Monday, 30 November 2015

Jessica McKenzie @NPC Nationals 2915
Jessica at the NPC Jr USAs (left) and IFBB North Americans previously in 2015

We have one of our readers to thank for first spotting Jessica McKenzie back at the end of May as she won the NPC Jr USAs, but at the time we were a tad preoccupied with Brooke Walker's quest for pro status in the Physique division. We were undoubtedly impressed, but the post never got written. Then, in September, same reader, similar scenario - this time it was the IFBB North Americans and we were distracted by Theresa Ivancik's class win. And now it's suddenly November and here is Jessica again at the Nationals. This post is long overdue, and C, this one's for you!

An eagle-eyed talent spotter though our lovely reader is, they're not the only female muscle head to have been blown away by Jessica this year. Such has been the storm that she has blown up in our community that there have even been comparisons made with a young Lenda Murray, and not a single howl of protest in response.
Backstage with Susan Smith

But most of the chatter has - unsurprisingly - been about those wondrous biceps, those "awesome", "delicious", "tremendous twin peaks" that she flexes so often and with such obvious pride. To me the perfect bicep, says one forum poster. The best-shaped biceps I have ever seen, says another. High - and very typical - praise indeed.

According to Jessica though, it's not just us fans who have noticed. Seems like everyone wants a closer look at those bad boys, and Jessica is only too happy to oblige. I can't go anywhere without being asked to flex! she says. I LOVE it!!!

However, it would be wrong to focus solely on her biceps - tempting though it is (they are?!) - because people wouldn't be comparing her to the young Lenda and nor would she be consistently taking home 3rd, 2nd and 1st place trophies from national level contests if those yummy peaks were the only things she had going for her.
Jessica, NPC Nationals 2015, prejudging

In fact, you could say that the best indication that Jessica has such potential is the fact that while her biceps might overwhelm us, they don't overwhelm the rest of her physique. Instead they are like the (rock hard) cherries on the (sweet) icing on the (deliciously muscular) cake. Or something. [get your fingers off the keyboard and step away from the metaphor NOW! - ed.] OK, I'll leave it, but you know what I mean. Jessica's all good, all tempting, but those biceps crown the overall effect.
Jessica, NPC Nationals 2015, routine

And while she certainly looks like she enjoys herself whenever she's flexing, I thought I suspected a special glint in hr eye when she's on stage - now I often suspect this sort of thing, so it's a relief when I occasionally do find evidence that supports my theory. Something about being on stage gives me Life! is how Jessica puts it (and it's her capital "L" on "Life"). So for once I'm not imagining it! My passion for competing runs so deep, she continues. And there's more. Bodybuilding is 100% mental & physical, she says. I often find myself studying my past contest pics, doing a self-analysis. My goal is to improve with each show I do, continuously striving for a better package & a better me. Funnily enough, I often find myself studying her past contest pics as well...
"Constantly striving for a better package": Jessica at the NPC Jr USAs 2014 (top left) and 2015 (top right); 
IFBB North Americans 2015 (bottom left), and NPC Nationals 2015 (bottom right)

From her 3rd place at the Jr USAs in 2014 to her win at the same show a year later, then her 2nd place at the North Americans and her 3rd place at the Nationals this time, I reckon Jessica has never failed in her quest to bring "a better package" every time she has competed. And I can't help feeling that bodes very well for the future. Jessica feels it too. The verdict is in... I took 3rd place. I am so proud of the package I brought to the stage! she wrote after the Nationals. My bodybuilding career will continue to elevate to higher and higher heights... greatness awaits me! No argument here.
Jessica in Miami: checking in before, and contemplating her trophy after

Follow Jessica's journey via her Facebook and/or Instagram. And please, PLEASE don't make the same mistake as the Muscular Development forum reader who found it impossible to distinguish between our Jessica and the NPC Bikini athlete with the same name. From Bikini to FBB in a Year! he gushed, before it was pointed out to him that impressive as this transformation would undoubtedly be (what with the fact that as well as packing on muscle the woman in question had also transformed her ethnicity!), these are two very different women. Our Jessica is definitely one of a kind.


Sunday, 29 November 2015

MUSCLE @NPC Nationals 2015

While, as noted yesterday, 2015 may not have been the greatest vintage ever, one thing the NPC Nationals always delivers in the Women's Bodybuilding division is large amounts of MUSCLE, and in that respect at least, this year was no different.

We've reserved tomorrow's post for one woman who particularly impressed the FMS team, but today a feast of prime female beef as we pick seven of our favourites from the thirteen who competed in Miami in the Heavy and Light-Heavyweight classes.

Heavyweight, 1st

Tischa, aka "The Tigress", had been competing at national level in both Open and Masters classes for at least five years as far as we can ascertain, steadily progressing up the placings - her best before Miami was a 2nd place in the Over 40 class at the IFBB North Americans in September. Telling her Instagram followers that she was "ready to attack" before the show, she defeated Theresa Ivancik by a single point to claim the title and her pro card just over a week before her 45th birthday (yesterday).

Check out a clip of a very sweaty Tischa training from earlier in the year here, or, if you like your over 40 female muscle in something more revealing (like fishnet lingerie, for instance) you might want to revisit FMC's preview clip of Tischa from 2013. Tischa has her own YouTube channel with plenty of workout clips, and you can also watch her and the rest of the top 5 Heavyweight picking up their awards here.

Heavyweight, 4th

It's sad that there seems to be such an effort to eliminate the sport, says FMS fave Wendy Watson, who, as usual, showed up at a national level show looking amazing for nothing more than the love of it. Women's bodybuilding has never been about the money. You have to truly love the sport in order to sacrifice as much as we do for so little in return, she says. Having placed 3rd last year (and at the USAs and the North Americans in 2015), she finished 4th (for a change!) on this occasion.

Last seen here cheering us up at the North Americans in August and previously on FMS at the 2013 Nationals, Wendy has a lot of genuine fans, but sadly has also had some less than respectful and/or downright dishonest and nasty approaches via her Facebook, and so understandably she's retreated from social media interaction with very negative ideas about who "we" are. FMS hopes that readers, if they do try to contact her to give a bit of encouragement, would do so in a sensitive way and show her that we are not the same as those mofos who give all female muscle heads a creepy name.

Heavyweight, 6th

Another national level contest veteran and 40-something mother, Anna Sheehan made her annual competitive appearance here, finishing 6th. By my reckoning, Anne has been lifting for over thirty years, and first competed all the way back in 2002. She took a break from 2009 to 2012, when her winning return at the New Jersey State show was met with jubilation in the female muscle lovin' community.

And she doesn't seem to have lost any of that appeal, as indicated by the reception to FMC's October preview of his first shoot with Anne. [Anne is] One of the hottest in the game! one forum poster responded to it. Will be subscribing to your site for this video. She is in that select few class of hyper-muscular women like Christine Envall, Aleesha Young, Maria Segura, and Colette Guimond. High praise indeed.
She got robbed last year at the Nationals, 2nd place to a woman that looked like a physique competitor, he added, so imagine his feelings about her placing this year!

Light-Heavyweight, 4th

Meanwhile in the Light-Heavyweight class, another familiar name, the very gorgeous Cheryl Faust, was celebrating a decade as a competitive bodybuilder. Unlike Anne Sheehan, Cheryl's never taken time out, and has done at least one (and more often than not two or three) shows every year since 2005. After I decided to compete in my first show and took first place I was hooked, she says. Every time I do a show - besides getting into contest shape - something positive comes out of it.

Now, regarding what I was saying about Wendy Watson and her social media issues just now. Well, Cheryl does want to interact with her fans. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, website, MuscleGirlzLive - watch her self-directed preview here. She invites you to contact her. It's how it works, you see. The ladies send out SIGNALS...

Light-Heavyweight, 1st

After winning the Middleweight class at the NPC USAs in 2012 and the over 35 Light-Heavyweight at the Masters Nationals this year, Carla finally added the pro card to the class win in Miami. It's ironic then that of those three contests, it was here she brought perhaps her least professional-looking package. However, as Steve Wennerstrom noted in his contest report, she had impressive muscular thickness and volume, [and] her shoulder/arm tandem was eye-catching when viewing her from the front.

People who don’t know me oftentimes are a little standoffish, says Carla. They don’t really quite know how to react to a woman who looks this way. I’ve seen first hand how my physique has cost me jobs, relationships, and various other opportunities, but I’ve also seen it open doors. Carla has herself opened a few doors to fans over the years, and those fans have returned with gushing reports of her great personality, her spectacular physique and her mind-blowing sensuality. A popular winner.

Heavyweight, 3rd

It's hard to believe, but once upon a time the stunning Melissa Fanning weighed 280lbs (127kg). I was very heavy, very unhappy with myself, she says. I thought if I bought designer clothes, wore high heels, wore make-up, it would cover it up. But I still wasn't comfortable in my own skin. Initially she joined a gym purely to lose some of the weight, which she did, but then... I would flip through the fitness magazines at the gym, and I saw these beautiful women with muscles. Seven years later and she's one of them, her Instagram moniker the wholly appropriate "irongoddess".

Promoting Real Women had her down as one of the most under-rated amateur's in the country last year, and one look at her and you know she's got all the attributes to make it all the way to the pros, that it's only a matter of time. But unsurprisingly given her history, for Melissa, it's about more than contest results. To me, it's not all about chasing the elusive pro card. It's the experience, she says. It's been life changing, and I feel like if I can inspire just one person with my story, it'll all be worth it.

And finally...

Heavyweight, 7th

The reason why we've decided to end today's post with Ariel is not because - as we've noted previously on FMS - she's one of the most naturally beautiful women in the sport. Nor is it even to celebrate her return to the Bodybuilding division after she dallied with Physique, nor to bring attention to the fact that her coach is none other than Alina Popa - and she's brave enough to argue with her! Instead, it's to exploit Ariel's writing talent, because in the lead up to the Nationals and in response to a message from the IFBB after the show, she's been putting that talent to use, serving us all a timely reminder why every one of these amateur women deserve our support and admiration for continuing to defy not just the conventions of society, but also the powers that govern the sport they love and who'd rather they went away altogether.

Those days where I hated myself, not because what I was doing (dieting and training hard) but the perfection I held myself to. Those days can be fewer and I can feel more days like today. Accomplished and believing in myself. People, women's bodybuilding is not dead! It's alive and well. Watch me grow into this division! Just watch!!! If you're a big woman, want to be bigger, there's a spot for you too!

What it means to be a female bodybuilder to me: I can be me. There is no glass ceiling. Nobody telling me I can't. I will stick with bodyBUILDING. I have no desire to downsize. It takes practice, patience and positivity to create something like this [body]. Bodybuilding is constant review and improvement. I'm hungry for MORE!


More pictures at Muscular Development and also at NPC News Online. Check their YouTube channel for video updates with the magnificent women we've featured today, and those we unfortunately didn't have time and space for. Winners one and all.