The televisual phenomenon that is The Great British Bake Off returned to UK screens this time last week, its ratings higher than ever. Now I've never been the biggest fan of the show, but for once, I was glued to it. All because of Ugne Bubnaityte.
For non-UK readers, I should probably explain. It's a baking competition. On TV. Actually, it's not as bad as it sounds, but like I said, I'm not the biggest fan. Anyway, since its inception a few years back, it's become one of the most popular shows on British TV. Even if you don't watch it, you can't help but be aware of it. People talk about it. The contestants become, for a while, part of the national consciousness.
And this year, one of the contestants is a female bodybuilder. Ugne Bubnaityte is originally from Lithuania, and now lives in Essex. And she got more than her fair share of the (considerable) press the show generates before the first episode airs.
All the national newspapers ran pieces on the show on or before last Wednesday. The Great British Bake Off has yet to start, said The Independent, but one of its contestants is already causing quite a stir. And they were just one of (at least) three nationals that featured the lovely Ugne as their "Bake Off" story. Given there are twelve contestants in total (now eleven after last week's elimination) that seems a pretty impressive percentage of column inches already. And that was before the show had even started.
Fair to say then that there must be something about Ugne. Could it be the muscle? Meet the Bake Off contestant WITHOUT a soggy bottom, ran the headline in the (female muscle lovin') Daily Mail, who went on to inform us that Ugne is carving herself a career as a body builder (their space) and describes herself as a 'fitness fanatic'.
As usual, the term "bodybuilder" as used by the mainstream media has a somewhat looser interpretation than you or I might give it. The Mail even claims she is a "professional bodybuilder", which was news to me, and, it turns out, to Ugne too. I really did not expect my training regime would turn me into a 'pro bodybuilder' with a bodybuilding career overnight. Having not put a foot on stage yet... got to laugh that one off, she told her blog followers the day the piece in The Mail appeared.
And there were her muscles again, front and centre (albeit for a blink-and-you-miss-it fraction of a second) as she was introduced to the viewers as the new season of Bake Off began last Wednesday evening. And as I watched (and thought to myself 'I hope there's more gym footage than that') I couldn't help wondering how Ugne mid shoulder press was being received by the millions in their living rooms up and down the country.
Well, as far as I can tell, she's become a bit of a sex symbol. One Welsh viewer and female muscle fan (not so closet) has even caused his own little media storm after the lurve poem he wrote to (and titled) Ugne and posted on his Facebook page went viral.
My Lithuanian love,
My weightlifting dove,
My Amazonian queen,
My cake baking dream,
Let us imagine our life,
Together you and I,
Going to the gym in the day,
Then home for cake and pie...
Read on if you dare.
So, what do we have so far? A woman who lifts and loves baking. Her successful application to the biggest TV show in Britain, and the resulting media interest based solely on the fact that she is a muscular woman. Her first appearance on said show setting male and female hearts a flutter all over the land. And Episode 2 is just hours away. I'll be watching and rooting for Ugne (and hoping she has to really knead some dough with those arms of hers this week). And I imagine I won't be alone.
Top capping from Bake Off Episode 1 (the last three images) courtesy of UK female muscle bloggin' legend and creator of the FMS Hot and Hard 100 2015 pdf, the much-admired PumpItUp. Apparently, his talents know no bounds.