BIG CAN BE BEAUTIFUL
By Bill Dobbins
When bodybuilding for women first started in the late 1970s and early 1980s the competitors got very muscular but they weren’t very big. Female bodybuilding was mostly a dieting contest back then. It takes a fairly long time for even the genetically gifted to pack on a lot of mass so in those days the competitors simply hadn’t been training long enough to develop a lot of muscle. This kept the controversy to a minimum – along with the fact that the first Ms. Olympia was the very beautiful and marketable Rachel McLish.
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A few years later you started to see bigger women coming into bodybuilding and when Pumping Iron II focused powerlifter Bev Francis whatever debate there was about whether women could or should develop a lot of muscle intensified. But that was also the era of Cory Everson and while Cory was blonde and attractive she was also the biggest woman on the Olympia stage (although not the competitor with the most muscularity).
In the 1990s bodybuilding for women encountered a lot of resistance as Ben Weider decided that big and muscular female bodybuilders were hurting his chances of getting bodybuilding accepted as an Olympic sport. As a result the women started to see less prize money in contests, fewer sponsors for either the shows or themselves and very little coverage in the magazines. They also had to compete for public attention with first fitness and them figure competitors who were presented as not having “too much” muscle and being the more feminine alternative to the bigger FBBs.
Nowadays you can follow the careers of the IFBB pro female bodybuilders on the Internet but not really by reading physique magazines. The women who compete as NPC amateur bodybuilders don’t get much attention either. The place where a lot of the action is today is the IFBB World Amateur Women’s Bodybuilding Championships where scores of fantastic competitors from all over the world come to compete. But as far as the US is concerned that event might as well not exist. Of course, the fitness and figure women don’t fare much better, either on the amateur or pro level. You can find out who is who, who won what and when – but you have to make an effort.
Meanwhile, although the federations, sponsors, promoters and magazines are paying scant attention there are a lot of really big, very sexy and beautiful women bodybuilders continuing to train, compete and emerge as champions year after year. Sure, they are much bigger and more muscular than the fitness and figure women but they are often super-aesthetic and very attractive as well. Big AND beautiful. The aesthetics of bodybuilding – for men or for women – rarely that used to measure conventional beauty (although sometimes it is). I describe bodybuilding as being like the Grand Opera of the Physique. Opera is about the beauty of the voice but it’s not the same kind of beauty you hear when you listen to Beyonce or Mariah Carey.
Bodybuilding has it’s own aesthetics and there are a lot of women in competition nowadays who are gorgeous in terms of what bodybuilding fans want and expect. But if you want to see them don’t look to the physique magazines. These publications often don’t even feature the smaller fitness and figure women. For some reason they think magazine readers will pay for T&A photos in an age in which there are literally millions of images like that – like that, no… MUCH sexier – available for free all over the Web. So if you’re a fan of Iris Kyle, Heather Arbrust, Yaxeni Oriquen, Dayana Cadeau and other top pros – or emerging FBB pro women like Kristy Hawkins of Kris Murrell – or the bodybuilding competitors most have never heard of who are coming out of Canada, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia and everywhere else then keep searching the Internet, go on MySpace and Facebook, go to lower-level competitions wherever you might find them and see who is out there.
But you know those physique magazines you are increasingly not reading? You won’t find these women in those pages. Which is one reason by so many people are increasingly not reading them.
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