, “I baked a lot of cookies. I made a lot of pound cakes and I just kept baking and eating.”
During this trying time, she held on to the Lord and prayed, “I don’t [understand], but I’m going to have faith in you that I had this miscarriage for a reason. I have faith that you’re going to use it to strengthen one person.”
Having made it far in the casting process for another NBC show, Cicerchia received a casting blast e-mail for Strong and immediately knew it was something in which she was interested. At this point, she was down to the last 20-30 pounds she wanted to lose. “How is this not meant to be?” she thought.
Cicerchia believes her miscarriage story helped get her cast on the show.
“I’m very relatable,” she said. And the prayer she prayed following her miscarriage was answered as now, she could not only strengthen one person, but potentially millions on national television.
Written in the journal she used during Strong is Proverbs 14:30: “A heart at peace gives life to a body…” Cicerchia clung to this verse before competing on the show, and during her miscarriage. “I changed it to my life verse.”
During the show, which was filmed in California, Cicerchia’s mother-in-law, Theresa Cicerchia, passed away and she had to rely on the Lord in an even greater way.
“The day I won the hanging challenge was the actual day of the funeral. I was just upset and hurt,” she recalled. “People tell me I was so focused…but I say, ‘God you were my strength.’
“Losing my mother-in-law out there… without family to take my mind off it, no cookies to bake…I actually had to sit there in my sorrow, grab hold of God, and say, ‘alright, you got me through it,’ ” she said. “I realized how amazing God’s love is.”
Being away from her family for an extended time was also a test. Her orange team was eliminated about halfway through the season.
“Every day was a mental trial,” Cicerchia said. “I’m a mom of three and I’m very involved. My husband is my best friend, so to leave them and not have contact with them…mentally, that was really hard.”
She said she was able to persevere through these trials “only through Christ.”
She was also able to avoid injury on the show and compete every week.
“I got to tell my kids, ‘look what your prayers did for mommy,’ and it gives them hope,” she said. “I love that I did this kind of show because it oozed strength and showed them that their mom wasn’t just a pushover.”
Rev. Tom Berninger, senior pastor of Lincoln Park Abundant Life Worship Center, was proud of the way her faith and exemplary character were revealed.
“Giovanna and her trainer were never involved in the pettiness and drama,” said Berninger.
“I wanted my words to mean something,” said Cicerchia, an alumna of Hawthorne Christian Academy. “I wanted the world to see Christ in me though my actions.”
One key takeaway from the show was how consistency is key in every area of life. “Consistency is the best way if you want to change anything about yourself,” she said. “If you want more of God and you are consistent daily…you are only going to go up from there and God is going to come in and strengthen you.”
Being on Strong has also given her a platform. Cicerchia writes a blog, www.notjustaprettyplate.com/ which seeks to inspire women with recipes, lifestyle tips, and exercise routines.
“My message to people is to know that you are worth it in this life; you were put on this earth for a purpose, and you can turn any insecurity into a strength. Be consistent, believe, and trust.”