Karen Zaremba: My Sentimental Favorite

Hand bras are the worst!
Hand bras are the worst!

Every female muscle fan has “the one” who truly made them see the light. It’s not necessarily the first muscular woman they ever saw or the one they would consider to be their favorite. Personally, the first FBB I ever noticed was Lisa Marie Bickels, a former U.S. Marine who caught my attention more than ten years ago during my college years.

My current favorite is Denise Masino, a devilishly sexy siren with an endowment between her legs that can only be described as scrumptious. Miss Bickels isn’t close to being a favorite of mine and Miss Masino is someone I discovered later on. Thus, the subject of the woman who played a crucial role in my “female muscle awakening” is none other than Karen Zaremba.

Karen Zaremba was born on January 27, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan. Back then, Detroit was deserving of its nickname of The Motor City and the breeding ground of some of the most recognizable names in American pop music (Motown, anyone?). Today, Detroit resembles a Third World country, but that’s another story for another day. On that fateful day in the heartland of America, the world was introduced to a gorgeous young lass who would one day grow up to become one of the sexiest female bodybuilders the Universe has ever known.

Today, Karen resides in Clinton Township, which is less than 30 miles north of her birth town. So Karen didn’t scurry too far from the crib, as it were. I suppose there’s no reason why one should move far away from home unless there were extenuating circumstances. If you like where you live, why not stay there? Karen and her family obviously feel this way.

Like many beautiful female bodybuilders, Karen is the mother of two children and is happily married. Evidently, she never had any problem balancing her work/home life with her chosen profession of being a competitive bodybuilder and fitness model. Standing at a modest 5”2” and weighing 124 pounds (give or take), she describes herself as a “stay-at-home Mom” when she isn’t working in the fitness industry. Of course, many of the interviews that I’ve used to curate this information are several years old, so take this with a grain of salt.

Love those abs!
Love those abs!

From what I can gather, Karen no longer competes and probably doesn’t participate in bodybuilding anymore. Like many FBBs, details about their personal lives are scant, making it a challenge to paint a complete picture of what she’s like. I am confident that whatever she’s doing now, she’s probably happy with her life and wouldn’t want things to be any other way.

Her contest history is as follows:

2007 – Europa Super Show: 8th place, Lightweight

2006 – IFBB Motor City Pro Figure: 16th place

2006 – IFBB Pittsburgh Pro Figure: 16th place

2005 – NPC National Figure Championships: 2nd place, Class A (earned her IFBB pro card)

2005 – Junior Nationals: 3rd place, Class A

2005 – Junior USA: 3rd place, Class A

2004 – Central States Figure championships: Short Class, Masters and Overall Winner

2003 – Michigan Novice Bodybuilding championships: Lightweight, Masters and Overall Winner

Of course, this might not reflect her full contest history, but my quick bit of Internet research reveals that this is pretty comprehensive. If you know of any further contests that Karen has participated in, please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.

As one can clearly see, her contest history isn’t remarkable or noteworthy. Pretty standard for someone who loves to compete but isn’t too committed to becoming an elite competitor. This is not meant to be a slight against her. This is just to say that when she was a competitive bodybuilder, she wasn’t someone you would have associated as being the best of the best.

Poetry in motion.
Poetry in motion.

She came, she saw, she…participated. Her accomplishments are as modest as her objectives. She didn’t aim to be better than everybody else; she just wanted to see what she could do. Many competitors (both male and female) are not necessarily “in it to win it.” Many are in it for no other reason than to have fun, challenge one’s self, and meet new people while trying new things.

That’s an attitude we need to see more in our world.

But that’s not why she’s a sentimental favorite of mine. I discovered Karen in 2005 or 2006, so in other words a solid decade ago. Back then, I would have been 18 or 19 and Karen would’ve been 41 or 42. Think it’s unusual for a boy in his late teens to completely fall in love with a woman who’s more than twice his age? A woman who is nearly old enough to be his own mother? I certainly thought so at the time, but I didn’t think there was anything wrong or abnormal about it.

Why was there nothing unusual about this? Well, have you taken a good look at her?

Yowza!

Karen is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. She has an authentic look to her that’s difficult to explain but easy to see. Her dark hair is beautifully complemented by her olive complexion, a skin tone that perfectly accentuates her muscles. She’s legendary for her six-pack abdomen, which she is not shy about showing off to the camera. I briefly went through a stage of having a six-pack fetish. Can you possibly guess why?

Facially, she doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter Playboy Playmate or a nameless fashion model you see plastered across shopping mall corridors. It’s too clichéd to say she looks like the “girl next door” or the “hot mom next door,” but it’s sort of true!

What initially struck me about Karen, and it still strikes me today, is how effortlessly sexy she is. When she walks, her hips poetically bounce in a way that can make your heart stop. She’s very feminine, so much so you forget that all those negative stereotypes about female bodybuilders even exist. Of course, she’s a mother – which allows her to be called a certain idiotic acronym that I refuse to mention on this blog. Personally, I find muscle moms appealing, but there are certain misogynistic levels I refuse to lower myself to.

Baby got back!
Baby got back!

Perhaps that’s at the root of my attraction to Karen Zaremba. She’s a muscular woman who transcends the “muscle chick” fetish. She isn’t just “beautiful for a female bodybuilder,” she’s “beautiful…period, end of story.” Karen forced me to view muscular women through a different lens. No longer were all FBBs big, oversized masculinized “women” who’ve vehemently rejected traditional femininity and womanhood. I may not have felt exactly that way toward FBBs at the time, but my worldview was limited during those years. Karen encouraged me to expand my horizons.

Then, the floodgates opened. I discovered Annie Rivieccio. Then Lisa Cross. Then Alina Popa, followed by Yvette Bova and Denise Masino and Deidre Pagnanelli. I found out about Michelle Maroldo and Denise Hoshor. And Brandi Mae Akers. Of course, Victoria Dominguez. And other women like Nikki Fuller, Debi Laszewski, Sondra Faas, Marina Lopez, Catherine Holland, Emery Miller, Gayle Moher, Lauren Powers, Shawn Tan, Julie Germaine, and newcomers like Shannon Courtney, Minna Pajulahti, Dani Reardon, and Sheronica Sade Henton. There are many more to name. We could go on for hours. I’m still discovering new beautiful ladies seemingly every single day.

But I never forgot my roots, as the saying goes. Karen Zaremba remains on the front of my mind and tucked away snuggly in my heart. She isn’t just one of my first discoveries…she remains one of the best and brightest. I have the feeling I’m going to feel the same way regardless of how many additional tens of thousands of muscular women I’m introduced to in the future.

But let’s return to Karen’s effortless sexiness. It cannot be understated. Karen doesn’t walk; she glides. She doesn’t smile; she glows. She doesn’t pose; she radiates. She doesn’t flex; she blossoms. She doesn’t impress; she transcends. She doesn’t compete as a bodybuilder; she elevates the ceiling of human potential. She isn’t just beautiful; she’s ethereal and magnanimous. Karen Zaremba exceeds your expectations yet doesn’t seem to be trying to do anything other than being herself.

That takes more than talent. That takes a flawless combination of natural gifts, determination, hard work, and instincts. No one can teach you how to be as angelic as Karen. Nor could she necessarily teach others the ropes. Some of us are more radiant and charismatic than others for reasons that cannot be rationally explained or easily transferrable.

Karen's skin tone is the best.
Karen’s skin tone is the best.

Perhaps part of her appeal is her laidback Midwestern demeanor. Karen doesn’t boast the flashiness of an entitled California-bred pseudo-celebrity. Nor is she a snooty East Coaster who treats bodybuilding as her ticket to Broadway-style stardom. I am, of course, exaggerating and wildly stereotyping millions of people in the United States (which is trendy in the year 2016), but what cannot be denied is the refreshing authenticity that Karen brings to the table.

She doesn’t post selfies every single day on Instagram. In fact, I don’t think Miss Zaremba even has an Instagram account. When you research her, you don’t actually find a whole lot. This adds to her mystique. Because thousands of photos and hundreds of hours of video footage of Karen don’t exist, we can only witness a small slice of who she is. This allows us to fill in the blanks wherever we see fit.

So I can speculate that she’s modest, down-to-earth, and full of “small town charm” because…well, I feel like it. Is this based on extensive knowledge of her personality, lifestyle, and background? Nope! Our idealized version of people is what fuels our love for celebrities.

Karen Zaremba may not be a traditional celebrity, but in my heart she’s a glamorous superstar.

She comes across as a super chill lady who will just as likely bake you a batch of gingerbread cookies as she is to rapidly do 25 pullups as if it were no big deal. She’s a mom and she loves being a mom. She once was a muscular woman who also doesn’t mind being a loving wife and someone who would enthusiastically serve on her local PTA board. Once again, this is based on nothing but what exists in my imagination. But doesn’t this seem plausible?

For her, bodybuilding isn’t her life’s calling or integral to her business model. Doesn’t it seem like for Karen being a bodybuilder was a “neat” thing to do? She wasn’t in it for the money, the glitz, or the fame. She didn’t “brand” herself as a bad girl or a sexy muscle siren or feminist superhero. She just let herself be herself. She’s a mom, a wife, and a friendly neighbor who thinks having big muscles would be nifty. You rarely see that level of unpretentiousness in today’s narcissistic culture.

In other words, Karen never wanted to be a celebrity – even among the small subculture of female muscle fans. Having big muscles wasn’t her way of feeding her ego. It was her way of experiencing self-empowerment. All she wanted to be was the best version of herself. For me, that’s all I need.

Karen left just enough to the imagination...yet revealed enough to let us know what she got. Such a tease!
Karen left just enough to the imagination…yet revealed enough to let us know what she got. Such a tease!

Just as any baseball or football player must eventually call it a career and “hang up the cleats,” Karen has now decided to forgo her muscles and become “normal-looking” again. I have no doubt that Karen still exercises to keep herself fit and trim, but from what I can gather (and she prefers to keep her personal life private, which is her right) she’s allowed her muscles to shrink. She’s now a former bodybuilder. She’s now a regular lady you see shopping for groceries at the supermarket on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. This isn’t disappointing or regrettable. She can do whatever she wants with her life.

But there is undeniably a small element of sadness at play here. It is a bit melancholy when a gorgeous FBB retires and relinquishes her muscularity. As a sports fan, you never want to see your favorite players withdraw from playing the game they love and ride off into the sunset back to civilian life. But time marches on and not everything lasts forever. There will be plenty of young up-and-coming Karen Zarembas who will take up her mantle. Heck, I’ve referenced many of them on this very blog.

So this is a celebration of a woman who leaves a legacy of making the world a more beautiful place, whether she has big muscles or not. Because of her, we now have stronger faith in the goodness of people and the potential of human achievement. Karen Zaremba never has to “prove” that she is gorgeous. She just is. She never hogs the spotlight and demands that people look at her. We look at her because we cannot help but look at her. That takes something special.

As an 18-year-old kid Karen made my heart leap out of my chest. She was more than twice my age and rarely ever did any nude modeling. She never did anything pornographic or overly sexual. She kept it classy. She kept things modest. You’ll never find a video of her sucking a porn star’s penis or masturbating with an oversized dildo. She never had to do any of those things to capture my attention, even all these years later.

She just had to be herself. And that was enough. And it still is.

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.