Last week, while compiling a set of posts about some of the UK's muscle goddesses perhaps less familiar to readers, an old post from way back in 2012 about a very familiar British female bodybuilder unexpectedly started to get hundreds of hits.
At the time I'd written Size Matters: Rene Campbell, she'd recently become the UKBFF British champion, and had appeared in two of the UK's best-selling newspapers. In The Sun, among other things, Rene was quoted as saying how much happier and more confident she was as a muscular woman, while an article in The Daily Mail claimed that her muscles were making it hard for her to find a man.
Since then, of course, Rene has been one of the last women to be crowned IFBB World champion, earned her pro card, and competed - in 2013 in Chicago and again this year in Omaha - in pro shows in the USA. And she's also appeared in the British media on numerous occasions, some of those appearances documented right here, most recently in Closer magazine at the end of last year soon after FMS had been approached by the author of the piece - see Rene Goes Public (FMS Stays Private).
Turns out that the source of these hits for the original 2012 Rene post was yet another example of the UK's mainstream media's fascination with Rene - and, it should be said, her continued willingness to be their subject. The short film, It's My Body of Armour: My Life As a Female Bodybuilder, appeared on the website of the (serious) UK newspaper The Guardian in their "Women's Lifestyle" section on October 21st.
Guardian readers were, it seems, not only curious enough about Rene to search for more on her after watching the film, but they were also, unlike readers of The Sun and all the other UK media sources Rene has appeared in before, turning up at FMS!
Much of the first part of the film covers familiar territory. "Bigorexia", lots of chicken etc. etc. But far from being bored, I was, initially, elated that Rene looked so damn good. Tanned, ripped, enjoying the sunshine in (as it turns out) Gran Canaria, posing with fans, supermarket shopping, posing in the gym, clothes shopping (sort of), posing in the dunes. I'm enjoying this, I feel a swoon coming on, and Rene's talking about preparing for big shows in North America. She must be talking about next year...
And then, as the sparkling waves fade to black after four minutes and twenty seconds, it dawns on me that she's not been talking about next year at all. "During the competition in the USA, Rene began to experience physical difficulties..."
The 10th (out of 11) place in Omaha, the subsequent no-show in Toronto, and the silence on her Twitter account since May all made sense now. Rene had spent a year preparing for the 2015 season, and it had barely started when she was told she needed to "get rid of those muscles" for the good of her health. And despite her lovely smile and bravado in the last couple of minutes of the film, the pain is there in her voice.
It's heart-breaking stuff.
I wish I could bring you some good news about Rene at this stage. I wish I could tell you that Rene hasn't, as she promises she won't in the film, stopped training. I wish I could tell you that Rene has resolved her health issues, or at least identified what exactly it was about her preparations last year that caused her body to react so violently. I wish I could tell you that having identified what it was that she has worked out how she can do things differently in the future and avoid such problems.
But, I'm afraid, I can't.
The only straw I can clutch at is that while her Twitter remains dormant, her Facebook page has had a few posts added since the end of August, although none of them give any clues about Rene's health now or her future as a pro female bodybuilder.
Rene is, without doubt, FMS readers' favourite British female bodybuilder, voted into the top 20 of our annual Hot and Hard 100 poll two years in a row. I'm sure I speak for all of them in hoping she's made a full recovery, and enjoys the very best possible health in future. And, most of all, I speak for all of them in hoping that she is once again able to continue to build the beautiful, strong and muscular body of her dreams.
Any news you may have about Rene's current situation will be gratefully received.