In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty, it is exceedingly easy to view our current state of affairs through a pessimistic lens.
Over here in the United States of America, this past week has been rough. Worldwide, the past three months have been a doozy. Nothing seems normal anymore. In calmer times, “boring” is considered a bad thing. Today, we’d all take “boring” in a heartbeat. I know I would.
Between COVID-19, economic shutdowns, financial anxieties, rampant unemployment, and here in the U.S., protests and riots caused by the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police, it’s understandable why our opinion of humanity would be at its lowest. What started as an outrageous tragedy in Minneapolis has cascaded into a nationwide nightmare chock full of angry demonstrations, social unrest, riots, property destruction, reckless endangerment of innocent bystanders, and lives uprooted. It doesn’t appear as though the people smashing windows and burning down buildings have ever considered the negative effects this will have on poor people and racial minorities. But then again, thinking isn’t an activity an angry mob will often participate in while throwing bricks at car windshields.
It would be an overstatement (an insensitive one, to be exact) to say that this is our Darkest Hour. This isn’t blitzkrieg. This isn’t the Nazi invasion of Europe. This isn’t the Holodomor or the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide or the Tiananmen Square Massacre. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t hurting. Around the globe, the novel coronavirus is still killing thousands of people and causing social/economic/political destruction that will last for years to come. So this is less about our current situation and more about Bad Times in general, no matter what form it takes.
During the Bad Times, people often resort to enjoying the basic things that make life worth living. Food, cooking, music, art, movies, sports, literature, poetry, gardening, exercise, and so on. In times of uncertainty, we seek certainty. And enjoying a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is certain to bring you joy. Or watching your favorite childhood movie. Or reading your favorite book again and again. Or tending to your plants. Or painting the sunset from the comfort of your back porch. We know that we’re in the midst of the Bad Times, but hopefully these storms will pass and we will see bright clear skies once again in short order.
But in addition to certainty (and stability), we also seek reminders of a better future. It’s not just relishing in past glories, but also looking forward to happier days ahead. And this can be done by appreciating humanity at its best. It’s easy to see humanity at its worst (just turn on the TV or scroll through endlessly terrible Twitter takes). But humanity at its best is right around the corner if you know where to look.
For me – and, I suspect, for many of you as well – I look to female bodybuilders as my shining beacon of hope. It didn’t occur to me until fairly recently that part of the reason why I admire female bodybuilders so much is because they represent the pinnacle of human achievement. They don’t shatter the glass ceiling. They prove to us that there is no ceiling to begin with. That ceiling is an artificial social construct that exists for no other reason than we think it exists. Unfortunately, believing it exists is enough to give it so much power.
But those who are able to escape from the limitations of other people’s narrow imaginations will find themselves accomplishing things they never knew were possible. Society says a woman with big muscles isn’t sexy. Alina Popa proves them wrong. Haters say men will never accept or celebrate female bodybuilders. The legions of guys who attend bodybuilding shows, pay for sessions, and support FBB entrepreneurs would like a word. Whenever you try to put an FBB into a box, she will inevitable break out of it and carry on with or without your approval.
When I see photos of Cindy Landolt, I see the Peak of Human Potential. Not “Female Potential,” but actual “Human Potential.” Miss Landolt is more than just a regular flesh-and-blood human being. Her body is art. Her life is a celebration of what it means to be human. Her achievements inspire those around her to become better. It’s as though Cindy has transcended her original form and reached a new level of purpose. Her purpose is to add beauty to the world. As long as she lives, Cindy is just like a rainbow, mountain range, cherry blossom tree, or sunrise over the horizon. She’s a beautiful part of nature who reminds us that the Good Times didn’t go away. They’ve just been temporarily overshadowed by the Bad Times.
FBBs will never become mainstream, but that’s not the point. My point is to demonstrate why female bodybuilders are important to our lives. We are deeply attracted to them, both physically and emotionally. During times of stress, tumultuousness, and social upheaval, we desire to be reminded of things that brought us happiness. For many of us, strong beautiful women bring us this happiness.
Instead of focusing on humanity at its worst – which is easy to do right now – we’d rather focus on humanity at its best. At its brightest. At its most inspirational. Female bodybuilders are just the magic elixir we need to satiate this craving. You cannot help but look at a female bodybuilder and think to yourself, “Damn! I didn’t know people could get that sexy!”
Indeed, such a feat is in fact possible. When I see photos and videos of female bodybuilders flexing their biceps, I see the limits of human potential being challenged. Expectations of what is or isn’t possible subverted. I see women who refuse to be shackled down by sexist beliefs and take matters into their own hands. Sometimes, quite literally. They’re picking up weights with their hands, with each repetition making them stronger and stronger and stronger. Just take 30 seconds to scroll through Jessica Sestrem’s IG account. Don’t tell me she looks “manly” or “unfeminine.” Don’t tell me her large muscles make her a tomboy. She’s as girly as someone can possibly be. And she has enormous biceps that put most guys to shame (even guys who regularly workout). If she were to get even bigger, do you doubt that she’ll continue to be as gorgeous as she currently is? I don’t.
No reasonable person expects FBBs to transform society at large. But for the small number of us who do appreciate these ladies for who they are, they offer us comfort during the Bad Times. The Dark Times. Our Darkest Hours. They remind us that humanity at its best can be as beautiful, aspirational, and transcendent as anything you can imagine. People can be terrible at times. But every once in a while, we deserve to have our faith rewarded. We deserve a sliver of light in a world of darkness.
Female bodybuilders are that light. Maybe not for everyone, but for us. No matter how insignificant that may seem, that’s all they need to be for us. A light.
Not a savior. Not a miracle. Not a cure for all that ails us. But a light. A bright shining light.
It may not seem like that’s enough. But it is. That’s more than enough.
Since we are now living in the era of COVID-19 stay-at-home quarantine orders, families are spending more time together than they were before. Well, maybe since the Great Depression, which wiped out the global economy, drained our resources, and was followed by World War II.
So what are families up to these days? Watching lots of Netflix and Disney+, no doubt. The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are pretty harmless. So is Star Wars. And that Michael Jordan documentary everyone’s been talking about. Or seeing what the latest trends on YouTube, Snapchat, or TikTok happen to be. Or playing too much Fortnite. If you have no idea what those things are, don’t feel bad for feeling old. We all get there eventually.
One thing I can guarantee not too many families are doing is sitting around the computer and watching videos of female bodybuilders.
Yeah, that’s probably not a trend that’s going to catch on, unlike baking your own bread, sewing your own facemasks, or learning dance moves you saw on Instagram. We may not call it by this name, but watching porn isn’t exactly a family-friendly activity.
However, as odd as this may sound, not all porn is explicit, dirty, or socially unacceptable.
Some porn is PG-13 clean. Fun for the whole family.
Fans of female bodybuilders know full well two strange and not-so-contradictory things:
Our taste in muscular women is unusual
The way we enjoy muscular women isn’t too kinky
On the first point, it is true that female muscle fetishism isn’t too common. Or more specifically, it’s not an interest that many of us are open to admitting. It’s impossible to say how many people are “into” FBBs in any serious manner, so let’s not try to guess. But it’s probably safe to say it’s a relatively smaller number in relation to the total human population on Earth.
On the second point, it should be noted that not all FBB fans are built the same. Some people are really into the kinky stuff, such as femdom roleplaying, domination, submission, sadomasochism, and other such activities. Others, on the other hand, simply enjoy the look, feel, and personalities of muscular women. We love watching them flex their enormous biceps rather than fantasize about them pouring hot candle wax on our balls as they give us a blow job while hanging us upside down. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but it’s inaccurate to say that this represents the whole herd.
FBB fans may be into some kinky stuff, but normally it’s within fairly mainstream boundaries. We want to do things with an FBB that isn’t radically different from what we would normally do with a non-muscular professional dominatrix.
Or, FBB fans love muscular women for perfectly, uh, “vanilla” reasons (for lack of a better term). We love their strength (both physical and emotional), their curves, their ripped muscles, their personalities, and their unique display of femininity. We love them in ways that aren’t particularly unusual or strange once you think about it. It may seem odd at first, but it gets less odd the more you empathize with our passions.
Have you finished watching it yet? Good. Let’s proceed.
This format is common for many FBB videos you’ll encounter on the Internet: A female bodybuilder posing in a hotel room. Usually in very little clothing. Usually with either no music or some pop song from the 1980’s that you’ve already forgotten about. It’s simple, easy, budget-friendly, and devilishly effective.
All you need is a female bodybuilder, sexy lingerie or swimsuit, a camera, and a private space to record your video. It doesn’t have to be a hotel room. It could be someone’s living room, bedroom, backyard, or public beach. But there’s no need for elaborate set pieces, BDSM paraphernalia, or CGI visual effects. You don’t need special effects to make these ladies super muscular. They’ve accomplished that on their own!
Getting back to this video, this is Debbie at her finest. This is, in the humble opinion of this writer, one of the most erotic videos you’ll ever find on the web. Is it the #1 sexiest video I’ve ever seen? Eh, no. But it’s certainly up there!
In it, Debbie is sitting on a hotel bed wearing white lace lingerie. She’s showing off her muscles for the camera, putting special emphasis on her immaculate arms. Her veiny biceps are a delightful sight to behold. Her dark tanned skin perfectly showcases every curve, vein, and muscle fiber. This is why lighter-skinned bodybuilders need to spray tan their bodies before appearing on a competition stage. Darker skin allows you to see their definition better. Debbie demonstrates here why that’s the case, as if that argument needs to be made. After you catch your breath and wait for your heart rate to return back to normal, you’ll notice a few noteworthy observations:
The video is simple
The video is highly erotic
The video doesn’t contain any graphic nudity or sexual content
The video is on YouTube, not Pornhub
The outfit Debbie is wearing is quite sexy, but it’s not out-of-the-ordinary. Other than her extraordinary large muscles, you could just as likely see this in a magazine ad, shopping mall, fashion catalog, promoted Facebook post, or TV commercial. In other words, the concept of this video isn’t out of the mainstream, even though the specific subject is. We see images of beautiful women in their underwear all the time, unless you live under a rock or on an Amish plantation. The only thing that’s unusual about this video is that the woman in question happens to have large muscles. Other than that, it’s pretty basic. Very vanilla.
But the response it generates from us is – without question – worthy of discussion. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, so I’ll do just that. This video is really, really, really sexy. I mean, unspeakably sexy. Indescribably sexy. Incomprehensibly sexy. Debbie isn’t my favorite FBB of all time (she’s not even in my top 10), but in this short video that’s not even a minute and a half, she quickly reminds me why I fell in love with female bodybuilders in the first place. They made me feel things that very few other things could. I am reminded of back when I was 12 years old and I was first introduced to women like Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Rena Mero (WWF’s Sable, for you kids who didn’t grow up in the 1990’s), Famke Janssen, and Monica Bellucci. As an adolescent boy, these women made my spine tingle, my vision turn hazy, and my, uh, private parts increase in blood flow. As I grew older, I figured those days would eventually fade away, as I become more desensitized to seeing beautiful women.
But then I discovered female bodybuilders at the tender age of 18. So 6 years after turning 12, I started to experience those same pubescent shenanigans all over again. Even today, re-watching this video of Miss Bramwell conjures up those same emotional responses. And I’m in my early 30s!
More so than any other video, I have such an uncontrollable urge to reach into my computer screen and rip off Debbie’s white lacey top. I want to see ALL OF HER. I can’t help it. It MUST happen. It’s a crime for her to wear that small piece of underwear. To cover up her beautiful body with such a meager piece of fabric. The same goes for her panties. WHY MUST SHE COVER UP THOSE PARTS OF HER? If she’s willing to show off 90% of her body, why can’t I see the other 10% of it? The fact she’d tease me like that seems almost cruel. I hope I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Then, eventually the rational part of my brain returns and talks some sense into me. Debbie is under no obligation to give me everything I want. From what I can tell, she keeps things really clean. She doesn’t do full nudity or participate in graphic sexual activities on camera. She keeps things PG-13 (or 12A for my readers in the United Kingdom). This is about as “explicit” as she gets. Yet, that is enough. The adult in me understands that not everyone is comfortable showing off everything. Everyone has their limits. And that is their prerogative.
The same could be said for Cindy Landolt, Theresa Ivancik, or Minna Pajulahti. They do not want to show us everything. Yet, they show us enough. And we should be grateful for that.
Debbie, Lindsay, and Alina are dreams come true. They make us feel things in our souls that very few other things can. They make our hearts race a little faster and our breathing quicken. They make us want to relieve our built-up tension in, well, intimate ways that require privacy and maybe a little cleanup work afterward. These videos are highly erotic. They elicit physical and emotional responses out of us that more mainstream hardcore porn cannot replicate. This is, by definition, softcore porn. These women are dressed in ways that are perfectly acceptable at any public beach or water park. Open up the pages of Sports Illustrated or Vogue magazine and you’ll see women dressed exactly as they are. No need to purchase a contraband issue of Playboy or Hustler and hide it underneath your mattress. No need to open a private web browser and search through Pornhub. Nah, just do a simple search on YouTube and you can find all three of these gloriously simple videos.
And therein lies the contradiction at play here. When we think of the word “pornographic,” we usually think about hardcore elements like penetrative sex, kinky roleplaying, and graphic nudity. We think about Denise Masino’s 15-minute long videos where the camera lingers up-close near her vagina, giving us a free gynecological exam. We think about Yvette Bova’s 30-minute long videos where she gang bangs multiple guys one after another. We think about Brandi Mae Akers leaving nothing to the imagination. Normally, this is how our society defines “porn.” Explicit. Raunchy. Graphic. Socially unacceptable. Taboo. Forbidden. Guilt-ridden.
But technically speaking, this isn’t always true. “Porn” is defined on Wikipedia as “the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal.” That’s it. Any media that stimulates sexual arousal. It doesn’t have to be explicit, though it often is. It can be as hardcore as anything you’ll find on Pornhub or Xhamster, or as nongraphic as anything you’ll find on YouTube. Does graphic nudity occasionally slip through YouTube’s filters and community guidelines? Sure. But you know what I mean.
This is what I mean by FBB porn being appropriate for the whole family. It’s not literally true, but technically true. You may not gather the whole family around the dinner table and watch videos of Debbie Bramwell flexing her biceps for the camera, but you wouldn’t hesitate to take your family out to a shopping mall (back when such institutions were open, of course) and occasionally stroll by a Victoria’s Secret store. Those wall-to-wall advertisements that stretch from the ceiling to the floor are just as explicit as what you’ll see in the three videos I’ve shared. Yet, we don’t necessarily consider those corporate promotional displays as being pornographic.
But in a way, they are. Which, by extension, also means modest videos of FBBs strutting around in their underwear are also pornographic.
However, it’s not just the surface-level content of those videos that make them so erotically charged. It’s the reaction they get from us. Debbie Bramwell isn’t my favorite FBB of all time, but in the moment as I’m watching her flex for the camera in white lace underwear, she might as well be a Muscle Goddess Sent From Heaven. Because she sure seems like one! But this illustrates the fascinating dynamic at play. It’s the ultimate irony. I could watch an hour-long video of generic skinny ladies in their early 20s have group sex with a bunch of generic faceless dudes and get bored really fast. We see boobs bouncing up and down. We see pussies being pounded into submission. We see semen get blasted in their faces. We see lots of explicit stuff that’s without question NSFW. But it’s all so boring. And basic. And uncreative. And sleep-inducing.
Yet, I can watch that video of Debbie (if you do the math, you basically get about 60 seconds worth of Debbie content) with my eyes glued to the screen and hope I don’t suffer cardiac arrest when it’s all over. I’m captivated. My imagination goes into overdrive. I feel the sudden urge to relieve my tension in the privacy of my apartment. The same goes for Lindsay content. And Alina content. And when I scroll through Cindy Landolt’s Instagram pages.
On the surface, it’s appropriate for the whole family. But for a certain number of us, it sends our hormones into thermonuclear warfare. The 90% of her body that Debbie is willing to show off is 10,000 times more erotic than the 100% your typical nameless pornographic actress will display ad nauseam. Maybe 10,000 is an underestimation.
We are frustrated that Debbie won’t show off her goods. We are itching to reach through our computer screens, tear off her underwear, and toss it into the garbage can where it belongs. We crave to see Debbie in her full glory. Yet, we don’t need to. Debbie has generously shown us everything we need to see. We are not entitled to more. We should be thankful for the content we already have at our fingertips.
Thus, this is the perplexing predicament we find ourselves in. What really sets us off is, oddly enough, the benign. What really turns us on are women who possess a physique that only the 1% of the 1% of the 1% can say they’ve attained. Debbie, Lindsay, and Alina are in rare company. They are unicorns. They are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Because of this, it doesn’t take much for them to make us go mad. We become crazy, deranged, and uncontrollably irrational at the simplest things.
A beautiful woman in her underwear.
A beautiful woman in a bikini.
A beautiful woman working out at the gym.
A beautiful woman walking down the street.
It’s all so uncomplicated. Yet so majestic. The whole family can see things like it on an everyday basis, but not everyone will appreciate it as much. Not everyone agrees that female bodybuilders are gorgeous creatures who deserve respect. Not everyone is in that camp.
“It’s impolite to stare” is a common piece of advice many of our mothers and grandmothers gave to us as children.
Whether the object we were staring at was a person in a wheelchair, a short person with dwarfism, or a man wearing a dress; the point our elder was trying to make is that by staring at this person for a longer than normal amount of time, we could be making them feel uncomfortable, singled out, or “freakish.” Nobody wants to feel like a social outcast, even if their outward appearance suggests the sentiment isn’t misplaced.
To not stare is to imply that this person should be treated as “normal,” even if they are not. Or even if they are intentionally trying to not be normal. You can’t tell me someone with a face tattoo doesn’t know this will bring additional attention to their appearance. If they get annoyed with people staring and asking them questions about it, why did they acquire it in the first place?
But the point is well taken. Very few of us want to be stared at because we don’t want to feel like an anomaly. We want to be accepted for who we are and not thought of as an outlier. People who appear abnormal on the outside – for whatever reason – just want to be accepted as normal. A small child stopping, staring, and *gasp* coming up to them and asking unwanted questions violates that very principle. So mom and grandma were correct (as usual). Just put yourself in their shoes (or high heels) and ask yourself how you would like to be treated.
This same idea, naturally, doesn’t always apply to female bodybuilders. FBBs, on the other hand, look the way they look by choice. They did not get there by accident or by happenstance. An FBB’s intentional choice to sculpt their bodies to look a certain way is etched into every muscle fiber. You see a female bodybuilder’s body and you can tell – with absolutely no ambiguity – who she is, what she stands for, and what her worldview revolves around.
Can you tell who she voted for in the last presidential election or whether she prefers Elvis or the Beatles? Well, no. You can’t derive information that specific, but you can certainly deduce that she works out regularly, eats differently, and can probably defeat you in an arm-wrestling contest pretty easily. That much is really darn obvious.
Unlike a burn victim whose scars will forever tell the story of that tragic incident, a female bodybuilder proactively decides to be as bulky, sculpted, and aesthetically pleasing as she wants to be. It’s a choice, not a designation. Her muscles are part of her identity; an identity that she’s chosen to craft from scratch. And her hard work must be appreciated. After all, what’s the point of looking great if no one is around to look at you?
Whenever a female bodybuilder goes out in public, she knows that she will be stared at. And not just by children, but by everyone. Most well-behaved adults will try to be as inconspicuous as possible when they look at her. Some will be more successful than others at hiding their intentions. Whether you are intrigued by what you see, disgusted, grossed out, confused, curious, or uncontrollably aroused, we can all agree that one cannot simply look upon a muscular woman and not have any kind of emotional reaction. Unless you are so accustomed to being around female bodybuilders that seeing one in public is as mundane as seeing a Seattle hipster wearing flannel. If this is the case with you, please let me know where you live ASAP!
But here’s the difference. Whereas a person with a physical deformity or handicap deserves to be treated with respect and not singled out for being different, a female bodybuilder looks different on purpose…and wants to be looked at as being unique.
This, of course, doesn’t excuse rude comments, insults, or physical harassment. Then again, why anybody would want to provoke a strong female bodybuilder who could beat your ass to a pulp is beyond me. But I digress.
FBBs know they look unusual. They know their lifestyle (hours upon hours spent lifting at the gym, strict dieting, etc.) is out of the ordinary. They know not everyone approves of a woman having big muscles. They know they’re taking a risk. They know they could fail. They know they’re challenging taboos, social expectations, and norms. But these warnings do not deter them from pursuing their dreams. In fact, the desire to openly defy these realities may be fueling their life’s work.
So when an FBB goes to the grocery store (back before everyone had to wear face masks and carry around sanitizing wipes everywhere), she can expect that people will stop and stare at her. And you know what? That’s exactly the idea. Maybe not in every case, but generally speaking. Many FBBs talk about how fun it is for people to stare at them in public. They intentionally wear tight clothing because it shows off their muscles. They aren’t annoyed by the additional attention, but rather are flattered by it. Within reason, of course.
But more than feeding one’s ego, it’s important to remember why bodybuilders – both male and female – choose to do what they do. They build their bodies up to look a certain way because it makes them feel empowered, strong, dynamic, superhuman, and yes, freakish (but in a good way). This concept goes into overdrive when we’re talking about women who pursue bodybuilding.
Men are socially expected to be strong alpha providers. While technology, science, engineering, and innovation have made “strength” in the traditional sense somewhat obsolete for survival (we no longer have to hunt and gather our food, but instead patiently wait in line at Costco at least six feet apart from each other), the symbolic importance of physical strength still survives. There’s no practical reason for Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, or Phil Heath to get as massive as they are. But there are plenty of reasons to do so from a professional perspective. You know we’ve advanced as a society when people can earn a living doing impractical – but awesome – things. Gaining hundreds of pounds of muscle isn’t going to make it easier for you to pay your mortgage, but the product endorsement deals you get because of your muscles certainly will.
Okay, okay, so men are expected to be strong. We are accustomed to seeing men look big, muscular, invincible, and dominant. But what about women?
There’s no need to go too deep into this, but women are taking a much bigger risk in getting super bulky than men are. Their unnatural muscle mass makes them more unusual because we don’t expect women to ever get that big. Not because they are not able to, but because our society doesn’t encourage them to. The “strong independent woman” trope is more about attitude than it is about practicality. We want to raise our daughters to be mentally and emotionally strong, as opposed to literally strong. Unless you want your little girl to grow up to be a millionaire MMA fighter who can subsidize your future retirement.
All of this is to say that a woman with big muscles is a woman who defies social norms, whether she intends to or not. A woman gains big muscles proactively, not passively. And in doing so, she’s opening up herself to the types of criticism and backlash that a male counterpart would not face. So, what does this all mean?
This means that she is meant to be stared at. Maybe not intentionally, but in principle. An FBB is meant to be looked at. Her body of work (pun intended) is meant to be appreciated. It is meant to be a spectacle. She is a work of art who deserves to be displayed at a museum, even if this museum is more symbolic than literal. In this case, the museum she is displayed in is the real world she inhabits. A supermarket. A public park. A gym. A church. A busy street corner. A nightclub. A library. A restaurant. A bar. An airport. And so on.
Wherever she is, whatever she’s doing, she’s meant to be seen. Because to see her is to understand her. You understand her raison d’etre. Her life’s purpose. Her muscles aren’t meant to be hidden. Her muscles aren’t a secret. They should be proudly exhibited as openly as possible.
Here’s a great example. Watch this video of Margie Martin at the 2019 Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix World Championship. It shows a portion of the show where an interviewer speaks to all (or most) of the contestants in front of the whole audience. Watch and be prepared to be dazzled:
Whew! Wow!!! What a moment. What a time to be alive. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be there at that moment in time? I think many of us would have passed out if we saw Margie unexpectedly strip down to a bikini – or try our best to suppress an uncomfortable erection straining in our underwear.
This moment perfectly encapsulates what I’m talking about when I say “to see her is to understand her.” Margie’s beautiful body doesn’t deserve to be hidden underneath that dress (despite her dress leaving little to the imagination as it is). Her beautiful body deserves to be proudly presented in front of an audience of hundreds of screaming fans. Her body deserves adoration. She deserves those screams and applause. That single moment was when Margie was at the Peak of Her Purpose. When her body was being SEEN by everyone in plain sight.
Granted, it would have been socially inappropriate for her to have stripped completely naked. So sporting just a bikini was the maximum of how far she could have gone. But the larger idea remains intact: she was bare. Or as bare as she could possibly be. Her nudity (or near nudity) didn’t make her vulnerable, however. The exact opposite, in fact. Her nude state made her as powerful as she could ever be. Wearing that dress was a disservice to herself, her identity, and her very philosophical purpose. In order for her to fulfill her maximum utility, she had to be as naked as possible in front of as large an audience as possible. There’s no other way around it. It was almost a requirement. Anything less than that would have been an abdication of duty.
Once her dress came off, she had accomplished her personal version of Nirvana. She had reached her summit. Her peak. Her true self. Her real form had finally taken shape. Not just the fact that she had spent the last several months training to become as hypermuscular as possible. No, more than that. In that moment, her body was being seen by the public. By the world. By the whole universe. Even God Himself had to stop whatever He was doing and say out loud, “Damn! She looks great!!!” This was the moment when her final form had reached its zenith.
This is how a female bodybuilder fulfills her destiny. When she’s SEEN. When people are LOOKING at her. When her body is out in the open, almost as in-your-face as possible. When she’s not holding back. When her audience gets more than they bargained for. More than they wanted. More than they actually deserved. When people are staring at her, they are not only doing her a service, they are almost obliged to. We are obligated to SEE her body. We MUST stare at her because to not stare at her would be a sin. It would be a moral failure on our part.
In that moment, Margie was making a statement, whether she knew it or not. She was making a statement that her body must be looked at. Closely. Inspected. Judged. Appreciated. Loved. If you want to truly understand who Margie is and why she does what she does, all you have to do is see her.
Margie’s body isn’t just a part of her identity. It’s the very foundation of her identity. If you don’t look at her body, you will never understand who she is. You’d be a blind person trying to describe an elephant to another blind person. You can try your best but you’ll always fail. In this spirit, go ahead. Look at her. Stare at her. Feast your eyes on her. Make sure she is SEEN. When you look at her body, you aren’t just looking at her body – you’re looking at her soul.
Building muscles is her job. Seeing those muscles is yours.
Fans of female bodybuilders often describe them in the most robust and hyperbolic terms: Angels. Goddesses. Queens. Alpha females. Dominant. Powerful. Stronger sex. And so on.
While this reaction is completely understandable, it obfuscates a larger truth that, at first, may seem like an insult but is anything but: Female bodybuilders are normal people.
Yes, this is true. The strong muscular ladies we love are just like you and I. Just like Hollywood celebrities who occasionally suffer through bad hair days, messy divorces, professional setbacks, and cabin fever from being quarantined indoors (although it must be nice to live in a luxurious mansion during these difficult times), at the end of the day they’re just like us. Sort of. The same is true for female bodybuilders, even if it doesn’t always seem like it.
Female bodybuilders carry an almost mythical social status to their fans. We describe them in divine ethereal terms because they do seem nearly God-like. Or sent by the gods. Or a physical manifestation of God. Or a literal god. We treat them – even though we theoretically know they’re simply human beings who’ve achieved something marvelous – like deities because bombastic terms are the only terms that seem appropriate. It feels insulting to frame them as being beautiful women with big muscles. Our descriptions of them must go the extra mile because not only do they deserve it (and they do), to not do so would seem like a gross mischaracterization.
Yet, as much overhyped praise we may shower upon them, it is valuable to remember that FBBs are simply normal human beings who are no different than the rest of us. This is important not just for ethical reasons (there is no excuse for abusing or harassing a female bodybuilder you have a celebrity crush on) but for practical reasons as well. Female bodybuilders were not born that way. They did not purchase their muscles from a grocery store or online boutique. They earned their muscles through hard work, sacrifice, grinding away day after day, and making life choices that most of us would reject in a heartbeat.
Most of us could live like a bodybuilder for a couple of weeks. But very few of us could last for several years. Or decades.
This is why for me, I do not find female muscle growth fiction (FMG) very appealing. I understand why certain people love that sort of content – both as consumers and creators – but that’s not my jam. This is no disrespect to anyone who does love FMG art, just an expression of a personal opinion. I’m not into FMG because part of the reason why I love FBBs is specifically because of the hard work and sacrifices they must endure in order to achieve their coveted physiques. The lifestyle of a professional (or dedicated amateur) bodybuilder isn’t easy. One does not become that massive by accident, happenstance, or through shortcuts (no, steroids does not automatically make you that large). It requires focus, determination, intentionality, and making difficult decisions that could have lasting repercussions.
One of the reasons I love female bodybuilders is because they “earn their beauty.” Some FBBs – and I will respectfully withhold naming any names – are not born with natural traditional beauty. But don’t worry! They more than make up for it by transforming their bodies into the statuesque figures of muscle goddesses. A woman (or man, for that matter) who isn’t blessed with genetic beauty can become an Irresistible Muscle Queen through hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and the belief that human limitations are subjective. They “earn their beauty” in the same way we earn a paycheck at work. Nobody not named Andrew Yang wants to give us money for doing nothing, so we must earn it. Likewise, female bodybuilders earn the adoration of fans like us because they too have earned it.
FBBs are perfectly normal because that is how they started out in life. “Normal” is the default, not an insult. We are all normal to a certain extent. Whether or not we transcend that normalcy is entirely dependent upon what choices we make in life. It should be obvious that every female bodybuilder has made a series of choices that make them abnormal in the eyes of society. And for the record, “abnormal” isn’t an insult, but rather a descriptor.
I love FBBs not because they are more than human, but because they are perfectly human. They are not goddesses or angels. They are regular flesh-and-blood human beings who live by the same laws of physics, science, and biology as the rest of us. They haven’t “cheated” science through divine means. Synthetic steroids and human growth hormones may seem like cheating from a competitive perspective, but it’s still science. Like I said before, steroids are not a magic potion. They’re not an elixir conjured up by a coven of witches hiding in a mountainous cave. To believe that is to misunderstand what steroids actually are.
Setting aside the steroid debate for a moment, FBBs are especially beautiful because they have chosen a path that is scientifically feasible, but emotionally and physically difficult. It’s not a mystery how Rene Campbell became as massive as she is. We all know how she did it. In fact, thanks to social media many bodybuilders (both male and female) are remarkably transparent about their daily routine, diet, training regimen, and supplementation choices. The instruction manual has been laid out for us. But not everyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and assemble the Ikea kitchen cabinet themselves.
And unlike climbing a mountain, planting a flag, and taking a selfie to prove that you did it, once you become super muscular, you must continue to work hard day-in and day-out to maintain your physique. Rene’s muscles will shrink if she stops lifting, eating right, and supplementing regularly. So in order for her to remain in top shape, she must continuously live the bodybuilder lifestyle as long as she wants to look the way she looks. But once you’ve climbed the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, you can brag about that accomplishment for the rest of your life. Nothing can take that away from you. It’s yours forever.
But a muscular physique does not last forever. It would be like climbing a mountain that never ends. Or hiking up a trail conceived by M.C. Escher – just when you think you’ve reached the top, you realize you’re still at the bottom. Which means the only way you can go is forward without risking falling backward.
Maybe this is why I always preferred the Indiana Jones, Die Hard, and Mission: Impossible movies over anything Marvel has produced over the past several years. There’s something fun about seeing a “normal” person (in Hollywood terms, I’m using that word loosely) rise up to the circumstances and defeat the forces of evil using nothing but his sheer willpower, intelligence, cunning, improvisational skills, and luck. Watching superheroes like Wonder Woman, Superman, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor smash bad guys into a pulp is fun enough, but it gets dull after the first five minutes. There’s something about having a superpower that makes the action less exciting.
Likewise, female bodybuilders don’t have superpowers. They weren’t given large muscle mass by some magic spell, scientific experiment, or divine intervention. On the contrary, nobody gave it to them. They had to earn it. Bit by bit. Day by day. Little by little.
“The Perfectly Normal Female Bodybuilder” is, in fact, the highest compliment I can give someone. It acknowledges reality and expresses how impressive the existence of an FBB really is – and why we all must respect their accomplishments. She is not a freak. She is not a genetic outlier. She is not special. Rather, she is perfectly normal…and has chosen to become abnormal through readily available means and methods.
This should be a valuable reminder why we must be especially thankful to female bodybuilders (as if we really needed another reason!). We are not entitled to their existence. We do not deserve them. We do not have them because we asked nicely. FBBs exist because they choose to exist. You or I had nothing to do with it. FBBs look the way they look because they want to look that way. The rest of us are along for the ride. We are a passive audience, not an active participant. Without us, FBBs could still exist. To believe otherwise is to demonstrate a horrid lack of humility.
We should be thankful for FBBs because they have the option to “undo” their accomplishments and deprive us of their beautiful bodies. When a muscular woman decides to “retire” and give up the lifestyle, it’s understandable why many of us greet this news with the feelings of melancholy. It feels tragic because it feels like a death. Her muscles will, over time, slowly “die” and disintegrate into nothingness. The human being still lives on, but her muscles have retreated into the afterlife. However, we should also be thankful for the fact that there are hundreds of more women who will gladly take her place. So the supply chain isn’t broken. But that doesn’t mean we can’t “mourn” every loss when it comes to us.
Just as FBBs can return to “normal” after a year or two of not training and eating a high protein diet, “normal” women can become as statuesque as Cindy Landolt or Aleesha Young if they put their minds to it and do what it takes to achieve that look. “Normal” is a two-way street. Whether you’re leaning into the FBB lifestyle or taking a step back, nothing about you changes. You’re still the same mortal human being you were either way. Your outer shell can morph in a variety of ways. This doesn’t affect your inner self.
But if we’re being honest for a moment, that’s really what this is all about. Who you are – or can become – on the inside. What really defines us is who we are as people, not how we look or appear. Muscles come and go. Your body is just one part of your identity (albeit an important part, no doubt). The other part – arguably the most important part – is how you treat people, your surroundings, and your legacy.
Inner growth. Emotional growth. Intellectual growth. Developing into a better human being who can make a real impact in people’s lives. Isn’t that the essence of living on planet Earth for the short finite amount of time we have here? Shouldn’t we all strive to leave our planet in better shape than when we arrived on it? To say during our lifetime that we truly made a difference? Not all of us have an epic legacy that future generations will remember. Some of us will be remembered by millions, others will be remembered by a few hundred. But every one of us can control what we do in the here and now.
Nobody said it would be easy. Life throws curveballs at us all the damn time. We may occasionally swing and miss, but at least we’ll go down swinging. Female bodybuilders are teaching us this lesson: you cannot hit a homerun without swinging your bat. Staying still will achieve nothing. But this choice isn’t just reserved for an elite few. Rather, this is a choice any one of us can make.
Any one of us. No matter how “normal” you think you are.
Some female bodybuilders are accused of “not being feminine enough.” Other female bodybuilders are accused of “being a little too feminine.” It’s impossible to please everybody, so there’s no need to try, right?
Right. But people have their preferences – and they are perfectly entitled to their preferences, the consequences be damned. We all can name our “favorite” female bodybuilder without thinking about it, though some of us may need to include 4 or 5 just to be on the safe side. While the Holy Grail FBB – someone who exhibits a flawless mixture of muscularity, beauty, femininity, and attitude – may not actually exist, one lady in particular comes to mind as someone who’s really darn close.
Isabelle is a rare woman whose impressive muscle mass doesn’t distract from the rest of her qualities. She’s stunningly gorgeous, curvy, oozes with sexiness, and can make you drop dead in your tracks if you ever saw her. She also has a nerdy side to her that she isn’t shy about sharing with the world. We are blessed to have her around.
She is a multifaceted woman who offers more than you’d think…but at the same time not as much as you’d like. She isn’t complicated, but she isn’t easy to understand. You want her to be a certain way but she won’t go there, yet she delivers exactly what she needs to deliver without disappointing anyone.
More on this later.
Isabelle Turell was born on October 22, 1979 in Tampa, Florida. She currently resides in Terre Haute, Indiana. She’s been an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder since 2008. Her actual bodybuilding career began in 2000 when she competed at the Orlando Classic, demonstrating that “turning pro” isn’t a task to be taken lightly. Her competition history is impressive, having competed at the NPC USA Championship, Ms. International, Wings of Strength, Arnold Classic, Tampa Pro, Omaha Pro, Atlantic City Women’s Pro, Rising Phoenix Arizona Pro, Lenda Murray Classic Pro, and many other regional tournaments. She isn’t just another typical competitor. She’s a serious heavyweight who deserves respect within the industry.
Is she considered “elite?” Eh, not quite. But she’s a prominent figure in the IFBB world and has accomplished things many of us – male or female – cannot even dream of doing. When she isn’t competing, Isabelle provides fitness consulting services and additional information/content if you become a paying member of her website. In this respect, Isabelle earns her living in the same way hundreds of other FBBs earn their living. It goes with the territory.
Isabelle is one of the most multi-faceted female bodybuilders around. One moment she could be wearing a BDSM-themed leather mask and looking to fulfill every single one of your femdom bondage fantasies. The next moment she’s cosplaying as The Hulk or Ghost Rider. She’s part dominatrix, part nerd, part sex kitten, and part world-class athlete with intrigue, class, and mysteriousness sprinkled in throughout.
There’s something about Isabelle that appeals to everyone. She has Amber Deluca’s Powerful Female Muscle Dominatrix vibe but can also pull off Denise Masino’s Fun and Sometimes Nerdy Lady Bodybuilder personality. She appeals to the hardcore fetishists who fantasize about being controlled, dominated, and humiliated by a strong sexy woman; while at the same time her chiseled physique compares favorably to Alina Popa.
She’s fun for the whole family. Assuming your family is into this sort of thing.
Her personality is guarded, so you don’t feel like you know her intimately like you do Denise. Miss Masino could be your best friend or drinking buddy. Isabelle is that cool chick you met at a party once and still exchange an occasional dirty text message with. Miss Turell is certainly sexy but she doesn’t overtly flaunt it like her peers. She lets the little bit of her that she chooses to make public speak for itself. Whether this is intentional or not, Isabelle leaves you wanting more while delivering exactly what she needs to deliver.
The one thing Isabelle won’t deliver to her fans is hardcore porn. That’s not in her repertoire. She’s more than happy being sexy, but she’ll flaunt her sexiness with limitations. These limitations aren’t tragic, however. They’re her choice and we must respect that. But then again, it’s not completely necessary that she go that far in order to satisfy our desires to see her in her full glory.
Isabelle is in her “full glory” when we feel empowered to insert her into our dirtiest fantasies. One of the most intriguing parts of female muscle fandom is that female bodybuilders are able to activate our imaginations in unexplainable ways. We cannot help but think about all sorts of scenarios, circumstances, and erotic fantasies whenever we encounter an image of a beautiful woman with big muscles. Isabelle is no exception.
When we see a selfie of Isabelle’s smiling face that unashamedly shows off her prodigious cleavage, we cannot help but think about what it would be like to get a handful of her enormous breasts and caress them with tender care. Then our minds turn toward thinking of her with a whip in hand, a long strap-on dildo attached to her crotch, and a leather BDSM mask that accentuates her gorgeous brown eyes. Or, we imagine her as our personal trainer. She pushes us harder and beyond our limits, and generously rewards our killer workout with further, uh, strenuous cardiovascular activities in the gym hot tub.
Or, we see a photo of Isabelle in a bikini and instantly place ourselves on that particular beach with her. Every muscle fiber is on clear display. Not a single soul is in sight. The sun is starting to set, which adds to the urgency of the moment. You kiss her deeply as the waves crash against the shore. Then, Isabelle quickly discards her bikini and stands before you in her Birthday Suit. She looks tantalizing. She invites you to disrobe. You do. Then, you make magic on the beach and end up with sand in every crevice of your body. Then, you make more magic. And more. And more. Finally, totally spent, you walk hand-in-hand with her across the beach as the bright moonlight illuminates the romantic scene.
Or, you look at a fun cosplay pic of Isabelle dressed up as the She-Hulk. Her skin is a brilliant green. You can see every curve of her muscular figure. You imagine what it would be like to be a scientist conducting an “experiment” on her. By day, Isabelle is a shy intern who can barely lift a box of copy paper. But when she gets really angry, she transforms into the She-Hulk! Now, she can bust through a drywall just by throwing her fist through it. And she can lift a car and toss it a hundred feet away without breaking a sweat. You know you shouldn’t make her angry too often, but what the heck? It couldn’t hurt too much! And if it does, so be it.
Or, you scroll through Isabelle’s Instagram page and see her wearing an elegant black cocktail dress. She looks classy and ravishing at the same time. You take her out to dinner at the finest restaurant in the city. All eyes are on her. Nobody can ignore her. It’s not every day that you see a gorgeous sexy woman with bulging muscles strut around like she owns the place. In a way, she does own the place. She owns every environment she finds herself in, to be exact. You enjoy a lovely date night with her, chuckling to yourself as the waitstaff struggles to keep their composure (and focus) as they serve you your meal. It’s quite a sight to behold!
These fantasies – and hundreds more like them – are typical of many fans of female bodybuilders. We aren’t just attracted to women with big muscles. We’re intoxicated by the alluring fantasies they conjure up in our minds. Isabelle Turell, more than any other FBB in the world, elicits this exact reaction in us. She can play any part we give her. That’s the key to understanding her appeal. She can be the sexy wife, domineering mistress, nerdy girlfriend, hardcore personal trainer, elite athlete, world-class celebrity, Divine Muscle Goddess, supermodel, inspirational gym rat, or quirky friend. She can effortlessly play all those roles. Perhaps multiple roles at once, if your imagination is that wild.
She can be anything you want her to be. And that’s why we cannot get enough of her. And that’s why she doesn’t have to be (or do) anything else than what she already is. We don’t need her to be like Yvette Bova, Kathy Connors, or Brandi Mae Akers and produce the kinkiest porn on the Internet. We don’t need her to go outside of her comfort zone or do anything she doesn’t feel like doing. She can just be herself and our minds will do the rest. She gives us enough. And that is enough. No more is required of her.
Isabelle is a fun gal who loves her life and enjoys brightening up the spirits of her fans. She certainly has loyal devotees who breathlessly await her next Instagram post. Will it be one of her pretty face? One that shows off her cleavage? One where we see her flex her enormous biceps? Or a video where she poses for us as if we were the only human being on planet Earth? Which will it be?
Her IG name is fitrockstar. This is fitting. Like most classic rock stars (which seem to be in short supply these days), Isabelle is the life of the party. Her extravagant life is just as interesting as what she does for a living. We aren’t just fascinated by “Isabelle Turell the Professional Bodybuilder.” We’re addicted to “Isabelle Turell the Unstoppable Muscle Goddess.” She cannot be stopped. She cannot be contained. She’s living her best life and we’re simply going along for the ride. We don’t know where we’re going, but that’s none of our concern. We’re just happy to be onboard the Isabelle Train.
Is she taking us to a crowded gymnasium? A bodybuilding competition stage? A bondage dungeon? A sweaty weight room? A secluded beach? A cozy cottage? A luxurious penthouse suite? A fancy 5-star restaurant? A photography studio where all eyes are on her?
We can go to all of those places. Whenever we want to. Because when we think about Isabelle, we can easily place ourselves in any situation. And we’ll feel right at home with her.
Whew! Need more evidence why we love her so damn much? Didn’t think so.
Oh Isabelle. Lovely Isabelle. A sweet princess. A devilish queen. An omnipotent goddess. No matter what she chooses to do next, we’ll be there. Hungry. Wanting more. But not needing more. Because she’s enough. She’s always enough.
Jennifer Kennedy is the female bodybuilder your Mom and Dad warned you about. The one who would confirm all your deeply held suspicions about the female bodybuilding industry and its competitors. The one who would be the living embodiment of all your fears about muscular women, steroids, gender roles, sexual orientation, identity, and sexual attraction. The one who gives you nightmares, but the fun kind of nightmares that you (sort of) enjoy.
Jenni is not for everyone. I once described Yvette Bova as someone who’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If that’s the case, then Jenni is a sour beverage that even a person crawling through a desert dying of thirst would politely refuse to drink. Miss Kennedy isn’t as polarizing as Miss Bova because Jenni isn’t very prolific in making career choices that might endear her to a small yet dedicated cohort of female muscle fans. More on that later. In fact, Jenni isn’t polarizing at all. There pretty much exists one singular opinion about her that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon:
Thanks, but no thanks.
Ouch. If that sounds mean, it’s because it is. My personal opinion of her is not that, of course. I really like Jenni. Seriously. I do! She’s unapologetically sexy, doesn’t care what her critics think, and lives her life the way she wants to. How can you hate on that?
All of that being said, let’s address a few delicate caveats:
First, it’s no mystery why Jenni doesn’t appeal to even hardcore supporters of female bodybuilding. She isn’t blessed with the same natural beauty as Cindy Landolt or Jessica Williams. She has a “harder edged” face that will inevitably be blamed on years of using synthetic steroids. Her voice is lower than Barry White’s. She’s feminine-presenting, but any uneducated dolt still has a modicum of justification to question her gender identity.
So don’t call her a “tranny” or any other such derogatory label. Just don’t.
There are two types of FBBs I admire: Female bodybuilders who are naturally beautiful and completely shatter negative stereotypes about muscular women; and female bodybuilders who are not blessed with natural beauty but still confidently strut around as if they do – and don’t care what the so-called “haters” think. The first category is pretty obvious. Who doesn’t enjoy looking upon a gorgeous lady with big curvy muscles? But the latter is where you tend to lose a lot of people, even people who are normally on your side in these debates.
Miss Kennedy obviously belongs in the second category. She’s defiant. She’s unabashed. She’s proud of who she is. Does she have deeply held insecurities about herself? Probably, yeah. Who doesn’t? But all in all, I’d bet my life’s savings (all $183 of it) that she’s comfortable in her own skin. Like Yvette, Maryse Manios, Roxanne Edwards, and Kathy Connors, Jenni realizes her fanbase is going to be much smaller than her peers. Heck, FBBs have a fairly narrow group of fans to begin with. These aforementioned ladies control an even smaller slice of that small slice. Yours truly may be one of the few people out there who are willing to toot their horns (interpret that as you will!).
However, unlike Yvette and Kathy, Jenni does a limited amount of porn. She’s done some, but not nearly as much as she could be. Kathy has established herself as being an Alpha Female who will dominate you and punish you if you’ve been naughty. Yvette presents herself as a sex-crazed muscle-bound hedonist who enjoys life to the fullest. In other words, they compensate for their lack of natural beauty by taking on public personas that people can easily latch onto (it should be noted that these personas don’t necessarily reflect who these women are in real life. They’re merely how they present themselves to the public). Jenni, to my knowledge, hasn’t really done that to the extent of these other ladies, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t done anything. Simply put, Jenni carries herself as a sultry seductive temptress who will lure you into her trap – and once she’s gotten ahold of you…you don’t want her to let go.
Jennifer Kennedy was born on June 25, 1976 in Michigan. She’s a personal trainer and webcam performer. After competing in gymnastics and track, she got hooked on weightlifting and hasn’t looked back since. She’s been participating in contests going back to at least 2011 (NPC National Championships). Most recently (as of this writing) she participated in the 2019 IFBB Omaha Pro. The Internet is a bit sparse when it comes to listing how she placed at these – and other – contests, so that’s too bad. Overall, it’s fair to say that Jennifer is a respectable competitor, but not elite. She belongs on stage with the best of the best, but she isn’t “the best” quite yet.
Perhaps one day she’ll get there! But for the time being, we’ll have to appreciate her for who she is, not who she’ll one day become.
It’s accurate to describe Jenni as “The Defiant One” This isn’t because she defies stereotypes or breaks down barriers. Rather, it’s because she adheres to stereotypes and doesn’t care if that bothers you. Women like Minna Pajulahti and Wendy Fortino shatter the preconceived notion that muscular women can’t also be beautiful, feminine, and desirable. Jenni isn’t going to do that at all, but that’s not why she’s defiant. She’s defiant because she fits every idiot’s preconceived notions about FBBs and wears them on her sleeve as a badge of honor.
“You’re right,” she may say. “I am not traditionally beautiful. I do have a masculine-looking face. My voice isn’t lyrical. Most guys don’t find me attractive. But, I guarantee you if you were to spend 5 minutes alone with me in my bedroom, you’ll be begging for more in no time!”
She’s the Green Eggs and Ham of female bodybuilders. Sam-I-Am thought he hated green eggs and ham because of how it looked. He stubbornly refused to try it because he had already made up his mind. Or he thought he had already made up his mind. But once he tried a single bite, his eyes were opened to the truth. As it turns out, he actually loves green eggs and ham. Sam-I-Am learned a valuable lesson that day: Don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it.
Also, don’t judge a book by its cover. So that’s two lessons in one day.
At first glance, you aren’t going to like Jenni. You’ll find her repulsive, disgusting, ugly, and hideous. But I can guarantee you that if you just give her a chance, she can change your mind. She can soften your hardened heart. You may end up liking her. Or loving her. Or being completely obsessed with her. Or at the very least, you’ll gain a newfound sense of respect for her. Either way, that’s an improvement.
Jenni isn’t monstrous. But to a closed-minded fool, she might as well be the next kaiju Godzilla battles against amidst the wreckage of a metropolitan city. But to someone with empathy, she’s a cool lady you shouldn’t underestimate.
Not liking Jenni doesn’t make you a misogynist or a Female-Bodybuilding-Fan-in-Name-Only (FBFINO?). Hating her, on the other hand, probably does.
You can not like her. But to be so quick to dismiss her? Yeah, lighten up buddy.
In a strange way, there’s something oddly courageous about Jenni. Something admirable. She performs for webcams. How can you do that unless you have confidence that there are people out there who would pay money to watch you? Obviously there are. Otherwise she wouldn’t be doing it. This proves that – even if the number is fairly small – Jenni has her fair share of fans. Maybe not as much as Denise Masino or Lindsay Mulinazzi, but enough to justify a modest income for her.
Jenni’s defiance is a key reason why that small slice of the FBB Appreciation Society (not a real thing, but play along with me here), which is already a small slice of the general population, loves her so much. It’s hard to say how many “dedicated” followers Jenni has, but it’s probably much larger than you think. Or to put it a different way, it’s not as small as you think. Regardless, Jenni has tapped into a niche that can properly be defined as a sub-niche within a niche:
The Scary-But-In-A-Hot-Kind-Of-Way Female Bodybuilder.
She embodies nearly every single negative stereotype you can think of when it comes to female bodybuilders. She also doesn’t appear to be very interested in remedying those negative perceptions in any way. This is because Jenni has perfected the art of turning a negative into a positive. Instead of trying to “fix” what’s wrong with her (and for the record, there’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with her in the first place) she embraces who she is and uses her already existing assets to her advantage. Her deep voice gives her a commanding presence. Her roughness strikes fear into your heart. Her muscles allow her to dominate you. Her unique appearance requires you to pay attention to her. Her “scariness” whips you into shape. Her peculiar mash-up of masculine and feminine qualities make her memorable. Her sexiness makes her, well, sexy.
None of those qualities are a detriment to her success. Could she be more successful if she were more, uh, “accessible” to a broader audience? Perhaps, yes. But how many conventionally beautiful muscle goddesses can you name off the top of your head? Probably dozens upon dozens, if not hundreds. But how many Muscle Queens of the Macabre Variety can you think of who make you both frightened and strangely aroused at the same time? How many of them make you feel nauseated…yet you admit you cannot look away no matter how hard you try?
We all know who can make us feel that way.
Jenni is a lot like a schlocky horror movie. The horrific violence you see on the screen makes you sick to your stomach. You get queasy watching hapless teenagers get decapitated, disemboweled, dismembered, burned to a crisp, skinned alive, eaten alive, tortured, stabbed, drowned, sliced in half with a chainsaw, gutted with a fishing hook, smashed with a hammer, ripped from limb to limb with a machete, punctured with an arrow, beaten with a baseball bat, or shot in the genitals. But instead of running out of the movie theater screaming like a madman, you stay in your seat and watch the dreadfulness unfold right before your very eyes. It’s entertainment. Sick and twisted entertainment, but that’s what it is nevertheless. It’s simultaneously appalling and fun.
And you know what? There’s a small part of you that actually enjoys watching these things happen to these innocent people. You want to enjoy immoral pre-marital sex? Well, the price you pay is having your innards pulled out of your stomach shortly after your orgasm. For some desperate people, that might be a worthwhile tradeoff.
In a convoluted kind of way, Jennifer Kennedy is sort of like that. Sort of. She’s entertaining. She’s enthralling. She’s captivating. She’s intriguing. You want to see what she does next, even if your instincts tell you to turn it off and scrub your eyeballs with Clorox. You need to know who this woman is and what she’s all about. She’s enticing. Almost too enticing. You may feel a bit guilty when she starts to grow on you, but hey, what’s the harm in that?
Who cares? Nobody is going to judge you. Even if someone does, just ignore them and proceed living your life. After all, being fond of Jenni can be intoxicating. In a naughty sort of way, it almost makes you feel – oh, what’s that word again?
A common way we frame female bodybuilders is through the archetype of “Slayers of Men.” Within this framework, female bodybuilders are strong independent women who are here to smash gender stereotypes, the so-called “patriarchy,” and the notion that women are destined to be the weaker sex.
This explains why FBBs are often described as queens and goddesses. They are conquerors, leaders, rulers, creators, destroyers, punishers, and decision-makers. This, of course, has more to do with our fantasies involving FBBs rather than how we actually view FBBs. There’s some overlap, but the “Female Bodybuilders as Slayers of Men” trope exists more in our imaginations than in our literal fears.
In real life, female bodybuilders aren’t anymore violent than normal women. Sure, they have the capacity to cause more bodily harm than most, but that’s not the same thing. I’d rather take a punch to the face from Sarah Paulson than Sarah Hayes, but either way neither of them mean any harm to me unless I pose a direct threat first. Which is unlikely.
It is true that the mere existence of female bodybuilders challenges what we’ve previously thought about gender roles and biology – and this fact cannot be underestimated. But there is a big difference between admitting that “women can become stronger than men if they work hard enough” versus “a man ceases to be a man once a woman is able to lift more than him at the gym.” The former is a statement of fact. The latter is a subtle (or not so subtle) admission of insecurity.
There are many reasons why certain guys fear female bodybuilders. They fear them because they’re jealous. They fear them because they remind them that their title of “the stronger sex” isn’t guaranteed. They fear them because FBBs destroy any excuse they have about not getting bigger or stronger. They fear them because FBBs give permission to other women to get stronger – both physically and emotionally – and not take unnecessary bullshit from ungrateful jerks like them.
But it should be obvious that these fears say more about (certain) guys than they do about FBBs in general. Guys who aren’t sexist jerks love strong women because they have no reason to be fearful or disgusted by them. If anything, we have every incentive to lift them up, celebrate them, and appreciate their impressive achievements. Female bodybuilders do not challenge our masculinity because real masculinity and strong femininity can peacefully co-exist together. They are not enemies, but rather two sides of the same coin.
Men who feel belittled by muscular women are actually expressing deep-rooted anxiety about themselves. FBBs remind them of their own weaknesses – both literal and figurative. That isn’t to say that guys who love FBBs are inherently stronger or possess rare emotional fortitude. Instead, guys who love muscular women have learned to move on beyond a cheap, surface-level understanding of gender roles, biology, and relationships. If a rising tide lifts all boats, muscular women also lift up all men.
One other way to look at female bodybuilders is to think of them as surrogate punishers for past sins. They are like movie monsters; larger-than-life creatures who act as destroyers sent to us to teach us all a lesson. Godzilla is Mother Nature’s way of punishing humankind for its sins of environmental degradation. King Kong is an allegorical reminder that pillaging, plundering, and economic exploitation are sins that will one day come back to haunt you. Even in the heart of New York City, a bright shining symbol of Western Civilization’s technological and social progress. Likewise, female bodybuilders are the physical embodiment of mankind’s punishment for sexism, misogyny, domestic violence, and structural gender-based oppression. Maybe not in the literal sense, but certainly in the symbolic sense.
Female bodybuilders aren’t lurking in the shadows ready to bash in the heads of guys who blurt out unsolicited catcalls or grab women’s butts, of course. That’s an avant-garde Frank Miller graphic novel just waiting to be written! However, from a psychological point of view FBBs essentially play that same role; as a constant reminder that if you’re not careful, women can strike back when provoked. And they can surpass you in terms of strength and size if you’re not on top of your game.
Even if the significance is more symbolic than literal, there is something to be said about female bodybuilders acting as proxy “Slayers of Rude, Idiotic Men” and, at the same time, allies of “Kind, Gentlemanly Men.” These battles don’t have to transpire on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in order for them to have real substance. All they have to do is exist in our minds.
Because this is where the real battles are fought: in our minds. FBBs are often viewed as the Slayers of Men because either we fear that they are or we wish that they could be. It’s sort of like imagining Brandi Mae Akers riding on top of a fire-breathing dragon as it incinerates a town down below, Game of Thrones style. Except in this case it’s Miss Akers who’s slaying the hapless townspeople, not the dragon. Whether Brandi Mae ever ends up ruling her kingdom is a secondary matter. What’s really at stake is whether or not she taught those insubordinate plebeians down below a lesson.
And in this hypothetical scenario, it matters whether you’re rooting for Brandi Mae to succeed or wishing that she’ll fail. Do you love her or fear her? Which is it?
In the real world, this paradigm doesn’t have to exist. Female bodybuilders don’t have to be the actual or figurative Slayers of Men. They can be the Allies of Men. That is, if enough men agree to join in this mutually beneficial partnership. A strong woman does not invalidate the masculine identity of a man – no matter how “wrong” or “contradictory” it may feel. One could argue that there is no such thing as “masculine” and “feminine” qualities in any objective sense. I cannot speak to how valid that perspective is, but I understand where it comes from. For the time being, let’s assume that masculine and feminine characteristics are real – at least from a cultural standpoint.
Masculinity and femininity aren’t two separate spheres in which there is no overlap. On the contrary, there is plenty of crossover. Or maybe, our definitions of these two words are too broad. “Strength” is neither a masculine nor feminine quality. It’s both. Or neither. Maybe it exists on a list of things that aren’t gendered. I’ve argued before that female bodybuilders don’t redefine femininity so much as they expand it. They transform our thinking in regards to gender by forcing us to not think outside the box, but to shatter the box with a sledgehammer. Men and women are different, but not as different as you might think. Or, those differences are arbitrary. Or, those differences can change depending on who we’re talking about.
Your status as a “man” isn’t defined by how many masculine qualities you exhibit. This is because our definition of “masculinity” is unto itself subjective. Nor does it mean that women can’t also showcase a few “masculine” traits without compromising their feminine status. This all sounds complicated because what we’re really arguing about here is definition of words, not objective ideas. Words are more than what the dictionary says they mean. Words also carry heavy cultural connotations, historic baggage, and emotional context. None of those things can be properly conveyed by a simple one sentence definition.
Long story short, who you are as a man isn’t predicated on who women are as well. The same is true going the opposite direction. Seeing a strong muscular woman deadlift more than you at the gym doesn’t mean you’re “less of a man” or not “measuring up” to who you’re supposed to be. We are all allowed to go at our own pace. That woman, whom we’ll nickname Deadlift Lady, exists on her own plain. She is an island, floating around in an ocean full of deep-rooted cultural expectations. The same goes for every guy at that gym lifting weights near her. They are also islands – one particular colloquial expression notwithstanding. Let’s say Typical Dude is deadlifting next to her. He can only lift 215 pounds for one rep. Not bad, but not terribly impressive. But let’s say Deadlift Lady is lifting 375 pounds for 10 reps. That’s quite a lot. Way more than Typical Dude. What do we make of this situation?
Well, not much.
Typical Dude is going at his own pace. He’s setting his own personal agenda. His goals are his and his alone. As long as he’s happy, that’s all we need to know about him. Deadlift Lady, on the other hand, is also going at her own pace. Her personal agenda is probably much different than her male counterpart. After all, no lady who’s deadlifting 375 pounds does so by accident! There’s intention going on here. She’s worked her whole life to make it to this point. The biggest takeaway from this scenario is that the existence of one does not invalidate the existence of the other.
They are two human beings working out. They are trying to improve their strength, health, vitality, confidence, self-esteem, and sense of purpose. He may feel slightly insecure lifting in proximity to her, but that’s perfectly okay. And understandable. But it’s not because he has a real reason to feel insecure. It’s because the culture he lives in tells him that he should feel bad. He has no actual reason to feel that way. Deadlift Lady’s remarkable accomplishments do not denigrate or invalidate the accomplishments of Typical Dude. They are two unique, vulnerable human beings trying to make their way through this hostile universe.
Deadlift Lady isn’t slaying Typical Dude. No matter what people around them are saying or thinking, no one is getting “owned” by these two individuals existing side-by-side. They can co-exist because one does not overrule the other. Strong women do not automatically make men weaker. Guys who feel threatened by strong women feel that way because they’re recognize their own shortcomings. The presence of a strong woman makes those feelings bubble to the surface faster than a malfunctioning submarine. Strong women do not make guys feel inadequate; they only bring out those feelings that already exist.
Female bodybuilders not only directly challenge one’s sense of masculine superiority, they also force us to reevaluate how we draw that line between men and women. Is it a hard line in the sand, or one that can easily be washed away by the rising tide?
Strength and weakness. Confidence and insecurity. Superiority and inferiority. Action and inaction. Accomplished and unproven. Happiness and fear. Self-love and self-loathing. Assuredness and doubt. Self-satisfaction and the endless need to prove one’s self.
These feelings are real, even if the reasons they exist are subjective.
The sooner we realize men and strong women are not in conflict with each other, the better off we’ll all be. Better yet, future generations will thank us. Alas, we are not there yet, but I pray one day we will be. Perhaps we can all make an impact, one grueling deadlift repetition at a time.
Strong women are not the Slayers of Men. Men who hate themselves and other women are the actual Slayers of Men. And how do we defeat this mortal enemy?
Easy. In addition to lifting those weights, lift up the people around you.
“Beauty,” as it is traditionally defined, makes no mention of emotions, feelings, or involuntary intuitive reactions. Yet, the concept of beauty – especially the way we use it in everyday conversation – goes way beyond aesthetics.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”
“Gives pleasure to the senses” is a great way of phrasing it. There are, after all, five senses – with sight being just one of them. One can appreciate a rose bush by admiring its beauty, then leaning over and smelling its scent. But you probably wouldn’t want to eat it. And roses don’t make any noise, so there’s nothing to hear. And be careful before you touch it! Those thorns can be prickly.
So one can admire a beautiful thing with more than just one sense. Two or three, perhaps. But there’s another sense that is almost never acknowledged. A sense that is, if you think about it, arguably more important:
The emotional sense.
The sight of a beautiful person can make you feel many things. Lust, longing, exasperation, infatuation, nervousness, giddiness, curiosity, etc. Perhaps the reason why a beautiful person has such power over us isn’t just because of how they look – it’s how they make us feel.
And this has less to do with who they are and more to do with who we are. Or what we’ve gone through, or what we’ve experienced, or what we’re currently dealing with in our personal lives. For example, you could be minding your own business at the grocery store. You just need to pick up a few items – green peppers, celery, a red onion, and a few quarts of beef stock – for tonight’s dinner. You should be in and out in a hot minute. Suddenly, out of nowhere you see a gorgeous young lady perusing through the salad greens section looking for fresh spinach that isn’t too soggy. She’s beautiful. The most beautiful person you’ve seen in a while. The way she walks, moves, and behaves is like poetry in motion. But you’re not just captivated by her immense beauty. You’re reminded of your high school crush, the one who “got away.” You’re reminded of your own loneliness and your burning need for someone to cuddle with tonight when you’re watching late night TV. You’re reminded of how special this planet can be at times, when a flawless work of art can literally appear out of nowhere unexpectedly and make your heart stop beating.
You know she’s physically beautiful, yet she’s more than that. She makes you feel things. Strong things. Things you wish you could forget. Things you wish you could capture in a bottle and uncork whenever you want to. Things you cannot explain, but you know in your heart is as real as a rainstorm. In other words, “beauty” isn’t just an aesthetic. It’s an experience.
This helps explain why many of us love female bodybuilders so much. We aren’t just attracted to their muscles, curves, strength, confidence, and inspiring stories. We love them because they make us react in ways that are both predictable and inexplicable. We love them because we cannot stop loving them. They’re an unquenchable thirst. A hunger that never ceases.
We can look at a picture of Cindy Landolt and notice many things. Her face is pretty and her muscles are poetic, but her appeal goes way beyond those things. We sense raw energy radiating out of every pore of her immaculate body. It’s almost visible. It’s nearly tangible. To look upon her is to feel like you’re in the presence of a Divine Being. She’s often labeled a “Goddess” by her fans (myself included) and for good reason. She looks too good to be true. The fact she actually is a real-life human being adds to her mystique. How can someone be that beautiful? It’s difficult to wrap our minds around this reality. Yet it’s true. Cindy makes our minds rattle in a million different directions. And it’s not just because of her obvious beauty.
It’s because of her – and many other female bodybuilders – effect on our psyches.
Female bodybuilders are alluring for reasons that go beyond what you can see on the outside. It’s not just their unusually large muscles that capture our attention. When we regard upon a beautiful female bodybuilder, our daydreaming activities go into overdrive. We want her to pick us up and toss us to the ground like a ragdoll. We desire to touch her muscles. We want to ask her to flex her biceps while we measure them with a sewing tape measure. How big is she? When she flexes at maximum capacity, how large can she grow? 16 inches? 18 inches?
Uh, 20 inches?
Is that even possible? Has any woman in the history of the world ever developed biceps that exceeded 20 inches? Maybe, but I’m yet to have seen it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before, of course. Renné Toney supposedly holds the record at 21 inches. I highly doubt too many other women have been able to match that, let alone exceed it.
God damn. The very thought of a woman having 21-inch biceps is mind boggling. It’s inconceivable. It’s beyond belief. Yet, she did at one point in her life attain such a measurement. Guys who are insecure or full of self-loathing will immediately scream at the top of their lungs “Steroids, steroids, steroids!” But those of us who respect female bodybuilders and don’t hate ourselves will instead react with “You go girl!”
See the difference?
The same could be said for Tina Lockwood’s thighs. Or Becca Swanson’s career achievements. Or Nataliya Kuznetsova’s entire existence. Or what Shannon Courtney was able to do at such an early age. These ladies defy our expectations of what the female human body is capable of doing. In their own way, they’ve set the bar higher and higher than any of us (or most of us) thought was even possible. To react with derision is unfortunate. It probably says more about the person choosing to think that way more than anything else. But thankfully, for every troll who types mean comments like “She’s probably got a dick” or “She’s actually a man” on a random YouTube video, there are thousands of other people who treat these women with the respect they deserve.
How funny it is that female bodybuilders can make us react in such two completely opposite ways. We react with either scorn or praise. Disgust or lust. Hatred or eternal adoration. Dismissiveness or uncontrollable fandom. There’s basically no middle ground. At all. It’s truly a fascinating phenomenon to witness.
This is why “beauty is overrated.” We value beauty because it’s obvious. It’s plain to see. It’s simple to explain. It doesn’t require any thinking. It’s all around us all the time. You don’t need to travel far to see a billboard, television commercial, print advertisement, or pop-up window that features a beautiful person – male or female. It’s deeply engrained into our multimedia landscape. Sex sells, as the adage goes. Heck, it’s so pervasive it’s easy to not notice it.
Yet, beauty unto itself is fairly limited. A pretty face can be forgettable. A shapely body you see in a magazine may draw your attention momentarily, but it’ll fade off into the distance once something else replaces it. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? The sound of your favorite song playing over the PA system? The feeling of cool air cascading off your face on a sweltering hot summer day? All of those things can replace the memory of a beautiful magazine cover model because she’s a dime a dozen (no offense to her). Her beauty is considerable, but it’s not enough. We want to feel something. A connection. A memory. An involuntary reaction.
A nameless Victoria’s Secret underwear model cannot compete with Isabelle Turell or Lindsay Mulinazzi. The nameless model looks nice but doesn’t elicit any emotional reaction out of us. We notice their beauty and move on with our lives. Isabelle and Lindsay, on the other hand, make us want to beg for their attention. Get down on our knees and worship them. Shell out hundreds of dollars in cash to purchase their merchandise. Praise them as queens or goddesses. Use hyperbolic language when describing them. Travel to the furthest ends of the earth just to meet them for a single hour. Stay up late watching videos of them when we have to go to work the next day. Do things we normally wouldn’t do like set up a muscle worship appointment or fantasy wrestling session – all in secret, naturally.
Beauty in complete isolation is neat. But it does not give us a complete picture of the situation. Some people – and this includes non-bodybuilders – have a pull on us that almost seems magical. Remember your grade school crush? I sure do. I still think about her. I recently stalked her on Facebook and saw that she’s happily married with a newborn child. She’s kind of pretty, but not nearly as drop dead gorgeous as I thought of her at the time. In this case, distance and time did not make the heart grow fonder. Quite the opposite. But I clearly remember being 12 years old and not being able to keep my eyes off her. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was sweet, smart, nice, and good looking. I was enchanted with her.
We all have similar stories we can tell. Many of us have current stories in similar vein that we can tell. Crushes are exactly that: they crush us. They shatter our ability to think rationally. They stomp all over our sense of self-preservation and force us to act foolishly. We are enthralled by them, taken in by them, infatuated with them. It’s strong. It’s focused. It’s nearly unbreakable.
And when it does break, it tears our hearts in half.
Do you know what this ultimately means? It means beauty is not just overrated, but somewhat misunderstood. We give pure physical beauty more credit than it deserves. It can initially capture our attention, but it’s not enough to keep us tuned in. We need more if we want to continue to be playing the game. We need an emotional bond. A cathartic connection. A spiritual awakening. We need our heartstrings tugged at in addition to blood flowing to our private parts. This isn’t just explained by love or lust. It’s something else. Something…less tangible.
Now, comparing your schoolyard crush to your adult fascination with female bodybuilders is not completely analogous. They are two different things. Yet, the general idea remains the same. They both have us in the palm of their hands. They control the situation, not us. They have the power. All the power. It’s not even close. It’s more than a magic spell. It’s more mysterious than a love potion because this is completely organic. It’s natural. No special sauce is needed.
Go back to the beginning of this article and reread Merriam-Webster’s definition of “beauty.” Notice the word “spirit” at the very end. That’s significant. Do not trivialize this. To “pleasurably exalt the spirit” is quite a turn of phrase. It seems to connotate a religious awakening; a divine experience that transcends the mortal body. This is why we tend to use ethereal language when describing female bodybuilders. It’s just like a religious experience. A conversion. A death and resurrection all happening at once.
Beauty is overrated because it places too much emphasis on the person who is being described as beautiful. This isn’t a knock against them, but rather an observation that what really matters is the person experiencing the beauty. What are they thinking? Hoping? Dreaming about? Fearful of? Wishing would happen with all their might?
The fact I’ve been writing about female bodybuilders and female muscle fetishism for seven years now – yes, it’s been that long – is proof that FBBs have a profound grip on me. It’s everlasting. Sure, sometimes it wanes for a bit, but it never goes away. I don’t think that’s even possible.
FBBs are important to me and will continue to be a massive part of my life. The same is probably true for many of you too. And the reason this is true isn’t just because FBBs are physically beautiful creatures. It’s because they have the keen ability to draw out wild thoughts and fantasies from us. They make us act irrationally. They cannot leave our imaginations. They’re living rent free in our heads – and we are grateful landlords who refuse to ask for back payments.
Because it’s not just about how beautiful they are. It’s how beautiful we make them out to be.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the lingo the kids are using these days, “GOAT” is not an insult. It’s not what Charlie Brown feared he would be if he were to give up the losing run at the end of his playground baseball game. It’s not an animal. It’s not one of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs. No. GOAT stands for Greatest of All Time. It’s the highest compliment one can bestow upon a person. It’s a high honor.
Miss Popa is the GOAT. Or a GOAT. Or one of the GOATs. Or in the top 5. Or top 10. We can’t all agree where she ranks among the greatest female bodybuilders in the history of the sport, but for the time being most of us should be able to recognize that Alina is one the best of the best of the best of the best.
For many reasons, Alina has captured our hearts and imaginations. She’s beloved. She boasts near universal adoration. Everyone loves and respects her. If you were to take a straw poll of one thousand female muscle fans worldwide and ask them who their favorite FBB currently is, I’d wager a guess that more than 80% would have Alina somewhere in their top 5. If she’s not in their top 10, then they’ve lost all credibility as far as I’m concerned. If they’ve never even heard of her, then I don’t know if it’s fair to call them a female muscle fan in the first place.
Alina’s appeal is fascinating to break down. She doesn’t have the crossover appeal of Cindy Landolt, yet she’s probably more beloved than she is. Alina doesn’t participate in sexually explicit pornography like Denise Masino or Brandi Mae Akers, yet she’s still considered unbelievably sexy. She isn’t as prominent on social media as Lauren Drain, but Alina is heads and shoulders more popular than Miss Drain will ever be. That isn’t to insult Miss Landolt, Miss Masino, Miss Akers, or Miss Drain – but rather to point out the impressiveness of Miss Popa’s popularity.
But it isn’t just about popularity. It’s emotional appeal. Alina makes us feel things. Intense things. Intense thoughts, feelings, and fantasies. One does not simply look at a picture of Alina flexing her large muscles and not experience a rise in blood pressure. Unless one is already in a vegetative state. Heck, looking at Alina’s body of work may very well put you in a vegetative state. And you probably wouldn’t complain too loudly when that happens.
She is a unique lady. She’s a one-of-a-kind. Her appeal is both obvious and not obvious at the same time. Alina is the GOAT, but she’s more than that. She’s a queen. No, rather she’s THE Queen. The Queen of Female Bodybuilding.
Alina Popa was born on October 12, 1978 in Brăila, Romania. Like many female bodybuilders, she led a fairly active lifestyle, having competed in track and field sports since she was 12 years old. In her late teens and early 20s, Alina became a regular gymgoer and started to do what guys always do at the gym but some ladies are reluctant to: lift weights.
In 2000, she placed 2nd in a local regional contest, which probably boosted her confidence and gave her the “hunger” to compete in more. That obviously set off a firestorm. The rest of her impressive résumé is as follows:
2000 IFBB National Championship – 3rd (HW)
2003 IFBB National Championship – 1st (MW)
2004 IFBB European Championship – 2nd (HW)
2005 Mixed Pairs European Championship – 2nd
2005 Women’s European Championship – 5th
2006 Grand Prix Due Torri – 1st
2007 NABBA Miss Universe – 1st (Miss Physique class)
2008 IFBB Worlds Santa Susanna – 1st (Overall and HW)
2010 IFBB Ms. International – 8th
2011 IFBB Ms. International – 3rd
2011 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 5th
2012 IFBB Ms. International – 3rd
2012 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 4th
2013 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 2nd
2014 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 2nd
2016 WOS Rising Phoenix World Championships – 3rd
2018 IFBB Muscle Vodka Tampa Pro – 1st
2018 Rising Phoenix World Championships – 1st
There’s no need to rehash the controversy in 2014 when Alina placed 2nd to Iris Kyle in the final Ms. Olympia contest. Alina placed 2nd the previous year and every prognosticator thought this would be the year the seemingly unstoppable Miss Kyle would be unseated. Alas, that did not happen. Iris won her 17th overall IFBB professional title, an eyepopping achievement that deserves considerable recognition. But in the hearts and minds of FBB fans everywhere, Alina deserved to place 1st at least once while the Ms. Olympia still existed. She may not have persuaded enough judges to earn that crown, but she’s definitely earned our awe and admiration. We understand that one’s accomplishments are not always defined by others.
So as far as professional competitions go, Alina may not technically be the GOAT, but she’s nevertheless one of the greatest to ever have stepped onto the stage. But for those of us who don’t need external validation for the things we love, we can live with that. Others who crave that validation are probably still bitter to this day.
Alina is a Queen because she’s everything you could possibly ask for in a female bodybuilder. She has it all: Brains, beauty, brawn, charm, and grace. She’s beautiful, yet approachable. She’s accomplished, yet humble. She’s tough, yet kind. She’s relentless, yet grounded. She’s glamourous, yet authentic. She’s strong, yet compassionate. She’s muscular, yet still unquestionably feminine. She’s big, yet curvy. She’s confident, yet amicable. She’s a woman, yet she doesn’t let her gender define her.
Her body is flawless. Some may have been disappointed when she decided to get breast implants, but that is neither here nor there. She can choose to enhance herself if it makes her happy. Alina has achieved the near impossible: She appeals to female muscle fans across the entire spectrum. She appeases those who love big, big, big muscles. She also appeases the folks on the other side of the aisle who value traditional femininity and are turned off by FBBs who exhibit too many “masculine” qualities. There’s nothing masculine about Miss Popa. She’s as feminine as can be.
When the sport of female bodybuilding rose to prominence in the 1970s, there was a stigma attached to women who were so bulky it (supposedly) compromised their “femininity.” As a result, many female competitors intentionally chose to not get too big out of fear it would damage their ability to win contests. That’s bad news. So praising Alina’s uncanny ability to perfectly balance femininity and muscularity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s the reason why she’s so beloved by female muscle fans around the world. On the other hand, it feeds into the perception that female bodybuilders are somehow obligated to also look feminine because not looking sufficiently feminine can be detrimental to their success.
Hm. This is an awkward place to be. It’s discouraging to praise ladies like Alina, Cindy, and Minna Pajulahti for their femininity and strength because – even if it’s implicitly implied – it reinforces the belief that women who are not like them are somehow inferior. Jennifer Kennedy and Kathy Connors are not inferior. They’re also awesome and deserving of respect. They may not get the same universal adoration as the previous group, but they are still worthy of our undying love. It’s much easier to defend Cindy Landolt than it is Miss Kennedy, a fact that begrudgingly acknowledges the reality that traditional femininity still matters to a great deal of people.
FBBs like Miss Kennedy have deep voices, masculine-looking faces, and a “roughness” about them that makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable. One cannot deny that, even though one can also argue that these features do not chip away at her identity as a strong sexy woman. Alina’s presence is a breath of fresh air because she checks every box a female muscle fan could ask for, in addition to not having to carry much of the baggage typically associated with muscular women.
There isn’t a whole lot you can criticize about Alina. But we think of her as a Queen not just because of her crossover appeal, flawless beauty, perfect balance between muscularity and femininity, and considerable professional accomplishments. She’s earned her Queen Status because she makes us feel things very few other women – muscular or not – can also conjure up.
One of her most famous talents is the ability to isolate her muscles and bounce them on command. It makes us swoon faster than a pack of teen girls at an Elvis concert circa 1956. She can wiggle her glutes, bounce her pecs, and make her quads dance as if it were a cast member of Soul Train. Her muscle control is a sight to behold. It takes your breath away. Your eyes are peeled to the screen as you watch her show off her skills. It’s a shocking reminder of how in control she is of her body. She doesn’t just spend hours a day at the gym building her body – she owns her body. It doesn’t own her. She knows her physical self better than most of us think is even possible. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Watching Alina control her muscles – and knowing that we can never do that no matter how hard we try – makes us appreciate her that much more. She’s a Queen because she controls her domain with an iron fist. She’s a Queen because she doesn’t let anybody stand in her way. She’s a Queen because she does what she wants, looks the way she wants, and pursues her dreams with reckless abandon.
For the longest time Alina chose not to get breast implants. Then, she went under the knife in 2017 and looks great as a result. Does she look better? Yeah, but once again this is a tricky area. That isn’t to imply that she looked inferior before. She looked stunning before surgery and she still looks stunning today. Personally, I am not super picky about whether or not an FBB chooses to get breast implants. I love strong flat chested beauties as much as I love strong enhanced beauties. Fans may bicker and argue amongst themselves, but you’ll find no quarrel with me.
Whenever I scroll through photos and videos of Miss Popa I’m reminded of the famous quote from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet when Romeo remarks “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” Likewise, before Alina, true beauty did not exist. You’ve never actually seen a truly breathtaking woman until you witnessed Alina in action. Watching her strut toward the camera, flex her quads, and give the viewer a sweet but naughty smile is enough to give us cardiac arrest. But more than that, it’s sort of like a spiritual experience. Your brain realizes it’s seeing something that’s different from what it’s seen before. It’s difficult to explain, but universally understood by those who’ve experienced it.
Watching Alina is like being touched by the hand of divinity. You notice every muscle fiber, every curve, every fine detail of her immaculate body and wonder how a human being could possibly look that way. It’s as though every “traditionally beautiful” woman you’ve ever seen don’t matter anymore. Like Romeo, Shakespeare’s famous male protagonist thought he’d seen it all. He thought he knew what a beautiful woman looked like. Then, he saw Juliet. And his whole world came to a crashing halt. His paradigm shifted. His perspective changed forever. What he thought he knew he immediately threw away into the trash can.
He knew nothing. And now he knows everything.
In similar fashion, we thought the “perfect woman” would look like Marilyn Monroe or Pamela Anderson or Trish Stratus or Megan Fox. Little did we know that our standards were way too low. Heck, our standards weren’t even in the right curriculum. Alina Popa dominates them all. She vanquishes her enemies like Alexander the Great marching through Persia. She redefines beauty, or even transcends the word “beauty.” Yes, that’s more like it. She transcends all conventional wisdom.
Alina transcends the sport of bodybuilding. She’s bigger than it – metaphorically speaking. She’s in her own class. She may not be the most accomplished or legendary or historically noteworthy, but she’s loved by everyone who knows her or knows of her. There’s also something strangely pure about her. She rarely does nudity (only a few photos of her topless exist) and she never does any kind of porn. That isn’t to demean any FBB who does go down that path, of course. But in Alina’s case, it works to her advantage. She’s sexy, but not in a naughty kind of way. She’s sexy in a way that isn’t wholesome (this isn’t the Disney Channel), but it’s not gratuitous either. Her sexiness is more charming than sinful.
If this seems like a series of rambling observations, that’s because it’s impossible to succinctly explain why Alina Popa is so amazing. All one can do is talk endlessly about why one loves her. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not rational. It’s unambiguous, yet not easy to describe.
In short, Alina Popa is a Queen because she exhibits one characteristic that very few beautiful women can match: Control.
Her muscle control is one thing. Her control over our hearts and minds is another. She controls us. Her beauty, brains, personality, aura, and ethereal nature have us in the palm of her callused hand. She can do the most mundane activity and make us go crazy. She can walk down a hallway wearing heels. She can bake bread. She can sit on a couch and watch TV. She can lie down on a bed and simply look up at the camera and smile. She can just stand there wearing a bikini and not say a single word. Alina can do anything and still make us go gaga over her. She doesn’t have to try to be sexy. She just is. Whether she’s wearing sweatpants or an elegant dress or a sparkly bikini, Alina appeals to us no matter what.
Come to think of it, she’s the most minimalistic female bodybuilder in the world. She’s simple. She doesn’t need to put too much effort into being sexually appetizing. She simply is…all because she busts her butt at the gym day-in and day-out. She makes immense sacrifices to look the way she looks. She puts in more work in a single day than most of us do in a month. And she does this because she wants to. It empowers her. It inspires her. It’s motivates her to get out of bed every morning. It’s her raison d’être. And we are grateful for her for making these tough decisions.
I believe Alina once told a story on Instagram about how her Romanian mother at first didn’t approve of her daughter becoming a female bodybuilder because Romanian girls are supposed to be “narrow and skinny.” But once Alina started winning trophies and accolades, her mother fortunately altered her opinion. Alina breaks stereotypes. She challenges what you thought you knew about female bodybuilders. And she does it with the cutest smile on her face.
Her muscle control mirrors her emotional control over her fans. Female bodybuilders are often described as being either “queens” or “goddesses.” A goddess is a deity who’s powerful but remains fairly detached from human civilization. A queen is also powerful but directly rules over her kingdom. A True Queen looks after her people with kindness, benevolence, and sternness. She’s authoritative, but not oppressive. A True Queen earns the trust of her people, as opposed to ruling over them through fear. A True Queen’s legitimacy comes from a place of love, not malice.
Alina Popa is loved. That is why she’s a Queen. Not because she says she’s a Queen, but because we say she’s a Queen. Because we want her to be our Queen. She’s a democratically elected Muscle Queen, not one imposed upon us by a third party. See the difference?
Female bodybuilders are no strangers to the hurtful accusation that they’re not actually women. That they aren’t feminine enough. That they’re turning into men or want to become men. That men aren’t going to like them because of their muscles. That “real women” don’t look like that. That they actually look like men. That they’re confused about their gender.
And so on and so forth.
These slurs are so common I’m guessing most FBBs have achieved the ability to mentally block them out. They have a filter installed in their brain that allows them to ignore stupid opinions that have no merit. At least, I hope so. I cannot imagine how dreadfully annoying it is to have your appearance mocked just because you choose to lift weights, supplement, and bulk up like any other gym bro. Or that your personal definition of “empowerment” requires you to look different than the other girls – and that not everybody is on board with that.
Because of this toxic reality, it is not surprising that many female bodybuilders have decided – whether this is intentional or not is difficult to assess – to counter these slanders by presenting themselves in explicitly feminine terms. Think of it as compensating for their lack of “traditional femininity” by acting more outwardly feminine than they normally would.
Some examples of this include:
Getting breast implants
Wearing a lot of makeup (even more than usual)
Wearing sexy dresses
Wearing stylish clothing
Smiling, laughing, giggling, and doing whatever she can to appear less “threatening”
Posting pictures on Instagram of her doing traditionally “feminine” activities like trying on new clothes, shoe shopping, kissing her boyfriend/husband, playing with dogs, playing with kids, being a “mom,” cooking, cleaning, etc.
Promoting brands/products/stores that are traditionally aimed at women
Doing porn in which she has sex with men, with the man (or group of men) being in the “dominant” role and the muscular woman in the “submissive” role
Or doing porn where the man and muscular woman are equals
Choosing not to talk if her voice is too low
Doing photoshoots in which her face is edited to look more feminine and less hard edged
Avoiding talking about steroids, hormonal supplements, and anything that can be perceived as compromising her “womanhood”
It saddens me to think that female bodybuilders do these things not because they want to but because they feel like they have to. Yet, I am torn on this topic. On one hand, I am a strong believer that everybody has the right to craft their own identity to be whatever they want it to be. They shouldn’t give in to pressure to conform, fit in, or go with the flow. On the other hand, if being “traditionally feminine” is what they genuinely want to do, then nothing should stop them from being that. It’s a tough line to draw in the sand because I do not know what every FBB is thinking and feeling.
Maybe some FBBs actually enjoy doing activities that are considered “feminine.” Or maybe they do it because they don’t want to alienate anybody. Or, like I said before, they want to appear less “threatening,” as if the sight of a woman with big muscles is somehow considered inherently threatening. Threatening to whom, exactly?
The Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman is a fascinating case study. What do we think of her? Is she compromising her identity by pretending to be something she isn’t, or is that who she really is?
At the end of the day, we don’t really know. But I do know this phenomenon does exist. For example, I can’t recall where I saw this but I remember reading an Instagram post in which Minna Pajulahti says she sometimes acts overtly feminine because she doesn’t want people to think of female bodybuilders as not being real women. That’s paraphrasing her rationale, unfortunately. So she does things like deadlift a crazy amount of weight, drop the bar to the floor, and strike a Beyoncé-like pose at the end as the “kicker.” Why dance around and strike diva poses? Because it reinforces her femininity, which apparently gets compromised when she’s deadlifting, squatting, bench pressing, and lift a ton of weight.
I am not criticizing Minna, of course. I love her and would never do that! But I will acknowledge that I think it’s a bit sad that she feels the need to do this. Not tragic, but mildly sad. Being strong doesn’t mean she isn’t feminine. Doing masculine-labeled activities does not mean she isn’t feminine. Having a nontraditional physique does not mean she isn’t feminine. All of that is complete and utter bullshit.
Minna Pajulahti is a feminine woman. So is Victoria Dominguez. And Kathy Connors. And Jennifer Kennedy. And Gillian Kovack. And Rene Campbell. And Wanda Moore. And Lauren Powers. And Rhonda Lee Quaresma. And Dena Westerfield. And many, many others.
What do all these beautiful women have in common? They’ve all had their feminine identities questioned. Or challenged. Or denied. I’ve seen them labeled “trannies” or “dykes” and other idiotic slurs. The stupidity of people who feel compelled to insult and troll innocent people is boundless. But that is the world we live in today.
What makes the existence of the Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman so frustrating is that we don’t know if it’s genuine or not. Are they acting overtly feminine because that’s who they truly are or because that’s how they think society wants them to be? To segment that last part even further, do they act aggressively feminine because they want to be accepted by society (whatever that means) or because they feel the need to overcompensate? The negative stereotypes that surround female bodybuilders are real, hurtful, and pervasive. Perhaps some FBBs feel compelled to dispel these perceptions by acting way more feminine than they’d normally want to. Either way, it’s sad.
It’s sad because I don’t want any muscular woman to act differently just because they want to please others. That’s heartbreaking. I want female bodybuilders to be who they are and not apologize for it. If being traditionally feminine is who they are, so be it. If they feel more comfortable being “butch” or androgynous, so be it. If acting and appearing more masculine is what floats their boat, so be it. Regardless, I just want every FBB to feel at home in their own skin. Whatever that entails.
But I don’t want to dismiss the fact that outside perceptions do matter, even if we don’t want them to. As individuals, we do have to conform to certain social standards if we want to fit in. At least, whenever we’re in public. Especially in the professional world. Being viewed as a scary butch devil lady may be fun as an online persona, but it’s not going to help you land any customer service jobs. Many FBBs are also personal trainers. They can’t appear too intimidating if they want to gain new clients.
There’s also the moral obligation to consider on top of this. When female bodybuilders choose to act and look “hyperfeminine,” are they actually doing harm to femininity without realizing it? For example, we tend to hold narrow views of what masculinity and femininity look like. It shouldn’t take a Gillette ad campaign to tell us that. Shouldn’t FBBs act however they want to act as a statement that “feminine” can be a much larger tent than it currently is? This could also challenge whether or not “masculinity” and “femininity” are real things. Or to what extent we’re allowed to box in people in these categories.
It’s unfair to demand that every popular female bodybuilder is obliged to be an ambassador for female bodybuilders everywhere. They are not symbols. They are individuals. Yet, this obligation is unavoidable. Every time an FBB makes an appearance on TV or in a mainstream Hollywood movie, they represent FBBs as a whole – whether they want to or not. Jayne Trcka appeared in Scary Movie (2000) as the comically androgynous gym teacher Miss Mann. She was great in it, even though I cringe watching her scene. It plays for laughs every single negative stereotype you can imagine regarding muscular women. It reinforces the perceptions that women like Cindy Landolt and Aspen Rae shatter with every new Instagram post. Yet, they aren’t invited to appear in movies or TV shows.
But I am not criticizing Jayne. She’s awesome. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and kind. She isn’t traditionally feminine, but there’s no doubt she’s a woman. She’s a 100% woman. She doesn’t have a secret penis tucked between her legs. And I totally understand why she took that role. You don’t say “no” to a mainstream Hollywood gig. Unless you’re Leonardo DiCaprio or Margot Robbie and you have studios begging you to be in their movie, most working actors have to accept whatever job is available to them. So I don’t begrudge Jayne one bit. I don’t blame her. And I hope none of you do either.
Therefore, Hyperfeminine Muscular Women are caught between a rock and a hard place. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Female bodybuilders who make absolutely no attempt to act more feminine are also making a difficult choice. They’re also stuck in a Catch-22. But at the end of the day, all this boils down to us. Whether we choose to accept a muscular woman for who she is depends entirely on us. Not her. We choose to embrace her butchness if that’s the road she’s chosen to traverse. We also choose to deny her femininity if she doesn’t uphold our personal standards of what femininity means. It’s a choice. A personal choice. We can either love her for who she is…or not.
Personally, I’ve never questioned the gender identity of any female bodybuilder. Even the ones who are the most masculine presenting. The ones with the deep voice, shrunken breasts, abrasive personality, large muscles, masculine facial features, and large bulge in their panties. They are women, even if 99% of us don’t acknowledge it. They aren’t tearing down femininity; they’re redefining it. Or expanding it. Or challenging us to rethink how we define gender as it is.
The truth is that the “Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman” persona is a performance. The Traditionally Feminine Muscular Woman isn’t. Most likely, an FBB who acts really, really, really, really feminine is putting on a show. She’s intentionally playing a part. She’s an actor and all the world’s a stage. And we are the audience, even if some of us are throwing popcorn at the performers like low-life jerks.
This makes me sad. As it should all of you who sympathize with these ladies. When push comes to shove, I want every FBB in the world to feel comfortable in their own skin. I want them to embrace themselves. After all, how can anyone love you if you can’t even love yourself? I want every FBB to wake up each morning, look themselves in the mirror, and say to their reflection “Damn, I look good!” I want these ladies to take joy in looking the way they look, regardless of what anyone else says.
If they feel beautiful with a butch haircut, tattoos, and piercings everywhere, I support that.
If they feel beautiful with long flowy hair, glowing skin, and pouty red lips, I support that.
If they feel beautiful wearing makeup, I support that.
If they feel beautiful wearing no makeup, I support that.
If they feel beautiful slaying in a sexy red cocktail dress, I support that.
If they feel beautiful wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, I support that.
If they feel beautiful acting flamboyantly sexy, I support that.
If they feel beautiful acting quiet, humble, and lowkey, I support that.
If they feel beautiful with big bulging muscles, I support that.
If they feel beautiful with smaller curvier muscles, I support that.
If they feel beautiful playing the “tough girl” role, I support that.
If they feel beautiful playing the “nice girl” role, I support that.
Hopefully, you get my point. I want every muscular woman to feel empowered to be who they are. I wish every FBB can one day figure out who they truly are. Not everyone reaches that point of self-realization. This conversation shouldn’t have anything to do with haters, critics, or trolls. They can go to Hell. Instead, this should be more focused on what muscular women want out of their lives. Do they want to change the world, or do they just want to change themselves? It doesn’t matter as long as they eventually find the path they want to walk down.
And once they reach the end of that path, nothing should stand in their way. Not the haters, not anyone. Because it doesn’t matter what anyone says. When a female bodybuilder is at the peak of her powers, she isn’t listening to what the outside world thinks of her. She’s only celebrating her accomplishments, her goals, her dreams, her life. She’s at her most beautiful when she’s doing this one simple thing: