Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Around the World: India

Around the World is an occasional series celebrating the female bodybuilders of a particular country, and examining any issues peculiar to muscle women there.

imagebam.com

You are the embodiment of those who want to beat the odds to achieve excellence.

It doesn't seem that long ago that FMS was writing about Ashwini Waskar, an Indian female bodybuilder from Mumbai who, when competing, was obliged to wear a more modest sports bra and shorts on stage rather than a normal posing suit. Since then we've reported on the Indian media's celebration of Shweta Rathore's international success, seen how Elle India congratulated seven muscular women for "overthrowing every feminine stereotype", met India's IFBB Figure pro Deepika Chowdhury, and most recently the 17-year-old sensation from West Bengal, Europa Bhowmik.

imagebam.com

The times, at least for muscular women in India, appear to be changing. And changing fast. Deepika Chowdhury was in the country's national media towards the end of January after she became the first Indian woman to be invited to compete at the Arnold Classic in Australia, and a couple of weeks ago Shweta Rathore (again) and Thingbaijam Sarita Devi found themselves being celebrated in the international and national media for winning different (as far as I can tell anyway) Miss India titles.

imagebam.com

One picture accompanying the news about the 34-year-old Devi allegedly shows her with Indian cricket deity Sachin Tendulkar (if you are not familiar with him, then think of your national sport, now think of the greatest ever player, alive or dead - Sachin, retired but very much alive, is the Indian equivalent). Apparently he is "an admirer".

imagebam.com

Unfortunately - and I say that because it would be really nice if I could report Indian female bodybuilders were getting celebrity admirers - this is not actually true. Sachin is, unless I'm very much mistaken, an admirer of Laishram Sarita Devi, India's first professional female boxer and quite a celebrity in her own right in India, and not (yet) an admirer of Thingbaijam Sarita Devi, champion Indian female bodybuilder.

imagebam.com

As well as her 2016 Miss India title, Thingbaijam has previously represented her country and brought home medals from Asian championships - hardly surprising given the size of those arms - and I imagine Thingbaijam'll be representing India once again this year. She has become a real beast, as one delighted forum poster puts it.

imagebam.com

Meanwhile, in a corner of India so remote that the Chinese government doesn't even acknowledge parts of its most north-eastern state - Arunchal Pradesh - are, in fact, Indian territory, the "only female bodybuilder" there, Paklu Taipodia, has been making regional news recently, and not only because she's had contest successes.

imagebam.com

A mother of three and a former competitive weightlifter, Paklu was 5th in a national event at the end of last year, and began 2017 by winning the Eastern India Miss Fitness title - an achievement widely reported in the regional Indian media. Perhaps most significantly though, when Paklu travelled with her husband to meet Arunchal's Chief Minister at the end of January, she was promised "every help from the state government in future competitions at national and international level".

imagebam.com imagebam.com

State assistance for female bodybuilding? I like this Chief Minister. Pema Khandu is his name and that's him shaking Paklu's hand above. I like him a lot. And the quote that began today's post - You are the embodiment of those who want to beat the odds to achieve excellence - that's his. He is, apparently, a "keen sports enthusiast", and according to Indian media was "astounded by her sheer determination and courage".

State assistance for female bodybuilding! Only, it seems, in India.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

2017 Hot and Hard 100 Voting: Final Day!

imagebam.com

There comes a point when the weight she is lifting becomes almost as sexy...

Sadly, I don't know this hot hard lady's name, but maybe you do, and maybe you should include her in your lastminute.com Hot and Hard 100 selection for 2017.

Today is "officially" the final day for voting - comment box below or email to 6ft1swell@gmail.com - but as I probably won't have time to start tallying up the votes before this weekend, entries received in the next few days will almost certainly still be included - especially if they come with some glowing praise for the blog!

Hurry! Hurry!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Nicole Bass 1964-2017

imagebam.com imagebam.com

There was sad news for the female muscle lovin' world at the end of Valentine's week when it was reported that the colourful life of Nicole Bass had come to an end.

imagebam.com imagebam.com imagebam.com

Nicole was one of the very few female bodybuilders who had (at least in the US) a mainstream public profile of sorts. This came about as a result of her regular appearances on The Howard Stern Show from 1993, a film career that began with an appearance in the Stern biopic Private Parts in 1997, and a period at the end of the 90s when she was on TV performing a part for the World Wrestling Federation.

imagebam.com imagebam.com

She was a freakshow by then, "The Biggest Female Bodybuilder in the World" although she hadn't competed as a bodybuilder for well over a decade. The ravages of time were not kind to her, and the images of her towards the end of her life that accompanied the reports of her stroke and subsequent death were not, for this viewer, pleasant to see.

imagebam.com

So today I'd like to remember Nicole as the pioneering female bodybuilder she was, competing at national level from her early 20s, a lithe and athletic Amazon who, at 6'2", literally stood head and shoulders above any line-up she was in. Her big wins came in 1988 at the NPC Northeastern States, and nearly a decade later at the NPC Nationals in 1997, where she beat - among others - Sharon Robelle, Heather Foster, Valerie Green, and a young Iris Kyle to the Heavyweight title before defeating Sandy Matthews and Collin Fischer in the Overall posedown.

imagebam.com imagebam.com

The same year she competed in her last bodybuilding show, her one and only Olympia appearance, and finished 14th in a line-up that reads like a roll call of FBB legends.

imagebam.com

An amazing woman, an incredible physique, reads one fan's tribute on the forums. Even if there were still as many women her size in the sport as there used to be, there would never be another like her. She was one of a kind. A true Queen of Muscle.

Here she is at the 1997 Nationals, her posing routine beginning at 31.04.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Then & Now: 2004

In the days before the Hot and Hard 100 voting closes (and you've only got 2 left by the way), FMS likes to avoid influencing your decisions unduly by bringing you some historical, rather than contemporary, female muscle. This year we've come up with a kind of time machine idea, used a random date generator, picked a contest winner from that year, and tried to find out what that special lady from the past is up to now.

Today, it's 2004. Christine Sabo wins the Overall title at the NPC Jr. Nationals.

THEN

imagebam.com imagebam.com
imagebam.com imagebam.com

Christine was in her late 30s, had been lifting for nearly 20 years and competing for almost a decade by the time she won her first national level title. She was originally inspired after meeting a female bodybuilder on the beach in the mid-80s. I thought she looked awesome and said to myself "I will look like her one day", she recalls.

imagebam.com imagebam.com
imagebam.com imagebam.com

These days, an Overall win at the Jr. Nationals will get you a pro card. Not so in 2004. In fact, another decade passed before Christine was able to achieve her ambition of professional status. Every single year she competed, often more than once. She won her (Light-heavyweight) class at the 2008 USA Championships. She finished 2nd in her class on five occasions, was rarely outside the top 3, and never outside the top 6.

imagebam.com imagebam.com
imagebam.com imagebam.com

Finally, in 2013 at the IFBB North Americans, Christine's amateur journey comes to an end. At the age of 46, she wins her over 35 Masters class, and the Overall title.

NOW

imagebam.com

She actually gave herself a year off competition after that, but by 2015 she was back on stage. As a Light-heavyweight bodybuilder, a switch to the Physique division made perfect sense, and she made her long-awaited pro debut in her home state of Arizona at the Europa Phoenix. 48 years old, Christine placed 9th out of 18 women.

imagebam.com imagebam.com
imagebam.com imagebam.com

Last year she competed twice more, at the Arizona Pro in September, and the Europa Phoenix again the following month. The hair was a bit different but overall I'd say she looks about, well, five to ten minutes older than she did back in 2004. In our final Then & Now post of the week we seem to have found a woman for whom the Now is no so very different from the Then. And this year - she'll turn 50 in August - the smart money would be on Christine not breaking the habit of a lifetime and returning to the stage yet again. What a great advert for the lifestyle and the sport she is. What a legend!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Then & Now: 2001

In the days before the Hot and Hard 100 voting closes (and you've only got 3 left by the way), FMS likes to avoid influencing your decisions unduly by bringing you some historical, rather than contemporary, female muscle. This year we've come up with a kind of time machine idea, used a random date generator, picked a contest winner from that year, and tried to find out what that special lady from the past is up to now.

Today, it's 2001. September 8th. In three days' time the world is going to be a very different place, but right now, all 5'4" of 43-year-old Lisa Aukland (you know, I have been spelling it Auckland all these years) is winning the Heavyweight class at the IFBB North Americans ahead of the 27-year-old rising star Colette Nelson.

THEN

imagebam.com imagebam.com imagebam.com

Lisa had been a successful competitive powerlifter for a decade, drug-tested competitions only, and had broken records and won a string of state and regional contests in her weight class. She had started bodybuilding competitively in the mid-90s, and won the Heavyweight and Overall titles at the (drug-tested) NPC Team Universe in 1999, 2000, and 2001, plus silver at the IFBB World Amateur Championships in 2000 before she arrived in Ontario on that September day.

imagebam.com imagebam.com
imagebam.com imagebam.com

She gave up Powerlifting to focus on Bodybuilding after winning her pro card and, as we all know, went on to have a stellar career. It included another hat-trick of wins, in Atlantic City from 2007 to 2009, five top 6 Olympia finishes, and seven Ms Internationals including 3rd in 2008 and 4th at her last ever contest in 2010.

NOW

imagebam.com

Like Kristy Hawkins, who we caught up with earlier in the week, Lisa has a PhD - in Pharmacy - and left Bodybuilding to continue her career as a Specialist in Poison Information, which is exactly what she still does. She lives and works in Maryland.

imagebam.com imagebam.com

These pictures are a few years old, but you can clearly see she is looking good (and big) for a self-confessed "part-time fit bod" who is now, unbelievably, in her late 50s.

If you have an interest in "information and treatment regarding both intentional and unintentional poisonings and drug overdoses" then I recommend Lisa's Twitter.

Now, gentlemen, I have a feeling that if the Hot and Hard 100 had been around when Lisa was in her pomp, she would have been top 10 every year. Sadly, that wasn't the case, but you, dear reader, still have three days to decide on your personal choices for 2017's hottest hard women. Where? How? etc. explained here. Get voting!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Then & Now: 1989 (again)

In the days before the Hot and Hard 100 voting closes (and you've only got 4 left by the way), FMS likes to avoid influencing your decisions unduly by bringing you some historical, rather than contemporary, female muscle. This year we've come up with a kind of time machine idea, used a random date generator, picked a contest winner from that year, and tried to find out what that special lady from the past is up to now.

The first staging of the IFBB World Pro Championships had been in 1979, and after a year off in 1980, it was held every year until 1989. It was resurrected for one last hurrah a decade later before disappearing again, it seems forever this time.

As I forgot to tick the box on the random date generator that avoids duplicates, we are dropping our time machine into the said IFBB World Pro Championships in 1989. We emerge blinking into the auditorium, and what an amazing sight we see...

THEN

Anja Schreiner, Joy Nichols, Erika Mes... all placed outside the top 20. At 20 is Janice Ragain, Gillian Hodge at 19, Joanna McCartney at 18. Way down in 15th is Juliette Bergmann, and Rene Casella also finds herself placed outside the top 10 at 11. How much better can this contest line-up get? Well, hold on a second...

10 - Marie Mahabir, 9 - Lisa Lorio, 8 - Laura Creavalle. It's like a list of my female muscle lovin' early years fantasy women, maybe yours too... 7 - Tami Imbriale, 6 - Janet Tech, and into the top 5 we go with Italian goddess Claudia Profanter. Barely able to breathe, we collapse into some empty seats at the back, but the parade's not over yet, and next out comes 4th place Laura Beaudry and 3rd place Dorothy Herndon and after her runner-up Jackie Paisley...

Literally gasping for air we look at each other. No words are necessary, the wide eyes say it all. What uber-goddess could possibly have triumphed over this alpha field?

imagebam.com

Stepping forward into the spotlight, her victory pose as graceful and unique as every other she has hit during the contest, comes Diana Dennis, The Uber-Goddess.

imagebam.com imagebam.com

When Women's Bodybuilding came into vogue in the 80s we really had no role model for artistic female posing. We could leaf through Muscle and Fitness or Ironman and see some gentlemen posing, but then came Diana Dennis, a pioneer for us in the arena of artistic, imaginative routines. She elevated the display of muscle groups to a fine art of expression in motion for the decade she competed and then for the decades after that. She consistently lifted the bar in the art of female posing.

imagebam.com imagebam.com

It's not hard to find testimonials from the women who knew her and saw her perform. The words of Alison Brundage above, are typical. Even in the last ten years or so, long after Diana had retired from competition, female bodybuilders of then and now were paying gushing tributes to her on her Facebook page, often in response to her latest benefit performance - she was well over 50 by this stage - for one of the many good causes she has supported. Diana, as Helen Bouchard puts it, is the best.

imagebam.com

She continued to present her body in her own inimitable style for many years after her last competitive appearance, photographers only too happy to work with her.

NOW

imagebam.com

And even in her late 50s, there was no mistaking the fire in those eyes.

imagebam.com

This, possibly, is the most recent picture of Diana Dennis. It was posted on her Facebook page around Christmas last year. I still don't know quite what to make of it, which may well have been Diana's intention if she did indeed come up with this idea. If so, and it's the only thing she's shared in five years, it would be utterly fitting. Still looking for unique ways to portray herself, still pushing the boundaries...

It would be wrong to leave you today without a little taste of Diana in motion.

Here she is at the 1991 Ms Olympia. Enjoy!