We Need to Talk About Nataliya Kuznetsova

Nataliya Kuznetsova 4
This is a real human being. Seriously.

By now, you should be familiar with Nataliya Kuznetsova.

Nataliya is the kind of woman that even the most wildly imaginative female muscle fan will admit – if they’re pressed into being realistic for a hot minute – can’t ever really exist.

No woman, even with the help of all the synthetic steroids, supplements, food, weightlifting equipment, and expertise possibly available, can ever actually look like that. Whether you’ve been a bona fide female muscle fan for 40 years or 40 days, you’ve seen your fair share of muscular women. Perhaps even in-person. Yet, the rational part of your brain understands full well that no woman can ever look like her. No woman can ever have arms the size of a Mr. Olympia contestant. Or legs so thick that they resemble actual tree trunks. That’s not physically possible. It’s not scientifically possible. It’s even too absurd to draw a cartoon that looks like that.

Uh, right?

Well, you would be wrong. There is in fact one particular woman who walks on planet Earth – or is it continuously squats and bicep curls on planet Earth? – who defies your expectations of what a female bodybuilder can and cannot look like. She challenges what you previously thought was the limits of human achievement. Sure, guys who take drugs and work out like a madman with his hair on fire can become that huge. But…a woman?

No way! No how! That ain’t right!!!

Yet, it is so right. And it is possible. Her name is Nataliya Kuznetsova.

Nataliya was born on July 1, 1991 in the city of Chita, Zabaykalsky Krai in Russia. She was born just a few months before the Soviet Union officially dissolved; and although the Iron Curtain had fallen, a child had been born who would take her iron pumping quite seriously (did you see what I did there?). She has won many accolades in her life, including being the bench press and deadlift world champion. She’s also a champion armlifter, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen her arms.

She aspired to become a professional bodybuilder at age 14 and never looked back. In addition to breaking several records, she’s dabbled in the field of coaching and personal training – which is not uncommon for many bodybuilders, both male and female. She’s maintained a strict diet since the early days of her career, which has clearly paid dividends. After graduating from the Moscow State Academy of Physical Culture in 2013, Nataliya proceeded to pursue her dream of shattering several powerlifting records.

And put her name in the record books is exactly what she did. In 2014 and 2015 she won various contests in Russia and Europe. While it doesn’t appear that she continues to compete in powerlifting, she’s since gained international notoriety for her unusual eye-popping physique that she proudly promotes on her social media channels.

Oh boy. And she’s also not shy about her usage of anabolic steroids and estrogen blockers. I mean, it’s not humanly possible to get as huge as her without drugs. We all know that. But in her case, it isn’t really about whether or not she “fairly” achieved her musculature. What really matters is that she looks exactly how she looks – and that’s the way she wants it.

Her brand is dependent upon the final result, not the process it took to get to that final result.

Nataliya Kuznetsova 1
Muscles on the beach.

Nataliya is the Ultimate Real Human Photoshop Illusion. You’d swear that she’s not actually real. She must be the product of a female muscle growth fiction artist’s imagination. Someone must’ve artificially enhanced her arms and legs. Or, someone superimposed a male bodybuilder’s arms onto her torso, like a G.I. Joe action figure’s arms being popped inside a limbless Barbie doll.

Yet, that is not the case. She is not a character in an FMG story. Nor are photos of her not genuine (to be fair, very few Instagram and magazine photos are 100% genuine) in the proper sense of the word. Her biceps are really the size of most guys’ quads. Her quads are really as thick as your girlfriend’s torso. It’s all true. It’s definitely not all natural, but if we’re only interested in aesthetics, who cares?

And that’s the crux of the argument. Whether she could ever achieve so much muscle mass naturally – the short answer is “no way, José” – is not the point. Insecure guys who constantly insist that she’s “juicing” or “roiding up” are just projecting their own inadequacies onto a complete stranger. They’re envious that they are unable to get that “swole,” so they need to add as many caveats as possible onto Nataliya’s achievements because it, uh, makes them feel better. Or something like that. I don’t know exactly.

But that’s not really where I’m getting at. Nataliya is noteworthy because she is who she is. Whether she “cheated” or did it through unnatural means isn’t what’s truly important. What’s important is that she’s a human cartoon in the flesh. She’s a female muscle fan’s dream come true, if extreme FMG artwork happens to be your thing. It’s not for me personally, but it doesn’t have to be. I can acknowledge her importance without being totally smitten with her looks.

Personally, Nataliya is a bit too much. Everything about her is superhuman, including her lips. Dang. She makes Angelina Jolie look like the before-and-after photo at a lip enhancement surgeon’s office. I tend to prefer ladies who are both large and traditionally curvy. Alina Popa is my jam. So is Isabelle Turell. And Shannon Courtney. And Theresa Ivancik. And Lindsay Mulinazzi. And many others. I have nothing against Miss Kuznetsova as a human being. I’m sure she’s cool and pretty interesting to be around. Apparently, she’s bisexual – which will make any FMG artist go hog wild when crafting erotically-charged dime novel-style fan fiction.

Perhaps this is a reflection of my limited imagination. Is Nataliya’s physique now the new Mount Everest? Are former Ms. Olympia contestants like Iris Kyle, Tina Chandler, Debi Laszewski, Anne Freitas, and Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia merely the tip of the iceberg? Previously, we may have thought of these ladies as being at the peak of the female muscle pecking order. But maybe our standards were set too low. Maybe women like Nataliya Kuznetsova (are there any others like her? Asking for a friend) are where the proverbial bar is now set. Or should be set. It’s not enough to train for a few hours, give yourself a couple of rest days, and intersperse within your daily routine plenty of Tupperware containers full of brown rice, grilled chicken, and boiled broccoli. Perhaps the new normal should be to train for several hours a day – as if it’s practically a part-time job – and eat as much protein as you possibly can without throwing up. This doesn’t sound particularly appealing, but one must suffer for one’s art.

Nataliya Kuznetsova 2
Nataliya’s quads don’t lie.

Hm. Maybe that’s exactly the point. One must suffer for your art. In Nataliya’s case, her body is her art. Her muscles are her canvas. Dumbbells, vitamin supplements, anabolic steroids, and protein are her paintbrushes. And her Instagram feed is her museum. And we are patrons of her art. Instead of sipping champagne, we down a carton of Muscle Milk. Same thing.

All bodybuilders are artists as well as athletes. They might consider themselves athletes first and foremost, and that would be their prerogative. But whether they consciously consider it or not, they’re also artists. Michelangelo used marble. Nataliya uses her own flesh and blood. That sounds odd, but it’s true. Bodybuilders don’t try to hit a baseball into the centerfield bleachers or dunk a basketball over a 7-foot tall defender. They try to look awesome, prioritizing muscle mass, symmetry, and aesthetic perfection over all else.

Yet, I’m perfectly fine with Nataliya being the exception and not the rule. She can be an Internet sensation who makes our eyes pop out of our skulls. She can be someone who essentially provides fodder for clickbait articles on second-rate news aggregate sites. I highly doubt female muscle fans worldwide are clamoring for more women to look like her. If more do choose to look as extreme as possible, so be it. But we’re perfectly content with more “conventional-looking” female bodybuilders (as contradictory as that may sound) such as Miss Popa and Miss Ivancik. At least, they’re conventional within the context of the world of female bodybuilding.

Here’s a question: Is Nataliya Kuznetsova good or bad for female bodybuilding and fans of female bodybuilders? It’s the question sports commentators always make regarding dynasties like the Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots, the UConn women’s basketball team, Alabama football, Manchester United, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (ha ha). Is dominance a good thing? Can the lack of parity hurt the overall product? Or does it enhance it? Is temporary dominance – because dominance rarely lasts forever – actually a good thing because it provides an incentive for others to work harder in order to catch up?

Chances are she’s not going to have much of an effect on anything. Nataliya exists in her own little universe. She’s carved out her own unique niche. She doesn’t really exist in the realm of bodybuilding because she isn’t a competitive bodybuilder (to my knowledge). She’s a mini-celebrity whose body is her selling point. Her extreme physique is why she’s famous, not because she climbed up the industry ladder or won so many accolades that we cannot help but notice her. In a way, she’s the perfect example of how the entrepreneurial female bodybuilder is most likely the archetype that will survive the longest.

Nataliya Kuznetsova 5
Ever seen someone like this at the gym? Yeah, didn’t think so.

The bodybuilding industry’s marginalization of female competitors doesn’t need to be rehashed here. The death of the Ms. Olympia is really all you need to know. Wings of Strength is doing their best to resuscitate the spirit of the Ms. O, and we wish them all the best in this endeavor. Long story short, female bodybuilders need to find alternative avenues of earning an income in order to continue doing what they love to do.

Nataliya has done exactly that.

She’s found a void and filled it perfectly. Impeccably. She busted her tail to look as hypermuscular as possible. She knew not everyone would dig her look, but that didn’t matter one iota. There are plenty of people who will. And do. She’s made sacrifices – including long-term risks to her body – to achieve her Human Photoshop figure. She was able to go “viral” because she stood out from the rest of the herd. There are plenty of muscular women out there. But few are as surreal in their musculature as her.

So because of that, she was able to break through in front of more “mainstream” eyes because of her freakish physique. Cindy Landolt or Minna Pajulahti are famous within the small community of female muscle fans, but Nataliya has been able to rise above that and attract attention from non-female muscle fans. And chances are pretty good that for many people, Nataliya is the only muscular woman whom they care to follow on social media. She’s “famous” – in a 21st century viral Internet meme sense – for being a living and breathing statistical outlier, not because she happens to be a female bodybuilder who’s broken the mold of her predecessors and peers.

And that’s the meat and potatoes of our discussion. Miss Kuznetsova is nothing more than a freakish statistical outlier to the vast majority of Internet-savvy people out there. She won’t help the visibility of the female bodybuilding industry. She won’t hurt it either, but that’s beside the point. She’s a Human Island. A once-in-a-lifetime Black Swan Event. She’s like the people who love to follow Tiger Woods but couldn’t care less about other golfers.

There are golf fans. And there are Tiger Woods fans. And they are often not one and the same. Likewise, there are Nataliya Kuznetsova fans. And there are female muscle fans. And they are not necessarily the same thing.

Nataliya Kuznetsova 3
Can’t tell if those are her quads…or an actual tree trunk.

Some people love Eminem but don’t particularly like hip hop. Some people loved “The Dark Knight” but never read a single Batman comic book. And some people are enamored with Nataliya Kuznetsova but couldn’t identify Alina Popa in a police lineup.

Life is funny like that.

Whether you love her, hate her, or have neutral feelings about her, one thing is certain: You’re totally justified to initially think that this woman couldn’t possibly exist. This has got to be like “Simone,” that 2002 Al Pacino movie about a movie star who’s digitally animated and isn’t really real. Certainly Nataliya has got to be a digital avatar, right? A fake persona meant to punk all of us into thinking a woman could genuinely build muscle mass that male bodybuilders could only dream of? Well, the truth is that she’s real. Very real.

I have no idea how long she can maintain her physique. I’m not a nutritional scientist or biology expert, but it seems reasonable to worry about her long-term health. All that animal protein, steroids, and hormone-blocking drugs can’t be good for you. Years and years of living like that should eventually take its toll, right?

Eh. Maybe, maybe not.

For now, let’s just appreciate who she is and what she’s been able to accomplish thus far. Only time will tell as to how much of an impact she’s making on the visibility of female bodybuilders, if any at all.

Strong is Sexy, Brawn is Beautiful, Muscles are Magnificent: The Inevitable Paradigm Shift of a Female Muscle Lover

Don't like strong women? I dare you to look at Juliana Malacarne and feel the same way afterward.
Don’t like strong women? I dare you to look at Juliana Malacarne and feel the same way afterward.

There’s something about loving female muscle that brings out the, er, peculiar in us.

“Peculiar” in the sense that our thoughts, behaviors, fantasies and desires are controlled by this one quirk – a quirk most of us discovered at a very specific place and time. The love of female muscle didn’t happen at birth. Nor did it necessarily take a long time to “get used to.” No, it hit us like a lightning bolt…or a semi-truck…or a freight train ramming us at full speed.

Our attraction to female bodybuilders, fitness models, athletes and ordinary women who take their weightlifting seriously can be traced back to a very particular incident that one will never forget.

Perhaps it was a bodybuilding show you saw on TV. Maybe it was a single magazine photo of a gorgeous FBB you saw sitting on a bookstore shelf. It could have been a video of a brawny lady pumping her muscles in a grainy cell-phone quality YouTube video. Or maybe it was an up close and personal encounter with a strong woman you saw at your gym.

Whatever it was, whoever you are and whatever the circumstances were, you know what I’m talking about. Once you “discovered” the world of female muscle, there was no going back. You were hooked. Forever.

And there’s no way you’d ever wish to “unsee” what was previously seen. No way. Nope. My eyes are wide open. No need to go back!

But returning to my original point, many of you should know what I’m talking about when I say this newfound attraction brings out the “peculiar” in us. In addition to opening our eyes to new forms of female beauty, we also change the way we look at many previously held beliefs. We experience a term we often heard in high school philosophy class:

A paradigm shift.

What do I mean by this? Of course, I only speak for myself. But I can tell you that once I discovered female muscle, I noticed significant changes in my life that I never realized until I spent one sleepless night thinking about it. My attitudes changed. The way I looked at women changed. The way I conducted my own life somewhat changed. There were changes that I hadn’t noticed before.

A meme I think we can all agree with. Lisa Cross would approve, I'm sure.
A meme I think we can all agree with. Lisa Cross would approve, I’m sure.

You know what? These were good changes. Positive changes. Becoming a female muscle lover didn’t just open my eyes to a whole new world of feminine beauty. It opened my heart to wanting to become a better person. I wanted to improve myself and relate more harmoniously with people.

Think what I’m talking about is strange? Here are a few thoughts to consider:

1. Our view of traditional gender roles and stereotypes get completely shattered

Women are the weaker sex? Women shouldn’t lift at the gym like a man? Women are unwilling to put in the effort to develop really strong muscles? A woman with muscles can’t possibly look sexy?

Wrong! All wrong!

Without going off on some sort of gender equality-fueled rant, suffice to say our perspective on traditional gender roles get smashed into a million pieces after discovering the world of female muscle. Before I developed my keen interest in strong women, it never occurred to me that a woman should try to have large muscles like a man. I never doubted the possibility that a woman could look like that, but it never crossed my mind that someone should ever attain to look that way.

But since my “awakening,” things are different. Now I seek out women who look like “that.” Now I’m very much aware that women are not genetically handicapped when it comes to developing impressive biceps or six-pack abs. Now whenever I think about the ideal beautiful woman, a skinny twig doesn’t automatically come to mind.

Megan Abshire might want to change her name to Megan Bicepshire.
Megan Abshire might want to change her name to Megan Bicepshire.

In short, what we once thought were unlady-like has now become very sexy and feminine. Honestly, I could watch an hour of porn featuring two skinny people having obviously staged sex and get bored fast. But, I could watch a quick two minute video of Victoria Dominguez pumping her muscles at the gym wearing sweat pants and large headphones on her head and I have the sudden urge to, um, you know.

Gym footage is my porn. It’s better than porn. It’s more than porn. It’s art.

That’s probably an exaggeration, but bear with me. I’m on a roll here.

One other aspect of appreciating a woman with muscles is the diminishment of sexist attitudes. The more you see another person as a peer instead of the “other,” the more you will respect them. I’m sure many of you who discovered your attraction to strong women no longer felt like they were the “weaker sex” or they had to conform to specific gender roles. Instead, you probably started to wish more ladies lifted instead of killing themselves at the cardio machines.

Misogyny is rooted in the belief that women are inferior to men (or at the very least they belong in separate categories, which inevitably leads to “separate but equal” attitudes that tend to become anything but equal). Generations of marginalization has created this mindset in lots of people, men and women alike. But someone who appreciates a muscular woman for who she is will scrap that outdated way of thinking and embrace something even more radical: true equality.

This could also partially explain why a lot of men are repulsed by female muscle. It’s not because they’re actually disgusted by what they see, rather they can’t wrap their minds around the fact that they don’t have a monopoly on muscularity. Your mother, sisters and female co-workers could be just as buff as you. And that scares a lot of guys. They don’t want to become the weaker sex. They don’t want to lose their power society has granted them for centuries. Therefore, they react negatively any time a woman chooses to break down these barriers and take charge of her life.

2. Your standards of beauty change

Think ultra-skinny is beautiful? Nope!

Waking up to the realities of female muscle will also completely alter your standards of beauty. No longer will bony supermodels cut it. You will want meat on her bones. And not “meat” in the sense of a healthy amount of body fat to give off a curvy look. Nope. While there’s nothing wrong with that particular aesthetic, you’ll start to desire women who have actual meat on their bodies.

Meat. Muscles. Brawn. Bulk. Mass. Strength. Power. Authority.

You know. That sort of thing.

Ever since I discovered my personal Incomprehensible Admiration for female muscle, images of supermodels strutting down the runway didn’t excite me as much as it did back when I was in junior high school. Once upon a time ago someone like Elle Macpherson would make me drool uncontrollably. Today, I might turn my head if she walked right past me. Maybe.

But what if Lora Ottenad, a middle-aged muscle woman, were to walk past me? I’d stop dead in my tracks, drop my jaw to the ground and probably pass out cold for a week.

And if she were to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? Yeah, I’d probably die. Happy.

The Goddess from Trinidad, Kashma Maharaj.
The Goddess from Trinidad, Kashma Maharaj.

What once seemed ugly now is beautiful. What you chose to avert your eyes from becomes something from which you can’t look away. What you wanted to avoid became something you couldn’t get enough of. What you originally thought was “beautiful” now becomes “meh.” In other words, I still find women like Cindy Crawford (another 90s supermodel reference) and Katy Perry (she’s more contemporary) beautiful, but someone like Cindy Landolt is…well, more beautiful.

That might be a more accurate way of putting it. “Traditional” standards of beauty don’t necessarily go away. You just start to add more tools to your toolbox. Yes, Adriana Lima is one of the most gorgeous women on the planet, but Catherine Holland is a nice runner up. There’s no shame in being second place, wouldn’t you say?

3. You feel more inspired to improve yourself

A lot of athletes use their role models to inspire them. How many of today’s basketball stars have Michael Jordan posters hanging in their lockers even though they’re grown men and no longer 12-year-old boys? How many aspiring bodybuilders watch old YouTube clips of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler (the bodybuilder, not the Chicago Bears quarterback) before heading to the gym?

Inspiration can go a long way. It helps you emotionally jump any mental hurdles that come your way. Mind over matter, you say? This is a prime example.

On a more personal level, I’ve discovered since my fascination with female muscle began, I’ve become more interested in improving my own health and wellness.

My thinking goes, If Deidre Pagnanelli, a 40-something mother, could look like that, why can’t I? Of course I’m a dude, but still! If she can develop sexy curves like that, as a man I need to step up my game if I want to look good to the opposite sex.

Some people are inspired by their peers. I find that I’m inspired by the very people I want to impress. I’ll be honest. I don’t work out to impress other guys. I don’t care what other dudes think. I work out to get a physique that hopefully impresses the ladies! This is why I try to get to the gym at least 3-4 times per week and hit as many different muscle groups as possible. I want that lovely lady I have my eye on to have her eye on me!

The bold and the beautiful: Julie Bourassa is both.
The bold and the beautiful: Julie Bourassa is both.

If Joe Musclehead thinks my definition is improving, that means nothing to me. But if Sally Fitness Queen thinks I look good…well shucks. That’s fine with me!

This is what happens when you get sucked into the world of female muscle. It inspires you to hop on the bandwagon and get going yourself. What’s the harm in that?

4. What once was disgusting now becomes attractive

Related to a previous point, another major perspective shift inevitable in becoming a fan of female muscle is the phenomena of what was once disgusting becoming attractive.

Did you think big muscles were gross on a woman? Did you gag seeing a lady with veins protruding from her arms? Not a fan of broad shoulders on a traditionally feminine form?

But we’ve discussed this in detail previously. Let’s talk about something entirely different. Let’s talk about fetish and kink culture.

Fetish activities you once found disgusting, weird, bizarre or repulsive start to actually turn you on. If the thought of a strong, authoritative woman tying you up to a bed and “torturing” you didn’t arouse you before, the thought might have just become more appealing now that you know FBBs like Kathy Connors and Victoria Dominguez offer these services.

BDSM activities sounded like a trashy idea hyped up in “50 Shades of Gray,” but if Lisa Cross offered to spank me for being bad, I might give it a shot. Why the hell not?

This also is relevant in regards to personal fantasy. You might not go as far as pay a professional dominatrix to put a chain around your penis and pour hot candle wax on your chest, but at the very least certain daydreams will sound appealing to you that didn’t before.

What would it be like to have a strong woman wrap her legs around my throat? What would it be like to arm wrestle a female bodybuilder? How cool would it be for Yvette Bova to wear a strap-on and stick it in my, uh, you-know-where?

Sound disgusting? If you had asked me this 15 years ago, I would’ve said “yes.” Ask me that today…and I’ll think about it. I might not go along with it, but I’ll think about it. There’s no such thing as the Thought Police, right?

Roxanne Edwards could kick your ass.
Roxanne Edwards could kick your ass.

5. You feel the urge to change the world

My attraction to female muscle didn’t make me passive. It made me pro-active. I started this blog. I became very bold and booked not one, not two, but three muscle worship sessions with three real (and very gorgeous) female bodybuilders. I’ve had conversations with complete strangers from different countries about topics we would never discuss with our friends and family.

But that’s just the beginning. Anyone who shares this obsession knows what I’m talking about. Our love for female muscle isn’t just a casual attraction. It consumes us. It motivates us. It lights a fire inside us.

It inspires us not just to change ourselves (as I discuss in point #3), but to change the entire world. Our shattered gender stereotypes, standards of beauty and tolerance for “different” kinds of people inspire us to want to make a positive impact in the universe. We want to inspire people to get healthier. We want unhealthy standards of beauty to melt like the snows of yesteryear. We want girls to grow up with self-confidence instead of doubt and insecurities.

The eyes of Lindsay Mulinazzi could stop time.
The eyes of Lindsay Mulinazzi could stop time.

Our love for female muscle isn’t selfish. It’s altruistic. It’s philanthropic. We want every woman on planet Earth to feel good about her body. We want all men in the world to not be intimidated by a strong woman, but instead embrace her as an equal instead of a threat.

Realistically, female bodybuilders will never be in a position in popular culture to make a significant impact. Fans of female bodybuilders will also never be able to influence our collective psyche. But we want to. We want to see more of Ronda Rousey on TV and less of Miley. We want “strong” to be the new “skinny.” Will this happen overnight? No, but little by little we can make this a reality.

If any of these thoughts seem “peculiar” to you, I completely understand. They are peculiar. There truly is something about loving female muscle that does strange things to us. If love makes you crazy, then consider us all batshit crazy to the max. Our minds have been awoken. Our eyes are no longer shut. Our hearts are wide open, ready to embrace a love many of you still think is “gross.”

Strong women aren’t gross. Strong women are beautiful gifts from God. Strong women will make this world a better place for all of us. No matter your gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, race, color, creed, political beliefs or physical ability, we can all learn from welcoming a new aesthetic into our lives. An aesthetic that isn’t repulsive, but one that’s beautiful beyond description.

Your heart has so much capacity to love. Love to your fullest. And when you think you can’t possibly love any more, love some more. And more, and more, and more.

Let the paradigm shift begin!