And so, into the top 50 we go...
THE FMS HOT AND HARD 100
YEON WOO-JHI #64
IFBB Physique Pro
I almost lost my mind focusing on her incredible beauty. I am not even kidding.
Joanna Romano has Hevumisa. Yeon Woo-jhi has femcepsfan. Three tribute edits done and uploaded to his YouTube channel so far, the making of the third described above.
And outside the world of female muscle fandom the slow and steady rise of South Korea's #1 muscle woman has continued. TV appearances, her face and body all over the (mainstream) internet - "This sweet-faced Korean woman has the perfect body every guy wants" (you mean they are attracted to her body? or they want their body to be so muscular?); "Woman with the face of an angel stuns netizens with her sinfully sexy body" etc. etc.
2015 saw her compete as a pro for the first time - 5th at the Vancouver Pro - and her recent lowly placing at the Arnold Classic had her champion (femcepsfan) raving at the injustice of it all. He should consider how many other Asian women have come as far as she has. And she only turned 32 last week. Time is on her side. The slow and steady rise of Yeon Woo-jhi continues.
SANDRA GRAJALES ROMERO NEW ENTRY
2015 IFBB North American Overall Figure Champion
When the votes started coming in for this year's Hot and Hard 100 it quickly became apparent that the big new entry on the list from the new generation of young IFBB Figure athletes was not going to be - as I had expected - Shanique Grant, but the North American Champion from Mexico, Sandra Grajales Romero.
I'd better do some research, I thought. I knew of her from the forum boards - after her North Americans win she was all over them - but I didn't know anything about her.
What I found was a young woman - just 23 - whose rise (and growth) has been nothing short of meteoric. As recently as 2014 she was taking Junior Bikini titles at national and international level, and it has taken her just over a year to go from competing in her first Figure competition to her first Pro Figure competition, the recent Miami Muscle Beach Pro. She finished 3rd in a field of 17 women.
Our friend femcepsfan isn't immune to her charms either, featuring her on his channel between Yeon Woo-jhi tributes. Check out Sandra smashing her delts - the moaning of the title starts after about 30 seconds.
GRACYANNE BARBOSA #69
While other "Fitness Muses" (Musa Fitnesses?) have come and gone from the Hot and Hard 100, Gracyanne just keeps climbing. So perhaps we really should give her the title she claims for herself on her website, "Maior Musa Fitness do Brasil".
Also on her website you can see such titilatingly titled clips as De microshort, Gracyanne Barbosa exibe gingado durante aula de dança (In microshorts, Gracyanne reveals ginger as she dances?) and Linda e glamourosa! Gracyanne Barbosa arrasa em casamento de médico (Beautiful and glamorous! Gracyanne sends men to the doctor's house?). Well, that's how they translate in my head anyway!
Perhaps her lasting appeal for FMS readers (and her three million plus Instagram followers) is her continuing dedication to muscle building. Or at least building certain muscles. FMS contacted Gracyanne's people to ask for a typical training schedule, and to our delight they obliged. Day 1: Glutes. Day 2: Glutes & Hamstrings. Day 3: Thighs & Glutes. Day 4: Glutes. Day 5: Glutes & Thighs. Day 6: Glutes. Day 7: Dance (to show off glutes).
Apparently, her husband was in the Brazilian media recently "defending" his wife's body - from what exactly is not clear to me. Hard job, but I guess someone has to do it.
JULIE GERMAINE (BONNETT) #37
WBFF Pro Fitness Model
And here's another of the "less-than-bodybuilder-muscular" women who are appearing for the third year running on our list. Name change alert though, Julie Bonnett is no more - YouTube channel and new website for Julie Germaine.
However, it doesn't sound like this is one of those happy circumstances (marriage, for example) name changes. Following her second consecutive WBFF Fitness World Pro title in 2014, Julie says "my fairytale life had actually become a nightmare". It seems that's all the information we can expect, because I cannot share my story, she says, because I am pursuing legal action regarding this matter.
Sounds heavy. Sounds sad. And Julie was dealt another blow before this year's WBFF Worlds when her best friend tragically passed away. As has happened before during difficult times in her life, Julie credits her lifestyle as her saving grace. My dedication to fitness was a life-saver, she says. My intense daily workout routine was exactly what I needed to keep myself together. And, in the best tradition of all champions, she decided to defend her title despite the circumstances. I took the stage together with over 75 of the most inspiring and fit women from all over the globe, and earned 8th in the World. Still the top fitness model in Canada! But whatever it is she can't talk about, it's ramifications continued long after her WBFF Worlds appearance. Slowly, she is rebuilding. The new website one of the "small steps" towards rebuilding her life.
Nice of FMS readers to have sent a great big virtual hug with their votes!
TINA NGUYEN #33
IFBB Figure Pro
The thing is, and please, forgive me if you feel I am being disrespectful and all, but as a dude, as a red-blooded dude of the female muscle admiring variety, I mean, I read the stuff she writes and all, and yes, in a sense I really do genuinely admire her, an immigrant to her adopted country making such a splash in her industry etc. etc. But then I also, let's say "admire" her in a way that is, well, somewhat more male and generally ends with me swooning all over the place and making a noise that coincidentally sounds a lot like the first two letters of Tina's surname - NG!!! (FMS, 19/07/15)
Sometimes I probably share just a little bit more than you care to know. Probably a LOT more than the majority of the women I write about care to know. But when it comes to Tina, I can at least console myself that I'm not the only one - male or female - who is getting carried away.
On her Instagram, female fans gush about her body - the "lil cuts" on her lower abs, "I want your calves" - and tell her she is "perfection", "beautiful", "my dream goal". Fellow Figure competitors are equally effusive. I can't wait to meet you, what's your competition schedule? asks Christine Woodward, whose own plans are pending Tina's response. Caroline Aspenskog dispenses with words altogether and just sends Tina between five and ten love heart emojis for each of her posts. Valerie Garcia Giovanoli - a Physique competitor - has said she "would trade bodies with her in a heartbeat". I could go on. Suffice to say if the ladies were voting here, I get the impression Tina would be hard to keep out of the top 1.
She was 2nd in her first ever pro show in Dallas this year. Surely a first title and the Olympia stage is only a matter of time. And then there was that photo shoot with Larissa Reis and Ana Cozar...
SHAWNA STRONG #85
IFBB Pro Bodybuilder
She describes herself not only as a Bodybuilder, but also as a Writer-Model-Nerd. I'm inside a prism! Shawna told her Instagram followers recently. Oddly, she added, I bumped into this structure hours after I watched a video on tetrahedron structures & Quantum Physics. Once again I'm not sure such a thing as an average female bodybuilder exists, but if there is a type, Shawna is not it.
After taking a year off from competition after she'd won her pro card in 2013, Shawna returned to the stage last year at the Tampa Pro, and subsequently took her place at the Rising Phoenix via an invite.
At the time, FMS noted WoS had said that "The special invites are picked by Wings of Strength based on our evaluation of what the athlete could contribute to our show and to the future of the Women's Bodybuilding Division." And we reckoned the "endlessly exciting" Shawna fitted the bill perfectly. Nothing about her appearance there or anything of her we've seen since has changed our mind. An FMS Woman of the Year in 2013, and still very much a favourite of ours.
One gripe though. This Shawna preview from Virago Studios from April last year tells us to check out Shawna's new website. Page not found. Her Instagram advertises an Official Team Strong website. Page not found. Hmmm.
DANA LINN BAILEY #42
IFBB Physique Pro, "The World's Most Popular Muscle Woman"
The title of "Most Popular" is not one DLB has bestowed upon herself - not to my knowledge anyway - but rather one FMS bestowed as a result of our Head of Research's special investigation into the popularity of social media pages of various Fitness models, Brazilian bombas and so on. With 1.5m Facebook followers and rising (it's now well over 2m), she was the only woman above the muscularity of a Bikini competitor in the top 10. Hence, "The World's Most Popular Muscle Woman".
I've lost count of the number of pics I've seen of Dana gurning and flexing to camera while a crowd of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Expo attenders cheer and wave behind her. Whatever it is about Mrs Bailey that so many men and women respond to, she does as much as anyone to promote female strength and muscularity.
What's the secret of her success, of her appeal? I'm weird, I'm goofy, I wear baggy clothes and backwards hats and I look like a 12-year-old boy with a cute haircut, she says. That's who I am and I've never strayed away from that.
But at the same time, lest we forget, she is a top top IFBB Physique Pro. Although she hasn't competed since the 2015 Arnold Classic, she was only beaten there by Juliana Malacarne. In fact, Juliana is the only woman who has beaten her since Valerie Gangi did so in Tampa in 2013. If she does compete again this year, she will as always take some beating.
ROSANNA HARTE #98
2015 IFBB Amateur Olympia UK Physique Champion
You wait years for a British IFBB Women's Physique Pro to come along... Congratulations to Rosanna "Rosie Rascal" Harte, Britain's newest female pro since her overall win at the Amateur Olympia UK in Liverpool. Can't think of a more deserving recipient, or indeed one who has come so close so often in the past. (FMS, 14/11/15)
Carly Thornton, who had become Britain's first IFBB Physique Pro just a week before Rosie, had struggled in Bodyfitness for a good few years, but won her pro card almost immediately she had entered Physique. Rosie, on the other hand, had become UK champion in Bodybuilding the very year the Women's Physique Division was created. Once it had come along she seemed a perfect fit, but had always seemed to finish 2nd when representing the UK internationally when the pro card was on offer for the win. But not last year. Finally!
[She has the] profile, wrote one of our Rosie-voting readers, and a great attitude - what's not to like? We couldn't agree more and sincerely hope we made that clear to all FMS readers during our week of Rosie in November.
Can't wait to see her on the stage in a pro contest. Can't wait to see the kind of routine she puts together for it. Can't wait to see her finally getting the international recognition she merits.
ZOA LINSEY #82
IFBB Physique Pro
She's still taking those POV thigh shots, shots we dubbed "Zoas" (no matter who's taking them) on account of our belief that Zoa may have been the first to popularise this particular selfie niche!
And why wouldn't she? Whether as the Bodybuilder she has been before, or as the Physique competitor she is now, there aren't many who can match Zoa's contest ready definition and freakiness in the quad department.
It's easy to forget when you look at her (as it is with so many of the women on our list) but Zoa is well and truly into her mid-40s. Once again in 2015 she distinguished herself in competition - 10th in Atlantic City, 8th in the Open class at the Wings of Strength Texas Pro and 4th in the Masters.
And she's currently working towards the 2016 Toronto Pro. Lucky Toronto.
KIM JI-HYUN #50
2015 Musclemania Korea Muscle Champion
She was top Korean last year, and she's top Korean again. While Yeon Woo-jhi travels halfway across the world to compete, her compatriot Kim Ji-hyun stays at home and competes in shows with amazing production values and (for her) absolutely no competition at all.
It's not always easy to track down information about shows in Asia in a language I can remotely understand, even harder to track down footage of "Bad Ji-hyun" in action. When one of the brethren finds it, you can bet they share it. The kudos for this sort of thing is immense. And the shock value of seeing our heroine next to the rest of the best of Korean female muscle is equally immense.
Time, methinks, for her to take on bigger fish in bigger ponds. It needn't be the US, what about Australia? What about Asian Championships? What's stopping her? I wonder, because surely once she got started, there simply would be no stopping her.
To track down that footage start here and here. Can't promise those links all still work, but some of them might. Prepare to endure a few pop-ups to get to the footage, and prepare to be amazed - by the damn light show if nothing else!
I like this year's list a lot! Next installment tomorrow!