Joanna Thomas Gallery

Joanna Thomas Gallery


Joanna Thomas. Small waist, nice legs, and great lines. She started bodybuilding at 14, she turned pro at 21 and she won the Jan Tana at 24. In ten competitions, Joanna has taken home four 1st place finishes, and two 2nd place finishes. She is rarely out of contention for the top spot.

Thomas then decided to take a break from competitive bodybuilding and focus on making improvements on her body in order to be more competitive.

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In 2005, Joanna was featured in a one-hour documentary on the British channel five called Supersize She, also broadcast in the US on The Learning Channel. The show followed her training leading up to the Miss Olympia contest. The documentary talks about her life, her parents’ feelings about her decision to become a bodybuilder and nude model, her stringent dieting requirements, and her passion for bodybuilding as well as all the sacrifices she had to do to become a professional bodybuilder, and physical changes. The documentary was a huge success in the UK and in the USA where it had high ratings. This gave Joanna a solid amount of exposure in her country and in the United States.

Today we turn back the clock, and reach into the Female Muscle archives. The following story and gallery were featured on Female Muscle following Joanna Thomas’ victory at the 2001 Jan Tana.

What’s next for Joanna Thomas?
It is two days before her twentieth-fifth birthday, and Joanna Thomas is sipping a glass of red wine in an Italian restaurant in north London. She is in relaxed mode, her wavy blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, wearing a black Otomix t-shirt, training tights and black Nikes. It is six weeks since she competed in the Ms. Olympia, but although she has filled out to off-season size, the shape of her body is still breathtaking – an incredible v-shaped upper body disappearing into a minute waist, 15-inch arms (“15 and a half when I’m training”) contrasting with tiny wrists, and big, round calves. In a few days, she will fly to Florida to begin the next phase of her bodybuilding career. But right now she is taking time out, enjoying eating whenever – and whatever – she feels like. Tonight it’s pizza, followed by strawberry pancakes.

Destiny’s Child

It has been a whirlwind year for Joanna. In August she made her pro debut at the Jan Tana and at 5-foot-2 and 128 pounds won the lightweight class. Suddenly she was the name on everyone’s lips in women’s bodybuilding. She did photo and video shoots and fan mail started flooding in. Instead of returning to Manchester, where she has trained for the last three years, she accepted an offer to prepare for the Ms. Olympia – only her sixth show ever – in southern California. It was a great experience, but the change in routine threw off her preparation. When she arrived in Las Vegas, she found the show badly organized and stressful. Holding water on the day of the show, she placed tenth in the lightweights.

Joanna was disappointed, of course, but six weeks on she is being positive. The year, with all its ups and downs, was a learning experience. For one thing, it taught her to put competition in perspective. After having so much success in bodybuilding at such a young age, she now feels she needs to whip the rest of her life in shape. “The next time I compete I want to go onstage feeling happy,” she says. “If my whole life is balanced outside the sport, whether I win or lose, it’s irrelevant.”

To achieve that balance she is planning on making some major changes in her life, re-locating from England to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to train. But Joanna is in no hurry to compete again. In fact she plans to take next year off entirely – and then come back and win the Ms. International in 2003, when she will still be only 26. “I’ll do it when I’m ready,” she says decisively. “If I don’t think I look right in 2003, I’ll be there in 2004.”

Joanna Thomas – Jo to her friends – grew up in a small tin mining town in Cornwall in the south-western tip of England. As a child she was seriously asthmatic and had always wanted a bigger build. When she was 14, she saw pictures of female bodybuilders in a magazine for the first time. It was the early 1990s, the era of Lenda Murray, Laura Creavalle and Denise Rutkowski. Joanna took one look and fell in love with the way they looked. “There was just something about them,” she says. “I knew it was what I was supposed to be.” Just like that, she decided it was her destiny to be a pro bodybuilder.

Three months later, at 107 pounds, she went to her local gym and told the owner she wanted to build muscle. She soon discovered she had great genetics for bodybuilding. She quickly grew out of her asthma, and within two years, on only three meals a day and without supplements, she had put on nine pounds of muscle. “Within six months of training I was the only girl in my gym class that could do proper push-ups,” she laughs.

By 17, having left school and begun training as a nurse, she was bodybuilding seriously. She ate more, spent all her spare money on supplements and trained “like a robot.” Meanwhile Joanna’s older sister Nikki, who had been a sprinter, had also got into the sport. In 1997, Joanna won her first show, qualifying for the British championship, and entered along with Nikki, who had placed second in the lightweights the previous year. Joanna placed third in the lightweights, and Nikki won the overall, qualifying her as a pro.

The British turned out to be Nikki’s last show – she drifted away from the sport and never competed as a pro. But for Joanna it was just the beginning. Soon afterwards, she left her friends and family behind and moved 350 miles to Manchester to train at Betta Bodies, one of England’s top hardcore gyms. “It was a bit like Arnold moving to the States,” she laughs. She got help from Kerry Kayes, the owner of Betta Bodies and one of the UK’s top bodybuilding gurus, and Diane Royle, a former Olympic javelin thrower and competitive bodybuilder. Chemical Nutrition, the supplement company Kayes co-owns with former Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, sponsored her. The move quickly paid off – the following year, at the age of 21, she won the lightweight and overall at the British, making her the youngest pro in the history of women’s bodybuilding.

The British turned out to be Nikki’s last show – she drifted away from the sport and never competed as a pro. But for Joanna it was just the beginning. Soon afterwards, she left her friends and family behind and moved 350 miles to Manchester to train at Betta Bodies, one of England’s top hardcore gyms. “It was a bit like Arnold moving to the States,” she laughs. She got help from Kerry Kayes, the owner of Betta Bodies and one of the UK’s top bodybuilding gurus, and Diane Royle, a former Olympic javelin thrower and competitive bodybuilder. Chemical Nutrition, the supplement company Kayes co-owns with former Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, sponsored her. The move quickly paid off – the following year, at the age of 21, she won the lightweight and overall at the British, making her the youngest pro in the history of women’s bodybuilding.

Instead of jumping straight onstage with the pros, however, Joanna spent the next three years in Manchester making a living as a care worker and quietly honing her physique, packing on more size, improving her shape and increasing her muscle maturity. In the meantime, the IFBB had introduced weight classes for women’s pro shows, dramatically improving the prospects for a 5-foot-2 female like Joanna. In the spring of 2001 she decided to take the plunge and began preparing for her pro debut at the Jan Tana Classic.

When she arrived in Lynchburg, Virginia, for the Jan Tana, Joanna was the best-kept secret in women’s bodybuilding. She had never traveled to the U.S. and never even flown on an airplane. But as soon as she stripped off at the weigh-in, everyone was talking about her incredible shape. When she won the lightweights ahead of Jennifer McVicar and a ripped Marja Lehtonen – and with it qualification for the Ms. Olympia – it was a dream come true. “It was like an athlete getting into the Olympics,” she says. “I have always wanted to do bodybuilding since I was 14. When I got to the Olympia it was a 10-year goal that I had achieved. I just couldn’t believe it.”

As she turns 25, Joanna still has the same drive she did when she started training almost 10 years ago. Just as she moved to Manchester four years ago, she now feels she needs to move to the U.S. to take her bodybuilding career to the next level. “In Britain I was just Jo Thomas, training at the gym. People would say ‘You look good, Jo,’ but I wasn’t used to having all this attention. In the States people are a lot more positive towards women’s bodybuilding, and there are a lot more opportunities.”

But despite her new star status in women’s bodybuilding, Joanna is keeping her feet firmly on the ground. She says she still has a lot to improve in order to win the Ms. Olympia. She wants bigger hamstrings and glutes, more 3-D depth in her back, and more density in her chest. Most of all, she says, she needs muscle maturity. “I don’t have the hardness some of the women have,” she says. “One day it will happen. But I need time.”

By taking her time, patiently building muscle and focusing on shape, Joanna believes she can go take her physique a lot further and still be what the I.F.B.B. calls “marketable”. “A woman can have a hell of a lot of muscle and still look feminine,” she says. “I love muscle. I’m not some fitness chick. I’m a hardcore bodybuilder and always will be. I want a woman’s structure, with a lot of muscle flowing off it.”

But after her first year competing as a pro, Joanna also knows there is more to life than being Ms. Olympia. She is full of admiration for Juliette Bergmann, who returned to competition at 42 after a 14-year absence and won the Ms. Olympia. “That’s what bodybuilding is all about,” she says. “She’s made a good life for herself, she’s happy in her heart, yet she’s gone onstage with a Ms. Olympia-level physique. She’s not bodybuilding to compete, she’s bodybuilding because it’s her.”

Like Juliette, Joanna can see her herself getting involved in the organization of women’s bodybuilding one day, perhaps as an athletes’ representative. “I want us women to be treated as fairly as the men, I want us have more opportunity, and I want us to get more from what we do,” she says. “I don’t want to be a prima donna. I want to make a difference.” Whatever she does, Joanna Thomas has a great future in the sport she has been in love with since she was a 14 year-old girl. “It’s my passion, it’s what I do, it’s who I am.”

Lori Braun
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Lori Braun
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0 Responses to "Joanna Thomas Gallery"

  1. James Peter  June 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    She is gorgeous but only aficionados like ourselves would further appreciate her amazing vascularity and definition. That’s what separates the pin-ups from the true bodybuilders…

    Reply
  2. Felipe L. Simmons  June 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Great interview

    Reply
  3. Felipe L. Simmons  June 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Great interview segment about how Joanna got into bodybuilding.

    Reply
  4. crazytes  June 20, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Reply
  5. 陈庆芳  January 4, 2015 at 9:22 am

    good luck to you!

    Reply

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