Sharon Bruneau

Sharon Bruneau  was a bodybuilder and fitness model. She was born in 1964 in Timminis, Canada. She is a French-Canadian Metis. The Metis are mixed raced aboriginal people of Canada. Sharon has the distinction of being one of the most recognized Metis in the female bodybuilding community. As Sharon has stated ” My native heritage is of Cherokee blood.” She takes pride in her heritage, which is important seeing as their are very few Metis women represented in the sport. Sharon did have an athletic past, which involved her in sports such as track, tennis, volleyball, and gymnastics. Oddly enough, like other girls she had body image issues. Sharon explained:” Like every young girl, I had hang-ups about my body and was always conscious of my weight, shape and tone… actually “anal” is a better word.” She was very thin and became obsessed with it. Her body shape at the time got her noticed for a top modeling agency in Toronto. She began modeling at age 17. She originally wanted to be an actor, but certain events changed her plans. Sharon contracted pneumonia and lost too much weight. At 5’9 and a 120 pounds she was reduced to an emaciated 100 pounds. To recover after this illness, Sharon joined a health club. After seeing an issue of Muscle and Fitness, she became interested in bodybuilding.

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Sharon was more interested in the Rachel Mclish version physique. Mclish became her inspiration and she continued to train to build up enough size for contests. From 1991 to 1994 she would compete as a bodybuilder. Her best win was  the IFBB North American Championships in 1991. From that point on she was an official pro. Sharon loved some of  the aesthetics  of bodybuilding saying ” saw some photos of Rachel McLish (Bodybuilder and Former Ms. Olympia) and I just loved her body.” Yet there were some aspects she did not approve of stating “I didn’t like the biceps but I loved the length so, I just dove in at that time.” This is a rather strange thought considering her biceps were her best body part. Round and full during her competitive years, they could make many men jealous. She gradually was overcoming body image issues she had from childhood. Although Sharon became a pro, the atmosphere of the Ms.Olympia stage was changing. Larger physiques were winning contests. Sharon’s physique resembled more so Corey Everson’s, but that body type was being replaced.

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If she had competed in the 1980s  she would have been in the top three. With Bev Francis ushering in a more muscular physique and Lenda Murray’s dominance, competition was tough. There were few contests that she won, but she was an excellent bodybuilder. She was popular among fans and was quickly recognizable. It seemed as if she reached her natural limit physically in terms of advancement in the bodybuilding category. Sharon switched to fitness competition that put less emphasis on muscle size. While she did find  much success as a model for the Weider corporation, old body image issues began to reappear. She feared in her own words ” I had become too muscular and again ‘anal’ about my physique.” Although some would think that women like this would not have issues like this, societal and cultural pressures are immense. Sharon was not pressured by her peers; she just disagreed with direction of aesthetics. After she retired  Sharon said  I really didn’t like the look of body building, I enjoyed the job but the look wasn’t me.” This is not uncommon for competitors to say with the shift to extremely low levels of body fat. If physique contest existed then she would probably have been best suited for that. Sharon retired from competition  in 1995.

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The contrast between Sharon’s bodybuilder physique and fitness physique.

Besides having disagreements over aesthetics, Sharon still dreamed of being of being an actress in films. Devoting time to both bodybuilding and acting would be difficult. So she tried her next venture. This did not land her major film roles, but she did get a chance to be in some productions. She appeared in films such as Tornado Run, Nemesis II and III  including  R.S.V.P a horror film. She also was doing stunt work in the film Smokin’ Aces. Sharon Bruneau believed she needed a change in her physique if she were to pursue acting. She expressed this as “I knew I wanted to continue pursuing acting and I knew I had to get back into the ‘middle’ physically.” She would unfortunately reduce all her muscular size to appeal to the mainstream Hollywood audience. Major acting opportunities did not arrive, but Sharon came to a new revelation. Being body obsessed was not healthy. While she did enjoy the competitive nature of the sport and the modeling aspects, but there still is an element of body image conformity. Only this time, she was exchanging it for  a more muscular body type. Sharon came to the conclusion that she was more than just her body and accepted herself.  As Sharon put it   “I could have been happy rather than worrying about how I look and reverting to an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia or overeating.” Sharon’s words are important, because too many women are distraught about their appearance  Cultural and societal attitudes dictate that women only have value in regards to their appearance. This must change and Sharon realized that she was a person, not an object.

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Sharon went on to down size and stopped training with weights, but still engages in exercise and dance. 

Sharon did have success in her fitness modeling career, but she described it as a bitter sweet victory. She did enjoy according to her accounts, traveling and meeting new people. The contract provided a good salary, but there were aspects she did not like about working for the Weider Corporation. Sharon stated after her athletic career ” I wanted to let go a lot sooner but I was under contract and the money and travel was great but literally I woke one day and looked in the mirror and said, ‘Who the hell is that – what did I do!?” Sharon was getting tired for looking a certain way for people. Many would miss her after her retirement, because she was representing an ethnic group that rarely receives attention in sports. White women were over-represented on fitness magazines. African American, Latino, Asian, and Aboriginal women were given less attention in magazines. Sharon had in a way broke down a barrier, just like Carla Dunlap and Lenda Murray did.

Sharon has a Youtube channel with nutrition advice and video clips. If you are a fan check it out Sharon’s channel .  

Sharon as a child of the 1960s experienced racism. Canada has falsely been presented as a liberal paradise, but that is far from Sharon’s experience. Regularly taunted for being aboriginal, Sharon developed a sense of mental toughness. Besides Rachel Mclish being one of her inspirations, Muhammad Ali captivated her. She recalls: “I remember watching when he was fighting – he would speak his mind and not care what people thought – and I loved that.” He was an athlete not afraid to speak out on social, racial, and political issues. To Sharon, a non-white child in a white society he was a hero. She learned to be proud of her Metis heritage and pursue her goals. Sharon Bruneau credits her parents being her favorite role models. They gave her the love and support she needed. Sharon describes them as strong willed, stating: I admire the strength that they had and how they managed to stick together through it all.” Rarely do athletes credit or mention the positive influence of their parents. Sharon admired their hard work ethic and their kind demeanor.

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 Sharon Bruneau still is involved in fitness. Currently she does motivational workshops on health and fitness. She is still involved in some acting, but seems to be focused on her business. Sharon enjoys seeing her clients reach their fitness goals and has claimed even if she developed a bigger business, she would never let this small one go. Even though she has hanged up the posing suit, she still continues a vigorous training regimen. This mostly consists of dancing and Pilates. She is missed by many fans, but still has minor involvement in the industry. Sharon Bruneau will certainly be remembered as one of best bodybuilders to come out of Canada.

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Sharon Bruneau

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