Facing the Facts: Why a Female Bodybuilder’s Face Still Matters to Me

My eyes cannot help but fixate on Erin Stern's gorgeous face.
My eyes cannot help but fixate on Erin Stern’s gorgeous face.

When you first look upon a photo of a muscular woman, what do your eyes initially fixate on?

For me, if we’re talking about a full-body shot, or a near full-body shot, my eyes immediately focus on her face. This sounds odd considering my natural inclination is being a “leg” guy, but my brain involuntarily tells me to look at this (hypothetical) woman’s face first before anything else.

Before her legs, before her butt, before her hips, before her arms, before her torso, before any of that. Her face is what matters first to me, for whatever reason. Not necessarily the most, but certainly first. This is not the only thing I look at (obviously!), but old habits are hard to break. In fact, natural habits can tell us a lot about our deeply ingrained opinions, biases, and desires.

Even if she’s wearing a sexy G-string bikini. Even if she’s wearing nothing at all. No matter what pose she strikes or what she’s doing in the photo itself. My eyes will almost always go to her face before anything else. Why is that?

When I see a beautiful non-muscular woman walk down the street or step into an elevator with me, my eyes first go to her lower half: her legs, hips, and butt. I try to do this as inconspicuously as possible, as most of us are experts at doing. We’re all horny creeps to some extent; however some of us are better at hiding it than others. Or some of us are less ashamed about it than others.

But when we’re talking about a muscular woman, my eyes don’t look down, but instead look up. I want to see her face. Her eyes, her cheeks, her lips, her bone structure, her smile. Once again, why is that? The information I want to gather is plain and simple: Is she pretty?

A nice full-body shot of Larissa Reis.
A nice full-body shot of Larissa Reis.

If we’re talking about Larissa Reis or Shannon Courtney, the answer is undoubtedly “yes.” If we’re talking about Jennifer Kennedy or Kathy Connors, the answer ranges from “uh, not really” to “I love them…but unfortunately no.” I adore and respect both Jennifer and Kathy very much, so this is not meant to be an insult to them or their beautiful bodies. This is just articulating what many of us are thinking but are too polite to say out loud.

But the question “Is she pretty” is one that is packed with a whole ton of meaning. Why should this matter? Does this make me a hypocrite?

No matter how many essays I write explaining my position that muscles make women more beautiful, for whatever nonsensical reason my eyes still immediately search her face instead of laser-focusing on her hard-earned muscles. When I’m doing a Google or Bing search – and yes, I actually use both with great frequency – of various female bodybuilders, I still gravitate toward their faces first even though I know for a fact the muscles on their bodies are their claim to fame.

What a strange and unusual thing, indeed. What can be derived from this? Are there any lessons or nuggets of truth to be ascertained from this? Possibly. Let’s look at four of them.

1. Beauty still matters

For all the talk about “body image” and that “real women have curves,” at the end of the day the content of her face still matters a great deal. This might not be true for you, but it’s obviously true for me. Theoretically, I know from a cerebral point of view that I’m attracted to female bodybuilders because their remarkable muscle mass provides an aesthetic that I find particularly pleasing. However, my brain still insists on checking out her face first.

A female bodybuilder can control what her muscles look like. Heck, they dedicate their lives toward doing just that. All that blood, sweat, tears, and protein shakes go toward sculpting the most beautiful muscles possible. However, she cannot reasonable control her face. Cosmetic surgery notwithstanding, the appearance of your visage is determined before you were born whether you like it or not. It’s genetics, not hard work. Muscles are built through labor. A gorgeous face is not. So as a fan of female bodybuilders, why does her face still matter to me?

Alright, here's an apt exception. I know where my eyes go first in this photo of Flavia Crisos.
Alright, here’s an apt exception. I know where my eyes go first in this photo of Flavia Crisos.

Perhaps this reveals the truth that deep down inside, traditional beauty is still important to me. I can try to persuade my inner thoughts to value hard work over unearned genetics, but our brains are wired a certain way for a reason. I may not completely understand those reasons, but it is what it is. Beauty still matters. It always has, and it always will. My fetish for a muscular feminine figure may be strong, but my desire for her to still have a pretty face is also strong (if not stronger).

2. The eyes are the windows into the soul

Well, I don’t necessarily agree with this cliché, but there might be some truth to it. We are ingrained into believing the eyes are the best way to really look at a person. When you speak to someone, the polite protocol is to look at them straight in the eyes. Not doing that is culturally inappropriate (in the Western world, that is) and considered rude in most social circles.

So no matter how much six-pack abs, a round butt or swollen biceps turn me on, her eyes are where my eyes initially go. Other than this being a learned behavior, why is that?

I think this speaks to the fact we value the humanity of the people we encounter, even those we happen to be physically attracted to. For all the talk about “objectifying” people, at the end of the day most decent human beings value each other on some level. Obviously we value our friends and family more than complete strangers, but not too many of us wish ill on others without a compelling reason.

I obviously love female bodybuilders. But my appreciation for them isn’t just physical. I love their toughness, self-confidence, drive, passion, dedication, and service to others (many FBBs work as personal trainers or in the healthcare field). So when my eyes first focus on a muscular woman’s face, it’s an indication that I want to learn more about her: her interests, strengths, weaknesses, fears, failures, successes, feelings, thoughts, likes, dislikes, and so on.

There’s way no way I can actually learn any of that just from looking at a photograph of a female bodybuilder, but the natural instinct to want to know exists nevertheless.

3. A subtle bias against muscular women still exists within me

This is probably a bit of a stretch, but it’s worth talking about. I wrote a post recently arguing that muscles are the great equalizer when it comes to assessing one’s physical beauty. I believe this wholeheartedly, but perhaps there’s still a small hint of bias against muscular women that’s hiding deep within my psyche.

I look at a muscular woman’s face first because I want to assess how “feminine” she is. Is her face “man-like,” as many negative stereotypes go? Does her face have masculine features or does she appear to be traditionally feminine? Intellectually, I understand that not every woman, muscular or not, looks “feminine” as society widely accepts that term to mean. I also understand that years of taking anabolic steroids and human growth hormones can change the way your body (and face) looks.

A classic female bodybuilder from yesteryear: Sharon Bruneau.
A classic female bodybuilder from yesteryear: Sharon Bruneau.

The “hardening” of a woman’s face to appear gruffer and less soft – whatever these descriptors even mean – can happen after higher-than-usual levels of testosterone enter the body. I’d venture a guess that these so-called changes aren’t actually real. They’re more perceived due to social stigmas attached to women with big muscles.

These social biases run so deep that even yours truly believes in them to a certain extent. I’d like to think my “street cred” for supporting female bodybuilders should be unquestioned, but even I can admit that I occasionally give in to what popular perceptions teach us. When I look at a photo of a female bodybuilder for the first time – as opposed to a photo I’ve already seen before – my natural inclination to first look at her face tells me I’m still bias toward women who look traditionally beautiful. I still think of FBBs as being “different” or “freakish,” even though I embrace these differences as being a part of her unique beauty.

Bias is not the same thing as hate, however. It’s just what your brain (whether you know it or not) automatically tells you when you’re digesting new information. The first step is to be aware of it. The next step is to recognize that this doesn’t make you a bad person. The last step is to be able to make your own decisions whether the vast majority of others will agree with you or not.

4. It’s not just about her muscles, it’s about her entire self

On a more positive note, one of the reasons why I first tend to look at a muscular woman’s face is because I’m not nearly as fixated on her muscles as one would think. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a pretty face (which I am!). Or it goes to show you that while I love an FBB’s muscles, I actually love her entire self.

Related to point #2, I first look at her face because I want to learn as much as I can about her as a person. Fantastic. But another important observation is that for me, and obviously I cannot speak for anybody else except for me, it’s not just about her muscles. It’s not the mere presence of big muscles on her body that make her extraordinarily beautiful. It’s the entire package.

People who aren’t familiar with the world of female bodybuilding get perplexed when they see a photo of an FBB because they can’t stop focusing on her muscles. Those of us who are more familiar with this aesthetic see past her muscles and appreciate her entire beauty – both external and internal. I recently participated in a muscle worship session with a pro bodybuilder who talked enthusiastically about her passion for helping others. She works as a personal trainer (as many often do) and loves inspiring people to become happier, healthier, and more confident. She spoke of serving homeless young adults, abused women, and emotionally hurt people who have lost their way. Through teaching them how to lift weights at the gym, she saw their lives turn around for the better. Some of her anecdotes were powerful to listen to.

I quickly decided that for as much as I appreciate her external beauty – and she is without a doubt a beautiful person – her internal beauty shines brighter.

Timea Majorova showcasing her assets.
Timea Majorova showcasing her assets.

Whether we’re talking about a slim pop star, a skinny fashion model, or a big and buff female bodybuilder, where your eyes go first when you look upon her depends on what you value, what you’re looking for, and the context of the situation. If a woman intentionally shows off her cleavage, it’s reasonable why your eyes would go there first. If her long gorgeous legs are front and center of the image, I wouldn’t blame you for your imagination running wild with what you’d like to do with those legs.

But for me, I first look at her face. Even if she has big muscles. Even if her muscles are supposed to be the center of attention. There are many reasons for this. Some of them are logical. Others are pure speculative. But it is interesting to reflect on why this happens to me. Do I need to face the facts about my inherent prejudices against muscular women, even though I’m one of the most vocal proponents of female bodybuilders on the Internet (or at least, on WordPress)? Or does this mean that at the end of the day, I appreciate traditional beauty above all else? Or am I so accustomed to seeing muscles on a woman that its affects are starting to wane on me?

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down there! Can it be true that I’m getting desensitized to the sight of a muscular woman? Have I plunged so far into the deep end of the pool that looking upon the strong powerful body of Rene Campbell elicits the same reaction as looking upon the narrow skinny body of Taylor Swift?

I’m not showing disrespect to either Rene Campbell or Taylor Swift, but is my brain adjusting to the reality that not only do I think that muscles on a woman are beautiful, but it’s now an ordinary thing to look at?

Hm. Probably not. I don’t think I’ll ever get “used to” seeing muscles on a woman’s physique. No matter how many thousands of photos or hours of video I experience watching FBBs show off their beautiful bodies, I highly doubt the jolt of energy that erupts inside me will ever dissipate. My heart will always flutter. The “Madness” will never go away.

But if it does, is that an indication that I’ve become so saturated with muscular women that I’ve finally accepted that this body type is both “normal” and “not out of the ordinary?” Is this progress or a signal that I’ve become a female bodybuilder junkie, where my usual “fix” isn’t good enough to sustain my appetites?

Alright, this discussion is getting weird. I’m probably overthinking a fairly normal phenomenon. I like pretty faces. That’s it, end of debate. But like all topics related to female bodybuilders, muscular women, and analyzing why people like me love them so damn much, there are endless things to talk about. I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I look forward to being able to dig a little deeper next time.

A Salute to Deidre Pagnanelli

Without a doubt, Deidre Pagnanelli deserves a salute!
Without a doubt, Deidre Pagnanelli deserves a salute!

If there is one female bodybuilder in this world who has enough crossover appeal to please both fans of muscular women and fans of “conventional-looking” women, it would be the one and only Deidre Pagnanelli.

Miss Pagnanelli is a woman who should make you go “Wow!” She has The Wow Factor. She has “It.” She can make your heart stop mid-beat and you would be powerless to stop it or complain about it. In fact, you might be perfectly fine with the image of Miss Pagnanelli being the final thing you witness during your time on Earth.

As the premiere fitness model of the 1990s, Deidre Pagnanelli is someone you don’t forget. Once you learn who she is, you want to be able to experience more and more of her. Your standards of beauty are raised exponentially. What you previously judged as being “beautiful” diminishes once you regard upon Deidre’s physical being for the first time.

Deidre has, as you can clearly tell, been one of my favorite female bodybuilders for years now. Here’s some background information about her:

Deidre Pagnanelli was born on October 1, 1974 in Italy, but currently resides in the United States. She made her fame being a fitness model and competitive bodybuilder. At the ripe age of 41 (as of this writing), she still works as a personal trainer and mother of four children. You read that right. This gorgeous woman has given birth four times in her life.

Unbelievable.

Standing at 5’9”, her striking good looks and exotic features made her the go-to fitness model of the 90s. Back then she was featured in a small handful of workout videos, but her stardom never really took off. Early in her life, Deidre participated in many low-level fitness and beauty competitions. Her contest history is a bit difficult to pinpoint. One source says she placed 4th at the 2010 NPC Excalibur and 1st at the 2011 NPC Iron Man Magazine Naturally Bodybuilding, Figure and Bikini Championships. I know she’s done more than that, but the available information is scarce.

Deidre showing off her guns.
Deidre showing off her guns.

There are also not a whole lot of Internet videos featuring her. There’s a modest YouTube channel dedicated to her. I cannot verify whether she started it herself or if a fan moderates it, but it only features four videos posted in 2012-2013. That’s not much.

It’s possible her birthday is different than what I could research. Some sources say she’s in her mid-40s, while I can only muster that she’s in her early 40s. Either way, her remarkable figure at her age is both impressive and erotically appealing.

That’s all the confirmed (or semi-confirmed) biographical information I can find on Deidre Pagnanelli. It’s not a lot, but perhaps that’s intentional.

As a mother of four children, I perfectly understand why Deidre would want to keep a low public profile (assuming that is her intention). The Internet can be a horrible place for a beautiful woman. I’d guess she doesn’t want her children to grow up reading and hearing horrible things about their mother. In this post, I will try to be as respectful to her as possible. I hope others will do the same.

Or maybe information about her is scarce because she doesn’t feel any inclination to publicize herself. As far as I can tell, she doesn’t have an official website or too many official social media channels. Her IMDb page only has one credit from 1998. From the looks of it, it’s probably a project she wants to forget about. I don’t blame her one bit. I too would want to scrub from the Internet any evidence that I once was in a low-budget piece of garbage with Andrew Dice Clay.

Judging from past and current photos of her, Deidre was never really a bodybuilder. She is more accurately described as a fitness model or fit model. Her muscularity has never been super impressive, but her physique must be applauded nevertheless. Deidre’s appeal isn’t measured by her degree of muscle mass (unlike Ms. Olympia contestants), but rather by her impeccable balance of traditional beauty, unquestionable femininity, athletic muscle definition, and universal sexual attractiveness.

Of course Deidre appeals to all audiences.
Of course Deidre appeals to all audiences.

Deidre has big enough muscles to appeal to guys like me and more than enough curves and natural beauty to appeal to everyone else. Regardless of how you view muscular women, hopefully we can all agree that Deidre is a one-of-a-kind Goddess whose gorgeous good looks are both unforgettable and unparalleled.

I can say with pretty strong confidence that Deidre has one of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen. She’s gorgeous. No, she’s actually drop dead gorgeous. No, no, she’s much more than that! She’s…beyond words.

Her beauty is indescribable. Her body is flawless. Her entire aura is divine. If there’s ever a reason to use theologically-based language to describe a human being, Deidre Pagnanelli would be that reason. She’s a Goddess, an angel, a celestial being. She is not of this planet.

Can you tell I think she’s beautiful?

I often wonder why she isn’t more famous. I brought up the same observation in my post singing the praises of Minna Pajulahti. I’m saddened that both women aren’t international superstars. The difference is that Minna willingly puts herself out there to the public through her social media presence and proactive marketing efforts. I don’t think Deidre is doing the same thing. But perhaps that’s by choice, not necessarily circumstance.

It also helps that Minna is about 6 or 7 years younger and understands how to use modern technology to her advantage. I am not implying that Deidre isn’t social media savvy, nor am I saying that she isn’t putting enough effort to make herself more famous. She grew up in a different generation than Minna. Plus, she has a family. I don’t think Miss Pajulahti has a family quite yet. How public you want to make your personal life really depends if you have a husband and kids in the mix.

As I’ve mentioned before, there isn’t a whole lot of information out there about Deidre. I’ve also just lamented the fact she isn’t better known to the general public. There might be a connection here. Maybe Deidre doesn’t want to be better known. Maybe she tasted fame during the 1990s and was disgusted by what she experienced.

We’ve all read horror stories about the modeling industry. There’s a reason why drug abuse, eating disorders, risky medical procedures, and depression are experienced by some of the world’s most recognizable models. I have no doubt rampant sexual abuse goes on by the bigwigs in charge against their young and vulnerable employees. The pay isn’t great. The gigs are scarce, unpredictable, and often humiliating. By the time you reach the age of 28, your shelf life gets close to expiring. Who would want to go through all that?

I am not suggesting in any way that Deidre went through any of those horrible things when she was younger. I am not basing this off of extensive research, hearsay, or personally talking to people close to the situation. I’ve never met Deidre (although I’d love to!) nor have I ever communicated with her. This is all based on speculation. But I’m guessing she loves doing what she does now and wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Good for her.

Sexy heels. And sexy body. Sexy everything, to be exact.
Sexy heels. And sexy body. Sexy everything, to be exact.

Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise me that she’d rather be a personal trainer (and full-time mother) instead of doing whatever is necessary to become more famous. There isn’t a wealth of videos or photos of her on the Internet. Her modeling career seemed to end by the time the 20th century turned the corner into the 21st. But that’s perfectly okay. Not everyone needs to enjoy the spotlight. The road to gain further fame and fortune isn’t for everyone.

Instead, Deidre Pagnanelli will remain one of the most beautiful women on planet Earth that you’ve never heard of. Well, a good portion of female muscle fans will know who she is, but we’re certainly not in the majority. She could have been a major star, but that wasn’t in the cards for whatever reason. I am not critical of her life decisions, of course. I’m just a bit bummed out she never took off like she had to potential to.

It’s not every day you meet the second coming of Sophia Loren but have never heard of her before stumbling upon her by happenstance. While I don’t know her personally, she seems like a sweet and genuine person. She could have been a contender, as Terry Malloy would say. She has the gorgeous good looks to be just as famous as Ms. Loren, Monica Bellucci, and any other Italian beauty. But alas, she isn’t.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy here isn’t that she missed her opportunity at stardom, but rather we fans don’t have more of her to experience. I perfectly understand Deidre doesn’t “owe” us anything. If she wants to live a quiet life away from the public’s eye, that’s her decision and she’s definitely allowed to make that decision. But if she had chosen to pursue a career similar to Debi Laszewski or Denise Masino (I understand she never developed the level of muscle mass achieved by those two), we could have thousands of more photos and hundreds of more hours of video footage of her to appreciate.

But maybe, just maybe, that’s a good thing. Instead of viewing this as a missed opportunity, I should instead look at this as being a positive thing. Deidre never had to sell herself out to make it big in the modeling industry. She never had to resort to doing porn or anything else degrading to her reputation (I’m not ripping anyone who chooses to do porn. If you want to and you feel like it empowers your career, so be it. But all too often desperate young women will debase themselves in order to get their foot in the door of certain employment opportunities).

Applying the Scarcity Principle practically, the fact there’s limited media and information about her might work in her favor. It makes her mysterious. It makes her more legendary. It forces us to use our imaginations. It forces us to treat her not as a run-of-the-mill 1990s fitness girl, but instead a mythical creature who forces guys like me to beg for more and more. She can choose to provide us more of her, or she can deny us what we want. Either way, it’s her choice and her choice alone.

Not too many 40-something mothers with abs like that!
Not too many 40-something mothers with abs like that!

I’m actually sort of okay with Deidre Pagnanelli being shrouded in mystery. I love the fact that in 2016, Deidre is a 40-something mother of four who used to be one of the rising stars of the fitness industry during the Clinton years (we may have 4-8 more years of a Clinton administration ahead of us, but that’s a whole other story. My non-American readers should consider themselves lucky). I refuse to call her a certain term that’s given to attractive women who also happen to be mothers. It’s a vulgar label that’s totally beneath Deidre. Miss Pagnanelli is a classy lady who deserves better. I will treat her better.

Deidre could have been an internationally-renown crossover superstar who brought muscular women into the mainstream of society. She could have been on the covers of magazines for years, making millions of dollars from the fruits of her labor and natural God-given assets. I will say it one more time: Deidre Pagnanelli is one of the most beautiful women in the Universe. From head to toe, she’s absolutely immaculate. She’s the very definition of female beauty. She’s a masterwork.

I don’t know what she’s specifically up to right now, but I’d imagine she’s happy. She’s probably helping people become the best they can be (a personal trainer for busy moms, perhaps). It sounds clichéd, but there are actually people out there who inspire that kind of positive change in others. It takes someone with a special kind of flair, work ethic, compassionate attitude, and charismatic demeanor.

Yup, that’s Deidre alright.

Minna Pajulahti is the Flawless Female Bodybuilder We’ve All Been Waiting For

Flawless? I think so.
Flawless? I think so.

Alright, ladies and gentlemen. Stop whatever you’re doing. Right now. I don’t care if you’re sitting in a waiting room about to undergo open-heart surgery and the nurse just called your name to get prepped. I don’t care if you’re about to have tea with the Queen of England (happy 90th birthday!) or if you’re in the middle of writing your doctorate dissertation that’s due in an hour. Just stop whatever you’re doing and do what I’m about to tell you to do.

Find a device with Internet connection and do a Google search on Minna Pajulahti.

I’ll wait.

Ready to proceed? Great.

I’ve already shared photos of Miss Pajulahti on this blog, but I think now is the time to dedicate a whole blog post to her. She isn’t new to the scene, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t newsworthy at this particular moment. Have you seen what this gorgeous woman looks like? She’s newsworthy 27/7/365. Hopefully we can all agree on that!

There isn’t a whole lot of biographical information about her available, so I’ll summarize what I can.

Minna is a Finnish IFBB bodybuilder who was born on May 4, 1980. At the ripe age of 36 (although she looks 26!), Minna competes in the women’s physique division. She works as a flight attendant and fitness coach when she isn’t busting her butt at the gym.

She placed 14th at the 2010 IFBB Fort Lauderdale Pro, 7th at the 2011 IFBB Toronto Pro, 5th at the 2011 IFBB FIBO Power Pro Germany, 16th at the 2014 IFBB Europa Dallas, and 6th at the 2016 IFBB Karina Nascimento Pro. She also participated at the 2010 IFBB Arnold Amateur International Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships. She might have competed in other contests, but the history on that is scant.

In addition to competing in bodybuilding, Minna is also a powerlifter. She says she also enjoys cheerleading and everything related to fitness. Standing at 5’4”, Minna may not be super tall, but her gorgeous good looks, beach blonde hair, and powerfully built physique makes her stand out above the rest. She currently lives in Nokia, Finland.

A strikingly gorgeous female bodybuilder.
A strikingly gorgeous female bodybuilder.

Every so often I’ll come across a female bodybuilder whose striking beauty and impressive muscular development gives her enough “crossover” appeal to please both female muscle fans and “female muscle skeptics” alike. We all know (or know of) people who are skeptical and irrationally disgusted by strong women. The stereotype they have ingrained in their brains of a female bodybuilder is someone with a man-like face, grossly unfeminine muscles protruding everywhere, excessive body hair, a voice deep enough to make a 17th century pirate blush, and overly aggressive behavior. Minna Pajulahti takes all those harmful images and smashes them with the hammer of Thor.

Minna is different. Despite her huge muscles, her curvy figure is undeniably feminine. Her face is as gorgeous as you’ll ever see. She seems approachable, pleasant, and “normal.” But more important, her incredible good looks makes you stop dead in your tracks. You see her once and you’re hooked. How can you not want to check in on her Instagram every single morning?

First impressions matter. I can guarantee you your first impression of seeing pictures of Miss Pajulahti is to be hypnotized by her flawless combination of beauty, muscularity, and etherealness. She’s so physically beautiful she seems almost not real. She’s like a female muscle fan crafted a flesh-and-blood female bodybuilder from scratch and created the Perfect Dream Woman. Minna is that damn gorgeous.

This is how we react. Will others follow and be captivated by her like we are? Maybe, maybe not.

Whether Minna is likely to become a “mainstream” celebrity isn’t the point. Bodybuilders as a whole, even today’s most popular male competitors, are only known to a limited number of people. Guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno had what it took to become household names, but this isn’t the 1970s anymore. The sport still exists, but it can’t compete with soccer, basketball, baseball, football, and MMA in terms of widespread popularity. Bodybuilding’s market share isn’t what it used to be.

Minna has fantastic muscle development...
Minna has fantastic muscle development…

In a previous blog post, I talked about the difficulties of maintaining the so-called “perfect balance” of being a female bodybuilder who can appeal to a wide audience. Miss Pajulahti is someone who comes very close. I personally think she hits the nail on the head, but not everyone will agree with me. That’s perfectly okay. They have every right to be wrong!

But seriously, Minna is striking for being two things at once: She looks like a Baywatch lifeguard while at the same time having the muscle mass of an NFL linebacker. For my non-American readers, I apologize if I can’t come up with a better analogy. Heavyweight boxer, perhaps?

If you follow Minna closely on Instagram – and I highly recommend you do if you don’t already – she does everything you’d expect a beautiful woman on IG to do. She posts selfies, photos of what she eats, her friends, her work life, her accomplishments, inspirational quotes, and shots of herself modeling. The fact she isn’t a world-famous supermodel by now astounds me. But I get it. Women with biceps that large can’t possibly draw interest from the general public.

Or can they?

If given a chance, I have no doubt Minna could shake up the advertising industry. If she were 10-12 years younger (though like I said earlier, she looks a lot younger than she is) and were born and raised in Southern California instead of Finland, perhaps things could be different. If she chose to pursue a sport like MMA or if she became famous for posting viral fitness videos on YouTube, Minna could be a bigger international star than she is right now. Today, Minna is only “famous” to people who pay close attention to the fitness/bodybuilding world. But it didn’t have to be that way.

This “missed opportunity” isn’t necessarily tragic, but it is a bit disappointing. Minna is unquestionably beautiful, feminine, and accomplished. She also has bigger muscles that most people aren’t accustomed to seeing on a woman’s body. I can’t fathom how anyone would be shocked or repulsed by her. She would force you to do a double-take, but that’s not the same thing as wanting to turn away from her because you find her appearance unbearably unpleasant.

...and a gorgeous face to boot!
…and a gorgeous face to boot!

How can you not help but stare at videos of her deadlifting, squatting, and bench pressing massive amounts of weight? It’s impressive for anyone to be able to powerlift all that, never mind someone who also looks like she could be arm candy for Hugh Hefner (try not to vomit when you think about that). I am not in the least bit surprised that she used to be a cheerleader. She definitely looks the part.

Is Minna a “flawless” female bodybuilder? Well, that depends on how we define flawless. I find no fault in her physique, attitude, professional goals, and accomplishments. Will a diverse array of people, both those who are already sympathetic to muscular women and those who are not, like her in the same way? That remains to be seen. Sadly, we may never have the chance to find out. This is the missed opportunity I am quietly lamenting.

I will not attempt to project where her career goes from here. Will she score a small role in a big studio Hollywood feature film and become a major celebrity hereafter? Probably not. The odds of that kind of good fortune are nearly nonexistent. However, that isn’t totally outside the realm of possibility given the pop culture trends we’re seeing play out today.

Superhero movies are more popular than ever. The sci-fi and fantasy genres are about to take off to new heights. The rebooted Star Trek franchise and reinvigorated Star Wars universe are prime avenues for non-traditional looking performers to hog the spotlight. New episodes of Game of Thrones is starting to become a national holiday. Lots of popular sci-fi/fantasy books and graphic novels are ready for an HBO or Netflix executive to greenlight. Nobody knows what the future will hold.

So it’s not outside the realm of possibility for a sexy, gorgeous muscular woman to score a role in a major TV or film project that will attract millions of eyeballs. I won’t hold my breath for such an occurrence to happen, but it’s not inconceivable. It may not be Miss Pajulahti who lands this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity per se, but it doesn’t have to be.

I cannot bring up Minna Pajulahti as being the flawless female bodybuilder we’ve all been waiting for without giving proper respect to Shannon Courtney, Dani Reardon (despite an unfortunate domestic violence arrest), Sheronica Sade Henton, Beata Antoninas, Lauranda Nall, and other young rising stars. I wouldn’t say Minna is my favorite current FBB, but she’s definitely one who’s effortlessly captured my heart.

We will definitely be experiencing some turbulence during our flight this evening.
We will definitely be experiencing some turbulence during our flight this evening.

This lineup of young female bodybuilders who aren’t afraid to build abnormal levels of muscularity is impressive and encouraging for the future of the sport. It is unreasonable to expect the sport to become as popular as tennis or golf, but it doesn’t have to be. The goal shouldn’t be to find ways to expand the brand of female bodybuilding just for the sake of expansion. The ultimate goal should be to maximize the amount of support these incredible athletes receive so that they can feel emboldened to pursue their dreams.

Who knows? Maybe sometime in the near future someone else will emerge as the much-awaited “savior” of female bodybuilding. Perhaps this hypothetical person will be blessed with supermodel-level beauty, a charismatic personality, top-notch performance talent, intelligence, wisdom, grace, humility, passion, drive, the desire to be great, and an unapologetically hyper muscular frame. She’ll love who she is and will refuse to apologize for her muscles. She’ll be an inspiration, a one-of-a-kind pioneer, and someone who we can truly say revolutionized the way society views strong women.

That day may never come. Or maybe it’s right around the corner. Either way, all we can do is wait and see. This Ultimate Female Bodybuilder may or may never arrive on the scene. This could just be a pipe dream. Regardless, until that day comes, we’ll just have to embrace Minna Pajulahti – and hundreds of women just like her around the globe – with a full heart and an open mind.