Yolanda Hughes was a bodybuilder active in the 1990s. Fans of the sport remember her impeccable size and conditioning on stage. She was one of those athletes who should have won at least one Ms.Olympia. The competition was fierce in the time of Lenda Murray and Kim Chizevsky. While many competitors were great, it made it extra difficult for judging. Yolanda was born in 1963. She was raised in Murfressboro, Tennessee. This was the era of Jim Crow and the civil rights movement. Being African American in the US South was not a simple affair. Despite this, her grandmother was determined to raise her and her five other siblings. At an early age Yolanda became active in gymnastics. The local youth center in which she spent much of time, generated her interest in sports. Besides excelling at gymnastics, her academic performance was high. She excelled at subjects such as geography and psychology. Yolanda Hughes then gravitated toward track and field. Yolanda had mastered the 100 hurtles, 400 relay, and 100 meters; it seems that she was going to be on an athletic career path. Yolanda originally wanted to an Olympic gymnast. She competed at both the state and national level. She went down another path at Western Kentucky University.
When she was a college student, Yolanda met a wrestler by the name of Hillbille Jim. He was attempting to get her involved in bodybuilding. Yolanda showed skepticism. After further discussions Yolanda then decided to try bodybuilding. The periods of 1981 to 1982 brought many changes to Yolanda’s life. She transferred to Saddleback College in California, while helping her family. A combination of her scholarship running out and family obligations forced her to make a tough decision. Either continue her degree or start a full time athletic career. Yolanda Hughes decided to pursue her athletics and trained to be a professional bodybuilder. Yolanda trained at the San Clemente Gym building a powerful body. Yolanda was so dedicated, she had little time for leisure. The year 1984 saw her earn the right to compete in a national qualifier. There she caught the eye of Thomas Heying a German national who would later become her husband. She would then go and reside in Germany learning the culture and language. She only lived there briefly. Yolanda was accepted more there than she would be in the country she grew up. Yolanda also taught aerobics while living in Guthersloh. She was the only African American among Europeans. She would eventually move back to the United States with her husband in the mid-1990s.
Yolanda would come to love the extreme competitive nature of the sport and would compete from 1984 to 1999. Yolanda’s competitive longevity was impeccable and she became a regular on the Olympia stage in the 1990s.
Yolanda appeared in as many as twenty three competitions. Her best wins include the NPC Orange County Classic (1988), the World Amateurs (1992), and the Ms. International ( 1997 and 1998). She was usually in the top ranks only slipping to 10th in the 1995 Ms.Olympia. It seemed that she was really rising up, but retired in 1999 after only a third place finish. It seems peculiar that an athlete would just stop competing at that point when it looks as if you could rise higher. It could have been at that Yolanda realized that her physique could not be improved upon further and the competitors were becoming more of a challenge. It was a spectacular physique she presented. At 5 ft 6 1/2 inches and at 145 lbs in competition weight she was a real power house.
Her off season weight was a total of 164 lbs. What best describes her body is the fuller and robust look. The female bodybuilders of the 1980s were more sleek in development. The 1990s was about size. Yolanda had both the size and the symmetry. The judging has always been controversial and it was more difficult with many talented women appearing on stage. Her rankings did fluctuate, but she was able to get notoriety in bodybuilding circles. She appeared on the cover of Flex and Women’s Physique World.
Few at the time of the 1997 Ms.Olympia could have predicted that Kim Chizevsky could have dethroned Lenda Murray. Getting third place was actually a great accomplishment considering such formidable challengers. Yolanda returned to the Ms.Olympia stage in 1998 getting a second place ranking. Maybe if Yolanda remained persistent she would have become Ms.Olympia. Even some fitness magazines recognized a level of bias. Some viewed her as an under valued competitor.
Yolanda was not there to just win awards or get recognition. She did it because she loved the sport. Yolanda stated in a magazine interview “I enjoy the time on stage and the opportunity to perform.” To her it was personally rewarding and fun. Her posing on sage was more playful in nature and choreographed in such a manner. The body she developed caught the eye of fans and photographers making her very popular. She would regularly appear in Bill Dobbins and Steve Wenherstorm photo sessions. These pictures were both black and white including color renditions. It makes the viewer truly appreciate the strength and the beauty of the athletic female form. It also demonstrates how bodybuilding is literal sculpting of the human flesh. Examining the photos many can see her best feature was her legs. They were clearly built up from years of track an gymnastics.
Yolanda announced retirement in 1999 from bodybuilding, but continued to be involved in fitness and the industry. Yolanda would also start her own business. Her occupation besides bodybuilder is a personal trainer.
Yolanda open Fitness Exotica in 2001. There she offers training in pole dancing fitness. She also continues to be a trainer for other fitness athletes. Yolanda offers training and nutrition advice to novice competitors.Yolanda also gives seminars to athletes who are attempting to start bodybuilding. Yolanda Hughes also had a brief film appearance. she was in the 2002 film Rollerball . It was small, but it is nice to see female athletes in films. Yolanda Hughes resides in Bellingham, Washington currently. She has competed in pole fitness competitions. Yolanda who enjoys competing won the Ms.Pole Fit Championship. She won the best contortionist category. Although she is not as visible, fans still fondly remember her posing routines, photo shoots, and guest appearances. Yolanda Hughes and her contemporaries were the epitome of the second golden age of female bodybuilding.