Sunday, 17 June 2018

Sunday Sizzler

The combination of Danish photographer of the body beautiful Jan Teller and the beautiful body of Fanny Swerkstrom has proved to be an exciting one, and never more so than in the series of nude black and whites they made last year.

Fanny posted one example on her Facebook page knowing full well it could be seen as "offensive" and removed (it wasn't). That's the whole point of posting it, she wrote. Naked skin is almost always only associated with sex, or even shame. It should be hidden, and by exposing it you become an "ATTENTION-hoe", a slut, cheap...

But as a bodybuilder and athlete, the body represents something completely different to me - it is a mission taken very seriously. It is my Temple. The body is so beautiful when it is taken care of, and should be appreciated and respected for the soul living in it, the soul reflected in the external. The soul behind a well-constructed physique.

I am fascinated by my body every single day.

See more of Jan Teller's work with Fanny (and many other beautiful, athletic and muscular women) on his Instagram. Fanny's Instagram seems to have moved or gone, but her Facebook page - though not updated for some time - is still there.


Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Return of the Latin Bomb

Those averse to tattoos on their muscle ladies should come back tomorrow

In the early 2000s, "Latin Bomb" Vivianna Requena gained many plaudits from both the female muscle lovin' community and the wider bodybuilding world. What a package! exclaimed Curtis Schultz for back in 2004. Exotic good looks, a striking muscle bod, and Latino charisma written all over her. Vivianna is a bona fide contender for a national level bodybuilding title and a pro card.

She was, at the time, winning titles as a Lightweight Bodybuilder - her Jr. USA class in 2002, the New Jersey Championships in 2003 - but was (and probably is still) best known to female muscle heads for her appearance in (and on the cover of) Muscle Elegance in April 2002. I love being a sex symbol! she said at the time. Transforming myself from a shy nerd to being on the cover of Muscle Elegance makes me feel like a Ms Olympia winner! I am very proud of what I have accomplished so far.

Soon after that article in 2004 though, Vivianna completely disappeared off the radar. She'd just got engaged, but her husband-to-be then (and he's still her husband) was by no means averse to her muscles - they'd met at a show in Rhode Island - nor her penchant for letting us all get a look at her beautiful body in all its naked glory. He is very proud, she told Schultz. He likes to say that the only thing that the guys can do is look at me, but he has the real thing every night.

Well, Vivianna (McAuliffe since her wedding to that lucky - and level-headed - fella) is back. And once again, she is a bona fide contender for a national level title, this time in the Physique division. At the NPC Dennis James Classic in Mesa, Arizona on 26th May she won a two-woman WPD Physique class. It qualified her for a show where pro cards are dished out. Her next stop will be the North Americans at the end of August.

She'll be 50 by the time the North Americans roll around, and she's still chasing that pro dream. Still not shy about showing herself off either. I am a bodybuilder, she says. I want people to see that even with ripped hard muscles a woman can still be sexy and pretty - at the gym, on stage, or even while just at a party. Take a look at me!

Posts on her Instagram in the lead up to her show made their way onto the forums and had many in the female muscle lovin' community doing just that. Of course there was the usual nonsense - What are competition rules regarding tattoos? one hysteric wanted to know. How can a judge tell muscular definition from where they are sitting if a competitor has so many tattoos? The vast majority though were more impressed, and (along with the love from the wider community) Vivianna found herself reconnected with her noughties fan base again. Thank you all for your good luck wishes, messages and texts, she wrote the day before her contest. I’m overwhelmed.

After the show she took a well-earned holiday with her daughter, which pretty much clears up any questions you might have about what she's been doing all these years.

The woman who we once knew as the Latin Bomb is back then. More than a little more muscular than before as far as I can tell, and considerably more inked, but otherwise pretty much where she was before she became "a badass mom", ie. due that pro card. Someone asked 'What now,Viv?' she told her (growing ranks of) Instagram followers after her win. I said, 'Now it's time to train double beast for the North Americans!

Yikes! Can't wait to watch Vivianna going "double beast".

(As well as looking forward to more amusement courtesy of the anti-tat brigade!)


Friday, 15 June 2018

Media Watch: Boots & The Pole Dancer

The "Boots" in question are not something a pole dancer need not wear, but rather the well-known UK high street "beauty, health and pharmacy" retailer. That Boots recently brought out their own range of "natural plant protein" for women - "MBody".

Now the very fact that a high street retailer such as Boots is going into the female fitness nutrition market is a sure sign that market is believed to be a goldmine.

And that is undeniably great news, but not what we're concerned with today.

Instead, let's look at the ad Boots (originally) lined up to market their new range.

The problem with the ad is - did you spot it? - the "tone up not bulk up" tagline, deemed "shocking" and "appalling" by "furious" social media users according to the Mail Online.

That so many got so riled is largely due to the efforts of the wonderfully named Peach Lee Ray, a pole dancing instructor and confidence coach from the Wirral, who was so incensed by the ad she went public with her ire. Disappointed that Boots UK is spreading this misinformation to women, she wrote on her Facebook page. So many women are scared to invest in their health and fitness because they worry about 'bulking up', gaining 'too much' muscle and not feeling feminine. The fitness industry has used the idea of 'toning' to spread and continue to support the stupid idea that women should not be muscular or take pride in a certain body aesthetic.

If you have the type of body type that gains muscle then you should be proud of who you are and what you look like, she went on. It isn't bad for a woman to be muscular. It doesn't make you less feminine or desirable, we should embrace ourselves in all of our variety. Screw this noise. Bulk up if you want to. Be muscular if you want to. It's your body and this BS fitness industry shouldn't be spreading these messages.

We like Peach. We like her a lot.

The Mail article led to other media sources contacting Peach direct.

'Toning' and 'bulking' are synonyms for the same concept: building muscle, she told Today a couple of weeks after the Mail had run its story. To create a differentiation is misleading. 'Toning' plays on women's insecurity of needing to be skinny or small, I just want people to know I think being a strong, muscular woman is a good thing.

The social media furore that led to Boots pulling the ad suggests Peach is not alone in her thinking, and on top of that, the evidence of my own eyes during the recent hot spell tells me that more and more women in Britain have been hitting the gym this year, and fewer and fewer of them are shy about displaying the results of their efforts - particularly their 'toned' (or should that be 'bulked'?!) arms and shoulders.

The female muscle radar has never been so busy!

Kudos once again to the Mail as well for bringing Peach's rant to an even wider audience, and once again - I'm more and more convinced there's a raging female muscle head on the editorial team there! - supporting women's right to build muscle.

Read the Mail article and Today's follow-up with Peach in full here and here.

You might also want to follow the pole-dancing confidence-building female muscle advocate on Instagram. She is currently "super busy" (understandable) and has "nowhere to train properly", which is a bit of a crime. If any of you lovely readers are, or know of a gym owner in the Wirral area with room for a pole at their premises, perhaps you might like to help our new heroine solve one of her two problems.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Woman of the Week: Jessica Booker Williams

These days it is (hopefully) not necessary to have to prove to anyone that women with muscles can't be feminine, but should that need ever arise, you could do a lot worse than produce an image or six of Jessica Booker Williams to make the point.

FMS readers will certainly need any convincing - Jessica has been a fixture on the Hot and Hard 100 since 2016, with one voter going so far as to suggest she "should be submitted to the OED as the new definition of the word 'gorgeous'." Swell needs no convincing either - "I've got such a crush on her," I've gushed (more than once) in the past, left breathless by the gusto of her on stage presentation, her sweaty gym selfies, and her all round "sassy, classy and a bit badassy" alpha female muscle appeal.

Why are we returning to Jessica now? Well, why not? is as good a reason as any, but aside from the fact that I would be quite happy to make a Jessica post for every 10 new Instagram selfies she puts up, Jessica was back on stage recently for the first time since the 2016 IFBB North Americans, and in my house that's an occasion worth celebrating!

The event was the NPC Steve Kuclo Classic in Dallas in the middle of May - yes, believe it or not, Jessica is still in an "amateur" - where she won Overall Physique and the Masters class - yes, believe it or not, Jessica is going to be 40 before long!

And, as always with Jessica, the contest shots have had me drooling all over my keyboard. So glam and so ripped. Such beauty, and such sex appeal, born of the confidence she seems to have - regular readers will know there are few things in the female muscle world I love more than a women who loves it up there and makes you feel it, and I reckon Jessica is one of the best right now. Believe it or not, I get nervous, she says. I look at a competitor with more mass and my initial feeling is "uh-oh". But no way do I allow myself to entertain that feeling for long. If I don't believe in me, how can a judging panel believe in me? How can a crowd believe in me? Convince yourself that you can do it, she adds, and your confidence becomes infectious.

I'm so infected.

At the previously mentioned 2016 North Americans, Jessica was placed 6th in her class - "the most conditioned competitor, but also definitely the smallest in terms of mass". And when she competes at her next national level show, the problem that she "will almost always be one of the smallest dogs in the fight" (her words) remains. However, just as at the 2016 NPC Southwest Championships, which she also won, Jessica was a class apart (of a not insignificant field) at this national qualifier.

And thanks to Best Muscle Video, we can enjoy Jessica's victory in full.

(Get comfy - there's 14+ minutes of this!)

Took me a few goes to get through to the end, I don't mind telling you...

But we haven't quite finished for today, so steel yourself, you lovely reader.


He Who Laughs Last...

Oh how Jessica's followers laughed at "the putz in the background"! I don’t think Cleatus behind you is wearing proper gym footwear, roared one. The guy behind you is texting his friend about how this ripped blonde is checking him out, smirked another. Poor dude! If he's been going to that gym for a while (and I say that in the full knowledge there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that's true) then repeated viewings of a sweaty Jessica may have caused him to experience repeated, dangerous levels of "Madness". And look what it's done to him. The man is a bloody wreck.

Jessica is far too classy to mock the afflicted, of course, but it does occur to me that "Cleatus", while I don't condone his choice of footwear, or (somewhat more reluctantly) his (possibly) pervasive actions, definitely had the best view of Jessica in the house and may even have managed to record it, let's say "posterity" (sorry).

So, I ask you, who's laughing now?

The Comfort of Strangers

I had a random dude comment yesterday, something along the lines of "aren’t you worried about losing your femininity lifting heavy weights". Damn. What would I do without the opinions and narrow-minded guidance of complete strangers!?

Then! The cutest little old man (like 80+) came up to me three times in the gym today. He told me I sure was attractive every time, and then proceeded to tell me I should probably do more light weight reps (although he couldn’t remember the word for "reps" at first (adorable!) because I kinda "looked like a man from behind", aaaand then proceeded to tell me one more time I sure was attractive. So... I concluded two things today from this/these encounters: 1. Old people are cute as shit, regardless. That sweet little thing didn’t know if he was coming or going and honestly didn’t offend me one bit, bless his heart. 2. The likelihood that anyone over the age of 80 read my rant on Instagram yesterday about this very topic is slim to none.

Just another day in the life of an NPC Physique goddess...

Follow Jessica on Instagram for more Tales from the Gym.


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Around the World: China

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

Today, we visit China, hardly - despite the numbers - a hot bed of female muscle so far. Unless you are an Asian FBB nut, it's unlikely that you could come up with more than a few Chinese FBBs, if any. Those that have made something of an international name for themselves - Zhang Ping, Xinli Cao, and Liang Yueyun, for example - have had to overcome considerable cultural (and/or economic) obstacles to do so. Women in China have long associated being beautiful with being skinny, says CNN correspondent Nanlin Fang, a situation not unique to China by any means, but also noted by Beijing gym owner Hou Shiyao. Most of the women who come to our studio aim to lose weight, she says. They want to be like a skeleton, or a piece of paper!

However, that may be changing. The skeletal body may still be the ideal for the majority of Chinese women, but an increasing number are, according to Hou Shiyao, coming with a slightly different, slightly more muscular goal - majiaxian.

Literally, this translates as "vest lines", but in fact it's how you say "six-pack" in Chinese, and claims Nanlin Fang, China's "increasing exposure to Western lifestyles has made a desire for a more muscular physique, especially visible abdominal muscles, trendy." Chinese women, besides the usual summer essentials, have found another accessory, confirms the (newspaper) People's Daily - six-pack abs have become the latest fashion.

On Chinese social media #majiaxian has been at or near the top of the trending topics list ever since Chinese New Year, with women proudly flaunting their new flat/muscular midriffs all ready for summer. I bought a gym membership as a birthday gift for myself, says fashion designer Liang Yuan - one such woman charting her journey to majiaxian via WeChat, the country's most popular social media app. I wanted to challenge myself. Now friends and family members have started to call me a "fitness monster" because I workout twice a day, seven days a week.

A capital B Bodybuilder Liang (and the vast majority of the #majiaxian WeChatters) may not be, but she (and they) are indicative of a change in attitude which is backed up by the stats. A 2017 Gym Data Report stated that females now account for 51.3% of members in China's gyms, with chest and back exercises almost as popular among them as those focusing on abs. Moreover, an impressive number (almost 20%) of those female gymgoers stated that they used fitness equipment "in the same way as men".

Pioneering Chinese IFBB pro Mou Cong is hardly the most defined in the Figure division in which she competes, and few of the random women from pan-China contests in 2017 and so far in 2018 that we came across while researching this piece are very six-packy. However, when you consider there are around 650m women in China, all this adds up to potentially the biggest explosion in female muscle ever.

Liu Zhichang, a 25-year-old working in a marketing team at a Beijing tech company claims workouts posted on WeChat have spread among her friends "like a virus". Every woman I know wants to have majiaxian, she says. Especially if they have seen a friend's toned abs. At first, I just secretly admired them, but then I decided to dedicate myself to working out, to make it a habit. I want to have majiaxian, and I will.