Michelle Jin

Michelle Jin is a physique competitor and bodybuilder from China. She was born in  Wenzhou a small village in 1974. This was the period of Maoist China and she was raised in a conservative family. Although the Communist Party of China adopted a policy of promoting women’s rights, much of the population was slow to change their attitudes in regards to women. Her family thought that a woman being an athlete was not the proper career course to take. Michelle Jin came to the United States in 1996 and this was when she first got exposure to gym culture. Introduced to it by a friend, she enjoyed weightlifting. Training hard through the years she decided to compete. By 2014 Michelle had won the NPC Junior USA Championship, which got her notoriety in Muscular Development magazine. He local hometown newspaper even congratulated and interviewed her. The Wenzhou Evening News  asked about her training regimen and her plans for the future. Michelle stated that she wanted to continue competing and gain a fitness training certificate. For her 2014 victory she revealed she trained four months prior to the contest, which also included two hours of running. Her diet consisted of chicken breasts, fish, and vegetables to reduce body fat. Jin’s efforts paid off and she became another competitor in the IFBB. Since 2006 she has been competing on stage and will not be stopping anytime soon.

 For tens years she has been with the bodybuilding sport. Her rankings have not been high as a professional bodybuilder, but she as presented a powerful and balanced physique. She has competed in the Optimum Classic Pro (2015), the Junior National Championships (2011), and the Omaha pro (2016). Beginning her career as a lightweight bodybuilder, physique is still new. Creating the physique that the judges want can be a difficult task. Besides being an athlete Michelle Jin enjoys biking and hiking in her free time.  At first Michelle Jin had some doubts about her bodybuilding pursuits. She was fearful that a woman with muscle could not look beautiful. Once she got over this irrational fear, she was able to compete and make considerable improvements. Michelle likes competing in the physique division rather than bodybuilding. She has siad in interviews that it gives her a better chance of going up in competitor  rankings. She stands in competition 120 lbs in weight and is 5′ 2” in height. When not on her strict diet she enjoys hamburgers and donuts. Three years now she has been an IFBB pro and it looks like there are many more contests for her to conquer.

Michelle 2017
Michelle’s Twitter

  Michelle Jin is also active on social media including Twitter and Facebook. She also has her own Youtube page in which fans can ask questions and engage. She continues to keep busy between competing and work. Now living in South Carolina, she is an excellent representative to Chinese athletes and specifically Chinese women athletes. Maybe her actions will inspire young women seeking to do the same.

Michelle Jin

Florence Griffith Joyner: Icon, Athlete, and The Fastest Woman in the World

Florence Griffith Joyner was a track and field  athlete who is still one of the fastest women to run. Elaine Thompson currently is the only athlete that has come close to her record. She was an icon and inspiration to many fans and athletes alike. Delorez Florence Griffith was born in 1959 in Watts area of Los Angeles. Although living in poverty she recalled her childhood years as joyous. Joyner stated “we did not know how poor we were; we were rich in family. ” She had eleven siblings all raised by her mother, who worked as a seamstress. That early support system was critical to her rise as an athlete.  Florence Griffith Joyner would become a popular figure of the 1980s due to spectacular athletic  performances and fashion style. Her popularity went beyond athletics when she got endorsements, did acting, and clothing design. Joyner became a part of American popular culture. This was important for women’s sports. Women who participated in athletics were never accepted as role models at this stage in history.Florence Griffith Joyner contributed to the positive shift in acceptance of the female athlete in the mainstream.

     Joyner’s journey into running began as child. As a young person she competed in races sponsored by Sugar Ray Robinson Foundation. From age 11 she would continue to run into her teenage years. She was so talented that she was able to receive a scholarship to California State University. There she would major in business. She would later graduate with a degree in psychology. There with the assistance of her coach Bob Kersee  Florence Griffith Joyner would be positioned to be an athletic champion. She won first place at the NCAA 400 meter race in 1983. It was clear she was going to rise to the top. Her Olympic debut could have been sooner, but she could not compete due to the US boycott of the Olympics in 1980. Joyner would come into the Olympics in 1984 winning a silver medal for the 200 meter race. Her performance was not as spectacular, but her fashion presentation and entertaining mannerisms captivated sports fans. Joyner had a interest in fashion and she felt that women’s track suits should be designed  to be aesthetic.  As a high school student she suggested that her teammates wear tights with their uniforms. The 1984 Olympics was a place in which she experimented with a different type of track uniform.

She was known for wearing one legged track suits and wearing jewelry while competing . Athletes tried to avoid wearing such accessories for fear that it might slow them down. This seem to be a myth, because it did not effect Joyner’s running speed.   Her track suits were bright and colorful. She designed them herself and it got her much attention. She was not just a pretty face. When she returned to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Florence Griffith Joyner would make history.

         Florence Griffith Joyner would win three gold medals and one silver in the 1988 Olympics. During the World Championships in 1987 she had already set records. This was an incredible comeback from the 1984 Olympics. Between 1985 and 1986 Joyner had not been running. She spent most her time working as a bank teller and hair stylist. She then realized that she missed running too much and returned to competition. This time she altered her training regimen. She began weight training to improve her performance. She mostly focused on squats and luges to build stronger leg muscles. Florence Griffith Joyner had to balance both her career and athletic pursuit. The reality of the Olympic athlete is that they do not make enormous amounts of money, unless they get endorsements. To many athletes competing in the Olympics is like an expensive hobby.

Florence Griffith Joyner had already acquired a nickname for her athletic feats among fans. Flo-Jo became a household name. Joyner would set a record making her the fastest woman in the world. She ran a 10:54 in the 100 meter final in the 1988 summer Olympics. The biggest and most impressive feat was her record of 10:49 in a 100 meter sprint. While fans cheered this world record, detractors were quick to make baseless accusations of steroid use or that her run time was assisted by wind. Darrell Robinson a track athlete made this accusation without any evidence. Another Olympic athlete Joaquim Cruz made this accusation claiming the change in Joyner’s physique. Her more muscular appearance came from a new training program and she never failed a drug test. This seems to be a problem with women athletes. When they perform well and appear strong they are accused of performance enhancing drug use. Even by the 1980s there were still people who did not fully accept women in sport.

Even though she never failed a drug test and there was not any proof of these accusations, the statements still persisted. Alexandre de Merode head of the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission revealed that Joyner was singled out for extra testing due to the rumors circulating in 1988. This was obviously unfair considering East Germany had a state sponsored doping program and it was rare that their athletes were singled out for more drug testing. Despite this negativity, Florence Griffith Joyner continued to perform under these harsh rumors. Her most popular aphorism was “when anyone tells me I can’t do anything I  I’m just not listening anymore .” This attitude was a way of persevering in the face of negative criticism and dealing with hostility from racism and sexism in the United States.

        Florence Griffith Joyner was and continues to be an important icon. The reason is she demonstrated that a woman in athletics could be powerful and show grace. Her journey was the positive results of Title IX and the civil rights movement. African American athletes were being integrated into the sports world and America began to accept them. Athletes like Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph,  Althea Gibson, and Alice Coachman opened the door for African American athletes. Florence Griffith Joyner became an African American icon, inspiring women of various backgrounds. She was involved in women’s cause stating “It’s important women  to see women make strides.” Joyner also expounded further remarking ” women need to be in control of their lives and feel good about themselves.” This confident personality radiated and captivated female fans. She inspired women to get into running and made it fashionable. Florence Griffith Joyner became a celebrity eventually working as a model, doing acting, and endorsed various products.

After her retirement from racing in 1989, she embarked on numerous ventures. She started the Florence Griffith Joyner Youth Foundation, continued to design clothing, and ran a nail kit company. By 1995 she was also the co-chair on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Once again she wanted to compete again and in 1996 wanted to compete in the 400 meter run. Unfortunately tendinitis in her right leg stopped her from competing. Although she did not appear in athletics, Joyner did have acting roles. She appeared in Santa Barbara in 1992. Her influence was extensive in the sports world.

35e07745d6754d5c1c85959c6bb80918  Florence Griffith Joyner was such a popular athlete that LJN Toys produced dolls of her likeness. Normally this was reserved for popular cartoon shows or other properties, but a prominent female athlete was getting this treatment. Her media appearances and athletic talent did so much for the promotion of women in sports. Joyner’s talents were recognized and praise during her lifetime. She was inducted into USA track and Field Hall of Fame in 1995. Her life was cut short by a seizure she had in her sleep in 1998. This was caused by cavernous hemangioma in which a collection of  dilated blood vessels form a tumor. This causes seizures, which Joyner had been getting treatment for in 1993 and 1994. Although she only lived 38 years, her impact will be everlasting. The flashy outfits, the amazing athletic performances, and charm made her unique. Women track athletes are no longer considered an anomaly. Florence Griffith Joyner’s efforts contributed to the acceptance of women’s sports in the mainstream and motivated a new generation of runners who would emerge in the 21st century.

Florence Griffith Joyner: Icon, Athlete, and The Fastest Woman in the World

Iris Kyle : The Best Bodybuilder Ever

Iris Kyle has been one of the most successful bodybuilders of the 21st century. Her impressive amount of victories demonstrate a true talent for the bodybuilding sport. She was able to break both Corey Everson’s  and Lenda Murray’s records. Since 1994 she has been competing and has been a force to be reckoned with. Iris Kyle will certainly be remembered in IFBB history has one of the most important athletes to grace the stage. Iris Kyle won the Ms.Olympia in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Besides her Ms. Olympia titles, she holds seven win in the Ms. International competition. She did this in a span of ten years. Although a woman of many talents she had generated criticism from fellow competitors and detractors alike. Whatever one thinks of the physique she presents, one cannot say is not a great bodybuilder. Talent like this keeps the sport alive and interesting. Iris Kyle was born in 1974 in Benton, Michigan and participated in sports during her childhood. She ran cross country, played basketball, and,  softball. She would continue to play basketball on a sports scholarship, receiving a degree in business administration  with a minor accounting from Alcorn State University. Her contact with bodybuilding did not come until she moved to California.

When she was in Orange County Iris recalled being amazed by the gym she went to seeing fit looking people. There she became a devoted reader of Flex, Muscle and Fitness, as well as Iron Man Magazine. What took her by surprise was seeing Lenda Murray’s physique in a magazine. To Iris’s own admission, ” I wanted to develop a physique like hers.” Everyone gets inspiration from somewhere and Iris found her’s. She was also inspired by Bev Francis. Iris then at the age of 23 won her pro card at the 1998 NPC USA Championship. Before that she won her very first bodybuilding competition in the 1994 Long Beach Classic. It was clear that she was going to be major competition going into the 2000s. A new generation of female bodybuilder had emerged.

       Iris kyle would go against some of the longtime greats such as Juilette Bergmann and Lenda Murray. She lost the overall to Bergmann, but won the 2001 heavyweight title. Iris would come in second both in 2002 and 2003 to Lenda Murray who even out of retirement was formidable. The 2004 Ms.Olympia was different and Iris dethroned Lenda Murray. There was criticism from fans and even competitors alike.

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Lenda Murray said ” she destroyed her look as a woman.” This seems ludicrous, because their physiques are similar with only slight differences. Critics who never liked or wanted female bodybuilding in the first place claimed that Iris Kyle had gone “too far in her appearance.” These statements and claims seem baseless. Iris was presenting a larger and balanced physique which is why she won some many contests. At 5 ft 7in  and 165 pounds in competition she was able to sculpt her body into a new model for the female bodybuilding physique. Just like Bev Francis and Lenda Murray they ushered in a new look. when these new paradigms are introduced, they are not always accepted. The Lenda Murray comments can be seen as a form of jealousy. When you win so many times it natural to feel frustration when you lose.  It seems odd that someone Iris idolized would say such a thing.  The 2004 Olympia was the passing of the torch. Many observers of the sport claim this was the period female bodybuilding went on a sharp decline. The sport was not generating as much revenue or gaining as much attendance, but that does mean the quality of competitors went down.

Iris Kyle’s dedication and persistence shows that women can do this just as well as the men. She would continue to dominate the sport in the 2000s and 2010s. She would later retire ( temporarily) in 2014 after winning another Olympia. This was a low point, because 2014 was the last Ms.Olympia and Iris was no longer competing. When it was announced that there was to be the Rising Phoenix to replace the ms.Olympia Kyle then came out of retirement. She announced that she would appear in 2016 on stage, but something happened. For some reason she was not invited to the competition. This is a deliberate violation of IFBB rules. If you are professional then you are allowed to compete in contests. It seemed as if the sponsor the Rising Phoenix show did not want Iris to compete and complications occurred over contracts. This was a mistake to have a show that was a successor to the Olympia and not have Iris Kyle in the line-up. Decisions like these harm the sport and anger fans.  Tim Gardner the organizer of the show made this mistake. Hopefully, Iris Kyle will make a stage appearance in 2017.

         The ten time Ms.Olympia has gathered a following over the years. Iris Kyle also has engaged in business ventures opening Bodi Cafe which specializes in smoothies and supplements. Iris Kyle also has her own Youtube Channel in which she shows training techniques. The channel currently hold about 2,388 subscribers.

2009 Arnold Sports Festival
Follow Iris Kyle : Iris Kyle YT and Iris Kyle Facebook

Her Facebook page has generated a following of 150, 778 people. Besides that Iris Kyle maintains a website IrisKyle.com  in which she also helps and consults in regards to weight training. Iris kyle  continues to have influence in the bodybuilding community and her name is readily recognizable in many fitness circles. Her constant victories and uniqueness have gained her nicknames such as ” the female Ronnie Coleman” and “iron maiden.” She also got exposure in mainstream entertainment on the show Wipeout . Being a vary religious individual she has stated “Christ has strengthened me.” She starts her days reading the Bible and with a prayer. Iris Kyle’s time is spent training clients, conducting seminars, and doing guest posing. The Olympia champion certainly has a busy schedule.  Iris Kyle has faced many competitors including greats like Yaxeni Garcia, Alina Popa, Lenda Murray,  Juliette Begmann, and Vicki Gates.

Iris Kyle had stated that her biggest challenge was competing against Lenda Murray and Yaxeni Garcia. These two competitors were difficult for her to beat, but she eventually did. There was a level of confusion in 2005 with the 20 percent rule. The IFBB stated that all competitors in women’s divisions must reduce their muscularity by a 20 percent margin. Iris wanted to follow the rules and come to competition smaller.  Iris went in at 155 pounds, but Garcia came in larger and won. The contradiction in judging has always been frustrating to athletes, At that moment Iris Kyle realized she had to change and it had to be guided by her own assessments. The irony was that Lenda Murray was announcing the winner that year. Iris Kyle then reverted back to the same training regimen. She trains from heavy lifting to supersets  and drop sets.

 After losing to Lenda Murray in both 2002 and 2003 she was determined to win. Iris has facetiously claimed ” if you are going for the champ you have to completely knock out the camp.” Iris Kyle then began a long reign in 2004 of dominating both the Ms. International competitions and Ms.Olympia. Kyle puts her success down to “training smart not hard.” During the off season she trains five days and has two days of rest. She trains one body part per day and allows herself to do three days of cardio training. Kyle although successful has faced criticism. Critics claim she took her physique “too far” and that it was harming the bodybuilding aesthetics. These claims are baseless, because she is no more extreme than any other physique that appears on stage. Iris Kyle simply to the physical paradigm to another logical step. Her physique combined the large size of Bev Francis and the balance of Lenda  Murray while maintaining the symmetry and definition of Corey Everson and Carla Dunlap. Iris Kyle perfected what these early pioneers had started. The idea that women who get “too big” lose their femininity is antiquated and sexist. This is about building a physique and although people may not find it suitable for women, no one can say women are terrible bodybuilders. There is a point when it becomes more than just pleasing judges or acclimating to a particular perspective. Iris Kyle revealed in an interview “never allow someone else’s opinion to dictate your future.” Surprisingly she admitted that someone once said to her she would never become Ms.Olympia. They were obviously wrong. There may not be a Ms.Olympia contest anymore, but Iris Kyle being the last one carries on that legacy. Iris Kyle will be considered in sports history as one of the most accomplished bodybuilders.

Iris Kyle : The Best Bodybuilder Ever

Colette Nelson Interview from The Beheld : Beauty and What It Means

Beauty and What It Means

This is a blog written by Autumn Whitefield Madrano that seeks to understand the concept of beauty and what it means in a cultural context. She seeks to in her own words engage with these questions of beauty and how to an extent it dictates the lives of women. She seems to be influenced by  The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. That book has some analytical flaws and half truths. It would be too simple to dismiss this site as another third wave feminist promotion, but there is a difference. She interviews women from all walks of life and various professions. Comedians, sex workers, and in this case female bodybuilders. Colette Nelson was interviewed for the blog in 2011. What is special about this is that blog’s that tend to be third wave feminist ignore the muscular woman or athlete. Compared to other issues and struggles, it may be low priority. However, it does offer a radical paradigm shift in how women see their bodies and what the female body is capable of.  The interview exposes readers who may not familiar to the bodybuilding world to another image of beauty. Many claim that this type of body on a woman is not beautiful. This leads to the question what is beauty? Who defines it? If an alternative is found to current standards will that be just as oppressive as the current ones? The Colette Nelson interview explores these questions.

            The definition of beauty can be stated as ” the quality aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts mind or spirit.” This becomes ambiguous when questioned. The beauty concept and be highly subjective. It should be understood beauty had become a subject of philosophy notably in aesthetics. The modern world merely associates it with physical attractiveness of a person. These concepts date back to classical Greece and the Age of Reason. Physical attractiveness is a different  concept, but closely related. This varies from culture and time period. At one time in the West a fuller figure was more accepted. Around the 20th century a thinner look was made an ideal. Now it seems there is a small, yet growing fitness fad that wants present a stronger looking form for the female body. These models and paradigms change. Colette explains her sport as follows : “bodybuilding-at least women’s bodybuilding is another way of judging beauty.” She explains further that ” for those who attend and judge women’s bodybuilding contests, the muscular woman is beautiful.” Here were getting more of an idea of the definition. Beauty can be defined in multiple forms and in this case it is a muscular one. The reason this becomes an amazing paradigm shift is that it redefines the beauty model. The muscular body was thought to be something solely of the male domain. It was contrasted with either the soft or frail body of woman.

The strong woman breaks the mold of the rigid dichotomy. It is commonly believed that the pursuit of beauty to such a degree is either based in arrogance or vanity. Colette then states: “do you consider a woman who does make up hours in front of the mirror arrogant ?” Colette’s response was no in her argument. She then says “why should we give this label to a woman who works out hard in the gym and shows results on stage?” Colette then says both are seeking their version of perfection. The reason is based in sexism. Women are held to a different standard and it is normally designed to be restrictive. When examining these definitions and connotations of beauty it becomes more complicated when femininity becomes connected. Femininity’s definition has nothing to do with beauty or physical attractiveness. It can mean simply the qualities of womanhood. Colette explains that people see contradictions between muscles, femininity, and beauty. Beauty and femininity can have multiple meanings, so there would be limited contradiction based on subjective ideas. Muscles are part of the human body. These strong women have decided to develop it to the highest level attainable.

      Femininity does not equal beauty. The definition is “the qualities of being a woman.” yet what makes a woman a woman? Gender defines it in a cultural context that could vary. These attitudes change overtime. This however should not be confused with biological sex, which is the product of human evolution and sexual dimorphism. Societies that are extremely patriarchal or male dominated dictate femininity in rigid gender lines. This is designed to be restrictive and controlling of women. When examined from the context of sports it has been said that women active in them are not feminine. Such attitudes demonstrate sexism, but have been challenged. It is no long abnormal for a woman to display strength or athletic skills. There are still limits of acceptance in the cultural atmosphere. A woman can show some strength,but not too much that it challenges the notion men have sole monopoly on physical strength. Colette says in the interview “that she wants to prove that muscle can be feminine and beautiful.” It certainly can be one form of beauty; the problem is that people have a narrow perspective of other paradigms or alternatives. Some women who do not fit the majority model of beauty may even internalize negativity. Women who alter their bodies to further extremes through drug use receive ostracism from the public and even their  their own circles.  It seems that the concern over drug use is more about a woman’s appearance rather than their health. Virilization can occur depending on how long steroids were taken and specific dosage. Colette said she was never willing to go that route, because she did not want to sacrifice her femininity. That term is  ambiguous and can mean many things depending on which culture and community you reside in. To say women who have been effected by drug use are no longer women represents the narrow space in which they can navigate in society. Colette has fought back in a sense providing make-up and hairdressing services to competitors. Colette has helped with women who have had baldness or facial hair growth. Colette articulated “it was not her place to judge or criticize these women, but should they ask for it offer my help.” If only the public and bodybuilding community could have the same conviction, women would have an easier time. A woman who does not take the drug use route still has criticism directed at them for their appearance. Colette reveals that most women would rather have the body shape of Jillian Michaels.

It appears at times that Colette even struggles with the idea of a muscular woman. Colette expresses “as a female bodybuilder you walk a fine line.” She expounds further saying ” you love muscle, yet you love being a woman at the same time.” This is not a contradiction yet many in the fitness circles still think in this manner. What bothers more traditional thinkers is that it alters their views of femininity. Women who participate in this sport have formed a new definition of femininity. This new thought not only frightens some, but its the idea that women’s bodies can be powerful. Some men do not like the like the concept of a woman being physically stronger. This intrudes on the unwritten mores of gender norms in which masculine identity has a huge emphasis on strength and dominance. The more tolerant men may find women in shape appealing . This also has a limit among supporters. A woman can be strong just not “too” strong. One coded language phrase is that a woman who is too muscular “crossed the line.” This means that the woman is no longer acceptable in terms of body type and physical attractiveness. This subtle sexist attitude does not realize these athletes are doing this for themselves not the approval of others.  There has been at least a shift were society at least accepts a woman that is in shape or has some visible muscle. However, female bodybuilders are the most muscular which in the eyes of some men are threatening.

 The threat is that it makes them realize that strength is not their sole property. One reason women have been subjugated in particular societies is due to the fact they do not have control of their own bodies. This extends to the restriction on reproductive rights and how women should look. The deviation from conformity also is threatening, mainly on the basis it could depose the status quo. Whether women choose to build their bodies by natural or pharmaceutical means it is a radical statement about what a woman is. It seems to be so controversial some feminists even reject the muscular woman or ignore them in the discourse on gender relations. There should not be a contradiction between femininity and athletics. The only reason it would be is in a society that has a limited view of what women and be and accomplish.

     How Colette Nelson acquired her respect for the muscular form is interesting. She was 12 years old when she saw pictures of  Rachel Mclish and Cory Everson and loved how they looked. When Colette was growing up female bodybuilding was in its infancy. Never before had women developed their bodies to this level in human history. There were of course muscular women prior to the sport, but this was the first time they had a platform.

Colette admits she loved bigger and muscular bodies. Oddly she also reveals that she had dissatisfaction with her own figure. As ludicrous as this sounds she claims “she never considered herself looking good” in her youth. It is clear now she is a more confident person, yet it is still prevalent that young women age taught to have a level of insecurity about their appearance. Extreme cases may result in developing eating disorders, constant dieting, and psychological issues. Colette was able to avoid these problems through exercise. This had to be done for the sake of her health considering she has type 1 diabetes. The discovery she had this disease in her own words made her feel “weak, damaged and broken.”  Colette the took the suggestion of working out and found it was an empowering experience. She became more accepting of her body and loved being strong. Women who do this do say they develop a new sense of self and greater level security in their abilities in other areas of life. There are not only physical benefits from weightlifting;there are important psychological developments that contribute to well being.

    Being diagnosed with such an illness diet and exercise are pivotal for health. Colette was expose to an alternative of beauty and decided for herself that it should be replicated. This demonstrates that images and beliefs that children are exposed to can influence their attitudes later in life. It is possible if more people were exposed to women like this early in life it would not be such a shock to them in adulthood.

         Colette did not go into bodybuilding to get attention, but people are not used to seeing a muscular woman. Living in New York, there seems to be a more open atmosphere. She does get stares and Colette even admits she likes the attention. There were times in which men would say “I want to armwrestle you.” The majority of the comments Colette Nelson receives are positive. Though its still is not unheard of to get some form of vituperation or insult from the more closed minded. There are many reasons why people would respond to the muscular or athletic woman in a certain way. Curiosity and the desire to discover something new may cause stares or questions. Their may be an attraction to such a physique and seeing it up close causes excitement.

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Colette Nelson recognizes that we are not brought up how to respond to women with muscle. Seeing as women like this are rare, it does induce some form of wonder. There now is more exposure thanks to the internet and social media. This is another challenge women have to deal with. Either it is an in between off hash criticism or sexualization. The problem with the latter is that it reduces the women to sex objects, rather than focusing on their accomplishments. It is understandable why female bodybuilders who get frustrated being seen as fetish objects for schmoes. Like it or not a woman with a muscular frame will attract  attention both negative and positive.

       Another issue arises from the development of another beauty model. Does it just remove another one and then becomes standard? Some feminists argue that bodybuilding would not be empowering on the grounds it has women obsessively pursue a particular image. The flaw with this assertion is that these women are going against mainstream convention. The most empowering act is to make your own decisions as a free individual. Here, women decide to become as physically powerful as possible doubtless of what men think. Colette Nelson describes her bodybuilding pursuit as the struggle for perfection in terms of muscular aesthetics. Colette stated “she was always  classed a pretty, but wanted more.” This is not hubris.This is competitive drive and what some bodybuilders refer to as living sculpture. Flesh is the clay and the weights become your tools of molding art. The point is not to say all women should appear a certain way, but realize they are all different. There should be room for all forms of beauty.

         While it is true there is a level of societal pressure placed on women to look and behave a certain way, there are instances in which personal decisions add to the problem. The biggest problem with the the beauty myth theory is that women do certain things to themselves in others which perpetuate a vicious cycle. Third wave feminists fail to admit this unfortunate reality. Women continue to spend large amounts of money of make -up, hair care, and anti-aging products. There is no one forcing them to do such things, but the power of advertisement and capitalist free market enterprise is powerful . When examined from this point of view, the argument that women are being oppressed by a beauty myth seems to lack credibility. Then it is no secret that other women criticize women who look different. Many female bodybuilders have said they have gotten negative comments surprisingly from other women.

Naomi Wolf.
If Naomi Wolf is convinced that the beauty myth harms women so, why does she still wear make up and engage in other behaviors that perpetuate it ?

 At some point being pressured is not a legitimate excuse.  To a feminist looks should not be of importance, because liberation is the goal. There are many contradictions of what remains of a feminist movement. Another problem is that the feminist movement refuses in its mainstream discourse to be intersectional. White women middle class feminists ignore or either do not care about the struggle against racism, homophobia,  or class conflict.  The beauty myth concept often ignores that racist element in models of beauty which  dehumanize African and Asian people. Light skin is considered” beautiful “and African American women are told to straighten their hair. Asian women are pressured into getting eye lid surgery. These changes in appearance are done to mimic the appearance of whiteness. They are designed to instill self hate, while simultaneously presenting the oppressor as a “superior being.” The fact white middle class feminists do not challenge this is because the benefit from white supremacy and white privilege.  They just do not benefit from to the maximum extent due to their sex. Besides these complicated issues of racism, there is the issue of blaming every man for women’s condition. Radical feminists claim that all men contribute to women’s oppression. This is a false assertion, considering there are men who are members of oppressed groups. African American, Native American, South American, and Asian American men have suffered under the violence of white supremacy. To say every man oppresses every woman has not factual support. Hopefully, women can learn to reject societal pressure and think for themselves what beauty means to them.

          Since this blog post was written there has been some shift. It is a small one that emerged in fitness circles with the slogan “strong is the new skinny.” While women are not attempt to reach Colette’s level, the idea that some muscle does not seem like an anathema. The rise of crossfit did contribute with women presenting not only impressive physiques, but excellent performances. The responses are positive, with the occasional detractor.

 Again, there is another conundrum. This slogan and zeitgiest seems to be mostly confined to a small circle. Although it has gotten some mainstream exposure. the concept of a woman being “too much” still lingers. There are still backward and dated notions about what women should be and do. What also is frustrating is that the mainstream treats  the sudden acceptance ( to a limited degree) of the muscular woman as a recent phenomenon. There have been male fans who have been following female bodybuilding since its inception during the 1970s. The emergence of the internet expanded the audience and led to the growth of a subculture. Now there are millions of websites, blogs , and social media venues specifically targeting female muscle fans. While it seems unlikely at this point that the muscular body will be a model of beauty for the mainstream, women have decided to make it their own. When Colette Nelson was born Title IX was only two years old and female bodybuilding did not exist. These two events radically changed how women viewed themselves and their physical capabilities. The best action women can take is to define beauty on their own terms, rather than having it dictated to them.

Colette Nelson Interview from The Beheld : Beauty and What It Means

Cindy Phillips

Cindy Phillips is a Canadian bodybuilder who was born in Nova Scotia in 1983. Growing up she had very little athletic background, but did participate in cheerleading in high school. She was not interested in weight lifting at this point, but was mostly focused on losing weight. Cindy attended St. Mary’s University earning a degree in criminology. While in school she began more interested in weight training. She says she “started seeing definition in her arms and was hooked.”Initially, she wanted to be a fitness competitor, but had difficulty mastering the intricate posing routines. Her trainer the suggested that she just enter bodybuilding competitions. So at the age of 19 in 2003 she entered her first bodybuilding contest placing second in the lightweight division. She mostly competed in Canada from 2003 to 2007. She came in first place at the 2004 Canadian Nationals. Around 2007 she got her pro card at the Canadian Nationals. Her best win was the 2005 Nova Scotia Championship. She also made a switch to the physique division in 2009. This was the first time she competed in the United States. Although a professional IFBB bodybuilder, she has not made any competition appearances since 2012. Not, offically retired it seems she may be taking a hiatus. That does not mean she has stopped working out. She has trained  with weights since 2002 and it is clear she will never stop.

Cindy Phillips has now taken to other athletic endeavors such as crossfit. This appears to be some moderate down time. Physique is still an evolving category, so it leaves competitors a bit confused on how to adjust training.  Although Cindy has not made many professional wins, she is popular among fans. Her body measurements in contest display 14 inch biceps,  quads of 14.5 inches, and a 27 inch waist. During her competitions she trained five days a week, but would sometimes extend it. Mainly , it was to target her abdominals, do cardio, or focus on her calves. She enjoys training heavy and follows that by some cardio afterwards. Cindy says she loves doing chest exercises the most, but does not care for pull downs. The body she built seemed reminiscent of female bodybuilders of the early 1990s.  It was a cross between Laura Creavalle and a Lenda Murray paradigm. Not exactly enormous, but a in between. Cindy did her best as a lightweight or middleweight. Cindy Phillips also had thoughts on how women’s bodybuilding should be judged. She said in an interview ” bodybuilding should be judged on the best bodybuilder physique.”Cindy expounded further : ” they say they are going for the more feminine look, but it should be about the best bodybuilding physique.” Cindy says ” the more feminine form of bodybuilding is figure so that type of judging should be left to that.” While she may have some points, who’s to say that larger women cannot be feminine? Cindy Phillips presented a physique that was still womanly and muscular. Like other competitors, she disproves the detractors. Her photo shoots with Bill Dobbins and Gene X Hwang demonstrate how photogenic she is in front of a camera.

When she became pro she had to postpone her debut due to an injury. A three year recovery with light training followed. Cindy has much to proud of being one of the youngest IFBB pros at the age of 23. Now 33, it she may return to do more physique shows .Considering that bodybuilding divisions are decreasing, this could be where she appears next. She claims that is a former competitor, but still trains like one. Cindy Phillips still maintains her website and blog as well as having social media. Obviously a talented athlete, it is unfortunate that the IFBB does not give their female athletes more respect. While Cindy did present an impressive physique, but she realized when she turned pro it would be harder to push it further. Cindy got the urge not to compete. She returned to stage in 2012, but revealed that she was disappointed with how she looked. It seemed somewhat ludicrous to say she did not look good, but judging has always been inconsistent. Accomplishing so much in so little time can lead to burn out. It appears that Cindy had experienced this. During this time Cindy got married and had a family. She wrote on her blog “I don’t know when or if I’ll compete again, but the passion still lives inside.”

Visit Cindy’s website: Cindy Phillips

Cindy’s Facebook : Cindy’s Facebook

Cindy’s Twitter : Cindy’s Twitter

Cindy continues to have a large online presence and appears to be very busy. According to her twitter account she has tried crossfit training.  Besides her bodybuilding and sport activities, Cindy loves reality TV, walking her dog, and hanging out with friends. One of her notable friends who is also a fellow athlete is Britt Miller. These two were such great friends they would appear in photo shoots together and videos. Fans called them the new generation of female bodybuilders taking the scene by storm. During the early to mid-2000s it was said that female bodybuilding was on a death bed path. This period was considered a decline. That seems like an exaggeration with competitors like these. Maybe if the financial rewards were better, women like this would remain longer in competition.

They both did retire from  the stage around the same time frame, just around 2012. For some women, this is nothing more than a hobby. Others see it has a longtime passion. Many are probably wondering what method Cindy used to turn pro at 23. During the off season she did more cardio and consumed more of her favorites snacks. When she prepared for a show she made sure to get enough protein in her diet. Cindy has stressed that was most critical. A precise diet and targeted training allowed her to build a physique the propelled her to the professional ranks. Diet is just as important as the amount of training done. While many athletes say they are retired, the never leave completely. Cindy may not be posing on a stage, but could have some role in the future. That may be a long wait, however fans still have their photos when she was at her physical maximum. Cindy Phillips in many was proves it not the number of competitions you win, but the physique you present that make you a great bodybuilder.

Cindy Phillips

Kana Ichikawa

Kana Ichikawa  is an athlete who specializes in sprinting. Born in 1991  her rise in the sport began in 2010. Here she made her entrance on the scene of international competition with the World Junior Championships. She stands at 5 ft 5 in and 108 lbs. She has competed in the Asian Games ( 2014), Asian Championships ( 2011 and 2015), East Asian Games ( 2013) , the IAAF Relays ( 2014 and 2015), the Universiade ( 2011), and the 2012 Olympic Games. Her personal best performances were in   100 metres (11.43), 200 metres( 23.51), and 400 metres ( 54.14). Just only 26 years old, she is still in comparison new to the world of international athletics competition. Her journey into athletics began in Junior High School. There she competed in inter-High School championships. When she entered Chukyo University, she had blossomed into a very skilled sprinter. While she has not made any competition appearances since 2015, many fans hope that she will at least comeback for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It is uncertain if she will continue or retire. Whatever her decision, fans wish the best of luck to her.

Kana Ichikawa

Penpraghai Tiangngok

Penpraghai Tiangngok is an IFBB professional fitness and physique competitor. She is Thai and has gradually become distinguished as one of the Asian country’s most recognizable competitors . She stands at 5 7” and weighs 137 lbs. Tiangngok is a relative neophyte to the bodybuilding sport, but is working her way up the ranks. She reveals that ” in high school I ran track and hurdles and university where I studied sports science.” Penpraghai Tiangngok’s  athletic past seems to have lead her to strength sports. Before she entered bodybuilding she states ” I used to lift weights for assistance work  for my running, but I did not seriously work out until I met my boyfriend.” When she stepped on stage,  she won her first competition. Tiangngok  won in the figure category in the Thai Nationals in 2010. It appears Asian women are making their mark in international bodybuilding competition. What drew Penpraghai Tiangngok to the sport was in her words ” I like fitness because it makes me feel amazing.” Tiangngok  also has said ” I love being strong and pushing my limits.” Her athletic career is still in its early stages in the IFBB, but there is still surprises that she can produce.

      Penpraghai Tiangngok saw a turining point in 2012. The 2012 Titans Grand Prix Pro saw her place a dismal eleventh. She was able to reverse this with getting to third place at the IFBB New York Pro that same year. When an amateur becomes a professional the body of competition becomes more difficult. Being originally an competitor of the figure category , she made a transition to the physique division. This sometimes is more of a challenge for some competitors, but Penpragahi was able to balance size and conditioning requirements.

One interesting aspect about Penpragahi is that she made history in 2011. She is Thailand’s first IFBB pro. This is an event of significance for Thai people and Asian women . It not only demonstrates that athletes can be produced anywhere no matter which nation, but that being a woman in any nation will not be a hindrance. Asia is often stereotyped as a misogynistic and  least progressive continent, however this is changing. It is a change for the better. Penpraghai Tiangngok can be an inspiration to aspiring Thai athletes, both male and female. If you have the competitive drive, it is achievable. It is hard being a bodybuilder inn Thailand.  Penpraghai Tiangngok has spoken in interviews “female bodybuilding and bodybuilding in general is not popular in Thailand.” Her victory at the Juliette Bergman Classic  gave her emotions of both joy and satisfaction. She really did not contemplate winning or becoming the first Thai  IFBB pro.  Unfortunately, she had sustained a fractured wrist before the competition. For moment she was not able to train her upper body as much, but recovered before the actual competition.

To maintain this body, Penpraghai Tiangngok eats a specific diet. Her main protein sources include chicken, turkey breasts, lean beef, lean fish, egg whites, and whey protein isolate. Her sources of of carbohydrates include rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, and quinoa. Penpraghai Tiangngok   consumes fruits and vegetables with every meal. This is an immense amount of food to maintain muscle. Being so physically impressive Tiangngok says she gets more attention then she wants.  Penpraghai Tiangngok says “normally I cover up, although I do like to dress sexy as well, so from time to time I put on my mini dress and high heels and tease the guys.”

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 Penpraghai Tiangngok also does fitness modeling. This should be no surprise considering she has developed a physique of high pulchritude.  She also has revealed that she enjoys modeling calling it ” a great experience.” Penpraghai Tiangngok also said that “you get to meet interesting people who are real professionals in the field.”She also appreciates the fact she can go and see new places. Fans normally say that her best body part is her glutes. Penpraghai Tiangngok does not do any specialized exercise for her lower body, bu instead does sumo deadlifts, romanian deadlifts, and loves to do the glute hamstring raise . She trains her hamstrings and lower back  twice a week.  She not only looks strong, her lifts prove it.  Penpraghai Tiangngok can bench press 220 lbs and can both squat or deadlift 400 lbs.    Penpraghai Tiangngok is going to be an important part of the physique division  in the coming years.

        Penpraghai Tiangngok also participates in mixed wrestling. She has appeared in Utopia Entertainment and Scissor Vixen videos. When she headscissors people you can tell it would be painful for real.  Penpraghai Tiangngok also can be seen in some videos for Herbiceps. When she appears in mixed wrestling productions her stage name is Fon. Usually some of these videos are faked for the sake of theatrics, but with Penpraghai Tiangngok the holds are genuine. She has no background in wrestling, but seems to have learned at least some moves and techniques.

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Considering this woman is capable of squat’s that reach 400 lbs her legs can do considerable damage. Her thighs measure at 24 inches including 15 inch calves. According to her Utopia Entertainment wrestling page her favorite holds include the headscissor and the grapevine.  Allegedly, she has taken an interest in learning martial arts. This seems more like a hobby rather than to add to her mixed wrestling credentials.  Penpraghai Tiangngok does do sessions and from most clients the reviews are positive.

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She has generated a following on social media. Her Instagram page contains 1,999 followers . Her Facebook page contains 2,715 flows and 2,745 likes. This is how a new generation of athletes expose themselves to a wider audience. With such a following, it is odd the IFBB does not promote the women’s physique division more. The gatekeepers of the IFBB do not see the potential and opportunity they are missing.  Penpraghai Tiangngok  although based in Thailand can reach a global audience. The relatively new physique division has some impressive talent emerging and it most be promoted.   Penpraghai Tiangngok is one of those athletes that could be an excellent representative. She returned to stage in 2016, after a brief hiatus ( not from training)  to compete again. Her performance in her getting first place in the IFBB Rising Phoenix Arizona Pro. It is clear she will be on the competitive circuit for a longtime.

Penpraghai Tiangngok