Friday, 27 December 2013

Women of the Year

In 2011, it was Kashma Maharaj, Fabiola Boulanger, Ginger Martin, Cinderella Landolt, Penpraghai Tiangngok and Katka Kyptova. Last year, FMS selected Sarah Hayes, Holland Canter, Helle Nielsen, Andrea Brazier, Gillian Kovack and Tarna Alderman.

It's that time of year again.

Just to remind you, we are not, in any way, claiming that these are the six biggest or best female bodybuilders in the world today (although on this occasion you will probably agree that one of them is, indeed, the best). Rather we are simply celebrating six of FMS' many favourites from the last twelve months.

Why six? Well, six was the number we decided on the first time we did this in 2011, and we chose six because it is the number of finalists in most bodybuilding contests (if there are at least six competitors anyway). They are in no particular order, they are Female Muscle Slave's Women of the Year 2013

Shannon Courtney: Bodybuilder

FMS has already written plenty about Shannon, devoting a whole week to this incredible young female bodybuilder, just over a month ago. In a nutshell, we wanted to celebrate Shannon's decision not to switch down to the physique division. It was a decision she made after much umming and ahing over a period of months that had Shannon devotees constantly on the verge of tears (if not hara-kiri) dreading that she would, as threatened, 'go physique'. Fortunately, this never happened, and in October, on her Facebook page, was the news the world, well, the female muscle lovin' world at least, had been waiting for: Screw this Physique transformation, she wrote, I Can't Hide the BODYBUILDER inside. #fbb #forlife Back to real training!

Cue scenes of jubilation the world over, not to mention an impromptu party at the FMS office that only started to fizzle out three days and several arrests later.

It's a testament to her popularity with the fans that for the first time in a long time Alina Popa has serious competition in the Muscle Goddess of the Year poll on the forum whose first rule is that you do not talk about it. And yet, Shannon didn't even win the NPC USAs, where she was awarded her pro card. Know who won? Margie something, wasn't it? Exactly. So what is it Shannon's got that other recently anointed pros haven't got? Well, except for the youth, the beauty, that smile, those funky eyebrow raises, hamstrings that make male bodybuilders find a quiet corner and weep a little, a quad sweep that has addresses in two different postcodes, and an upper body known to intimidate bull elephants, what exactly is it that Shannon's got?

Star quality. The kind of thing you can't put your finger on but you know when you see it. And that, I reckon is why we fans are getting all excited about Shannon. In her we see media, a woman who can bring female bodybuilding back to the outer fringes of the mainstream. I swear that every time I see a new pic of her I start to hear the Stone Roses' song 'This Is The One' in my head!

However, whether Shannon is 'The One' or not is largely irrelevant - to her anyway. Shannon sets herself goals, then goes and achieves them. Her first goal was to find out what division she should compete in. With that sorted (hopefully once and for all) she wanted to get her pro card. Check. What matters to Shannon now is making it to the Olympia (no doubt while it's still there for female bodybuilders).

Strap yourselves in for Shannon Courtney in 2014.

Sexy Sophie Arvebrink

It was back in February, I think, that I started to suffer from this strange affliction, writes 6ft1swell. I've since sought all kinds of cures - from hypnosis to acupuncture, from psychoanalysis to anti-psychotic drugs, and there have been no tangible results. And what exactly is this affliction of which you speak Mr Swell? Well, since I first wrote about sexy Sophie Arvebrink I have been quite unable to type her name without adding that word in front of it. Try as I might not to, my fingers just type it. And I'm beginning to think there's absolutely nothing I can do about it...

The rest of us at FMS, while sympathising with Swell's plight, honestly don't see how it's that big of a problem. Sophie is, after all, well, you know... sexy. It's not as if he's typing some inappropriate adjective. Sexy suits Sophie 100%.

What the rest of us at FMS spend more time worrying about is what exactly it is that Sophie does, because it seems to us that her entire life consists of the gym, taking pictures of herself, posting said pictures, getting a bit of sleep (probably, we can't confirm this but we seriously doubt anyone can look as fine as Sophie does without a fair bit of shuteye), and, er, that seems to be about it. Occasionally, Sophie posts pictures of herself in her trademark vest and tight tight leggings (naughty naughty thoughts) in some sunny location like the south of Turkey, but even then all she seems to do is work out and take pictures of herself, post those pictures and...

You get the idea. I think there's only one way to find out. I think we need to send Mr Swell to Stockholm. I think he needs to track Miss Arvebrink down and get to the bottom (right to the tight little bottom) of this question of Sophie's activities. Perhaps then, and only then, will he be cured.
Sophie says: 1½ years. Strong Is the New Sexy

Meanwhile, we can only go on what her sexiness posts on her Facebook page for clues about her life and her future plans. My motivation? Well. I will never be the biggest girl, or the strongest one. I will probably never be the most ripped one, or some sexy bikini fitness girl. And I don't feel like competing. All I ever wanted is to be the best version of myself. And that's plenty enough to motivate me. Now let's GOOOOO!

OK, Swell. Let's give it another go. Let's see if you can type 'The Self-Motivating Sophie Arvebrink' as the title of this piece. Go on, give it a go. Oh dear. Better get on that plane to Stockholm. Wait a minute! Why's he smiling? Get after him and get those tickets cancelled! It was a cunning plan all along!!!

[Swell's Postcard's from Stockholm is a new series coming soon on FMS]

Shawna Strong: Shawna 2.0

2013 didn't begin well for Shawna Pierce. In fact things hadn't been going well for a couple of years. Tough economic times meant that her personal training clientele had dwindled. I ended up giving up most of my possessions, I lost 2 animals tragically, and my relationship fell apart with my then boyfriend, she says. However, this prompted a change of location, new friends and enrollment on the Dietetics program at Arizona State University. Reinvigorated, she entered the 2011 NPC USAs and made a bid for her pro card, but only managed 9th. I was disappointed yet not totally discouraged, she says. I needed to make changes; to decide to stop competing or push forward and continuing to improve.

To be a bodybuilder has always been Shawna's dream. All my friends wanted to play house and with dolls and they wanted to be models and I was obsessed with muscles and superheroes. Then I discovered bodybuilders and their 'superhero presence' on a cover of a magazine in the grocery store when I was 12 years old. I asked my mom to buy me Muscle & Fitness magazine and she looked at me weird, but after a little begging and pleading she let me buy it. I saw my first heartthrob Arnold Schwarzenegger there... Holy Moly! I was not only hooked on him, but on the sport itself. I hid in my bedroom and read up on nutrition and exercise techniques, and would study the pics & workouts of bodybuilders nearly every day. Before long she was also hooked on Cory Everson's ESPN workouts, but being a small town girl I didn’t have access to a gym, so I did what I could with my limited weight set at home, and the TV show.

She graduated, joined the military, got married. She met a female bodybuilder at a gym, followed her to a competition and asked to be trained by her. After six months she couldn't afford her FBB trainer and started a workout program with a friend's aunt online. By 2003 she had her BSc in Community Health Education, gained her personal trainer qualifications and had entered her first competition. She began working as a personal trainer on her own time, full-time after a move to Arizona in 2006, then independently from 2008.

Fast forward again to the beginning of 2013. I was in a very dark space, she says. And then, I went back to directing my attention on the 1 thing that empowered me the most, bodybuilding. February 20th, 2013 is when I invented Shawna Strong, and my whole life took a 180 degree turn.

I started a new social network, changed my look, started self-promoting and getting into modeling, and set a goal to reach professional status in bodybuilding... this time with my whole heart in it. I achieved just that, the dream person I imagined at age 12. On July 19, 2013 I won my Pro card, and felt the most amazing feeling aside of love that day. Don't you just LOVE a happy ending?

Quite a story. And quite a woman. I very much doubt her story ends here.

Follow it on her website.

Suzy Kellner: The Joy of Muscle

Looking at the physique of Hungary's Suzy (Zsuzsanna, ain't those Zs's zsexy) Kellner, it's hard to believe that like Lisa Cross (reported by FMS in October) this zsexational woman is one of those ex-anorexic turned bodybuilding athlete success stories. A body like hers would be achievement enough if she'd been relatively healthy when she started out. The fact that she has built her zspectacular physique out of the body of a chronic anorexic makes her achievement all the more admirable.

Suzy's condition was once so bad that she had to be hospitalised, and it was at that point that she says she decided to make a change in my life. Starting with capoeira and 'acrobatics', she began her journey back to health, but even then when she first entered a gym and started to work out seriously, she weighed in at a mere 39kg (which is a touch over 6st, or just under 86lbs depending on your location).

Maybe this is why Suzy gives off such great vibes when showing herself off, whether it's on stage or in the many many clips she has made for her own website and others. Not since the days of Dr Dena Westerfield, in my opinion anyway, has a female bodybuilder communicated the joy of being in her own muscular body with such aplomb. She eyes up her own bicep as she flexes it with a killer combination of pride and desire. She flexes her abs and runs her hands over the muscle in the classic 'washboard' style, then looks to camera and winks. She finishes a set of shoulder presses and proceeds to check herself out in the mirror with a 1,000 megawatt smile.

Of course, Suzy has been showing us the joy of muscle for a good few years now, so why one of the Women of the Year in 2013? Well, first of all there's her website, which has really only got up and running in the last few months. There's also the fact that she competed at the Arnold Amateur in 2013, winning over all and sundry backstage with that body and that smile, and finishing in the top 6 in the taller physique class.

And then there was her work with fitvids this year. Their clips of Suzy working out are probably my pick of the year. In a tiny black vest and the kind of skin tight shorts that don't so much cover her beautiful muscle bottom as frame it, Suzy is in top condition just after the Arnold. She pumps up her arms, bis and tris, and preens and poses for the camera (and herself) in the mirror. At this point, how the guys in the background attempting to work out while this is going on don't just all run towards the changing rooms with their hands firmly on their groins I really don't know. But then, unbelievably, it gets better. Suzy puts her gorgeous, tanned and defined abs through a punishing set, then walks away towards the changing rooms herself. If the sashay she does that ensures everyone in the place is going to notice her glutes doesn't do it for you, then the fact that just after she's walked right past the noses of two or three lucky guys she turns back to camera and flexes her upper body before blowing a kiss right at you, the viewer, is bound to. Quite honestly I'm not absolutely sure what happens after that. I think she turns around again and keeps sashaying away from camera as the clip fades out. I'm temporarily blind at that point, you see.

If we had an FMS prize for 'Performance of the Year in a Gym-Based Clip', Suzy would be a zshoe-in. Maybe next year... when I'm sure we'll have witnessed plenty more of this amazing woman's ability to get across the joy of muscle.

Georgina McConnell: Mission to Hyooooge

How could Georgina not be one of FMS' Women of the Year? We've written as much about the teenage (not for much longer) sensation from the north-east as about any other woman this year. Back in March we noted her breakout onto the fan forums (Future Star); in July we told of the press she was getting in the British muscle media and her victory at the UKBFF North (Haway the Lass); then in September it was all about Georgina and Me when the planets lined up, a story on Georgina in the British press went global, and Georgina herself name-checked FMS on her Twitter - quite possibly, no, absolutely our finest moment thus far!

Granted, our most recent post concerning Georgina didn't bring the greatest of news, as FMS reported her disappointment at (what she called) her 'stupid body' not exactly showing itself at its best for the day of the UKBFF British Championships. However, even then there was no little optimism from our growin' lass, as she vowed not be 'stuck in physique forever' and instead to focus on getting 'hyooooge'.

And why wouldn't she be optimistic? Here she is, 'three and a bit years' from her starting point. Imagine the damage she is going to be doing to female bodybuilding stages (if there are any, that is) in another three and a bit!

Even since our last check-up on Georgina, things have moved along. There's evidence of even more hyoooogeness, and what's more, Georgina has designed herself a T-shirt - email her on for more details.

And even better, at least for fans wanting to throw some pennies in Georgina's direction, she has most recently revealed plans for a bit of camming after Christmas: Gunna be setting some kind of cam up for a bit [of] funding etc and obviously because people have been asking. After Christmas... Would anyone be interested? Funny how the words 'woods', 'does', 'bear' and 'shit' just popped into my mind the first time I read that. Oh, you too? Now that is strange!

And, as I always seem to finish off whenever I'm writing about Georgina, British!

Alina Popa: The (Uncrowned) Queen

There's a clip on YouTube of Alina Popa's posing routine at the 2013 Ms Olympia taken by a (female) fan who (judging by the other clips) had travelled to Las Vegas for the event. The fan wasn't filming in the auditorium but off a big screen, so the image, although very watchable, is slightly skewed. What's interesting about it is that at the start of the clip you can hear the fan say something (in Russian I think) and 'Popa'. Now I don't speak Russian, but it sounds, to my overactive imagination anyway, that what she's saying is 'Be quiet, it's Popa', or 'Drop what you're doing and come watch, it's Popa', or perhaps even 'Oh my God! Look at Popa!'

I may be totally wide of the mark with my imaginary translation, but the point I'm trying to make is that whereas in 2012 she had appeared at the Ms International, in 2013 she did not. Whereas in 2012 she had done countless photo sets and video shoots, there have been precious few this year. She gave us less, but it amounted to more, and it made Alina's appearance at the Olympia an event.

We wondered if it was possible that Alina would be able to improve on the package she had brought to the 2011 and 2012 Olympias, but we also knew that she had gone high up into the Rockies to train with Mr Olympia Phil Heath at a gym run by Heather Policky's ex-husband. If there was anywhere where she could find that little extra, it would probably be there. And when showtime arrived, and Alina took to the stage, and we saw the results, we were not disappointed. It had been worth the wait.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying for a moment that Alina's ascent to the top of the female bodybuilding tree happened overnight. Her glorious physique is quite obviously the result of many many years of relentless dedication and effort. She has been the fans' favourite for some time now, and anyone else who's seen the Muscle Angels clip where Annie Riveccio has to lie down after worshipping Alina's pre-contest body won't be in any doubt that she's been admired by her fellow female bodybuilders for some time too. It's just that this year she's gone to another level.

Check out Georgina McConnell's Instagram, for example. There are lots of pictures of Georgina, her meals, and other amusing stuff. And then there's Popa. OK, there's also Debi Laszewski, Tina Chandler and so on. But there's only a pic or two of them, while there's lots and lots of Popa. Check out other FBBs' Instagrams, Facebooks. Witness how many images of Alina they post as inspiration. You'll find Georgina's is typical. Tarna Alderman (an FMS Woman of the Year in 2012) cited Alina's influence when she tweeted her decision to stay with bodybuilding in October: @ALINAPOPA1 shows it can be feminine! I've been a big fan of Alina since I got into bbing, [she's] literally the only reason I've stayed with bbing, very inspiring. Check out other FBBs' Twitters for references to Alina's inspiration. You'll find them.

This is what we were getting at when FMS wrote, back in November in our Ms Olympia review, that Alina is now 'the leading female bodybuilder in the world'. She may not be wearing the crown yet, but for the fans, and, more importantly I think, for her peers, she is the de facto Queen of the sport.

Your Women of the Year? Same? Different?
Comment or email


  1. Great post! I hope the lack of FBB competitions this year won't dissuade these awesome women from getting as big as they can. Here's to another great year of Female Bodybuilding! Cheers!

  2. I could not agree more about Alina, Shannon and Suzy, they are breathtaking. Suzy's videos for fitvids were indeed very hot. I have not seen a lot of videos from fitvids but every one I saw was a blast.
    2013 was also the year I discovered the great Virginia Sanchez Macias!