One new entry, one re-entry. Our top Brit, and our ex-Muscle Queen. A new pro, a Bodybuilder who won her pro card 10 years ago, and another who was competing in the year 2000. An amateur and a pro from Figure, and a former catwalk model.
Oh, and a Monstar, but fear not, only a lil' one.
It's our penultimate 10.
The 2018 FMS HOT AND HARD 100
MARGIE MARTIN (#8)
2 x Ms Rising Phoenix
Other big Bodybuilder names might have fallen far down the list or disappeared altogether, but our 2015 and 2016 Ms Rising Phoenix remains in the top 20 after a year of "pure sexiness" on her Instagram. I can't find any words to describe her, said one very helpful voter. How about this one (which Margie has now adopted)? "Marvelous"; or this (from another voter who had Margie in his top 10)? "Legend".
She certainly hasn't stopped training her epic champion body - more than enough to have had forum posters eagerly anticipating "the comeback". And on top of that, if anything, Margie's become even bolder about showing it off - perhaps the result of some new "enhancements" and/or the excitement of having a new man in her life. Perhaps she's just getting older and bolder. Whatever the reason, we like it, and as long as her lucky new fella doesn't curb her sweaty mid-workout exhibitionism, I'm totally fine with him getting as much of what we all would like to have as he can handle.
And kudos to Margie for her taste. She mourns Chris Cornell and Bill Murray, and wishes "my favourite bodybuilder" Juanita Blaino would rise again. And she also bigs up a lot of big women. Kristina Nicole Mendoza is a "beast", Robin "Triple Dee" Hillis is "a fricking awesome true Amazon" and so on. And all the while she's working her magic on Brittney O'Veal. Compare Margie's post-retirement activities to say, Iris', and I needn't say more. She's both very hot and very cool. A legend indeed.
DANI REARDON (#13)
Lil' (Vegan) Monstar
Despite some confident predictions that her demise was imminent (mid-2017 I got quite upset with one forum poster who mouthed off such nonsense, but I'm over it now - kind of), Dani retains her place in your Hot and Hard 100 top 20. A real treat for the eyes, says one Dani voter. Every time I think I've seen the best ever photo of her, one in which she looks even more gorgeous, even more perfect comes along.
We're never short of Dani content to search for those more perfect images, even if she has competed less and less in the last year or so. Her social media and YouTube remain as busy as ever, and recently we learned of her decision to become vegan - cue more nonsense on the forums - and, less happily, to pull out of the 2018 Arnolds.
One show a year (I would guess the Olympia) is not ideal - watching Dani prep for last year's Olympia was such a treat it makes me greedy to see her do three, four shows in a season again. Review her chest and arms workout just a short time before she took her new hair onto the 2017 Olympia stage and I bet that you'll be wondering what all those doom-mongers were on about. Review her glammed and tanned and taking that new hair on stage and you might well find yourself wondering how she didn't win.
SHANNON RABON (#17)
After busting back into our collective consciousness (those of us advanced in years enough to remember her first time around anyway) in 2016, and thereafter zooming straight into the Hot and Hard 100 at #17, Shannon - although she hasn't competed again since her Physique comeback two years ago - stays firmy in the top 20. She is, and always was, amazing, according to one (obviously mature) voter. Love how she wears her size, says another, probably somewhat younger, Shannon fan. Came across her massive mounds of female muscle this year (told you) - incredible woman!
Work with some of the schmotography sites as well as her (essential follow) Instagram have kept us drooling throughout the year. Somewhat worryingly she started to describe herself as a "massage therapist", which is all very well and good, but didn't inspire confidence that she'd compete again. Recent photos, however, show those "massive mounds of female muscle" emerging as she gets shredded for... I don't know. But whatever contest it is, we'll be watching, so the judges better do the right thing!
Not a lot of Shannon clips freely available, unfortunately. About the best YouTube can offer is an initially promising but ultimately ordinary Fit Over 40 edit. So, let me help.
KELSEY HAAS (#50)
NPC Figure Competitor
I could count the number of times I've looked at images of your #17 and haven't thought, "Figure?! Really, this is getting ridiculous..." Actually, no, that's a lie. I couldn't count them because there haven't been any. Every time I see Kelsey I think it's like a bad joke that she's still a Figure competitor. Nothing wrong with Figure, nothing at all, but when is someone going to tell her that it's just never going to happen until she gets on a stage and flexes like she flexes the rest of the time? Physique, Kelsey! Physique!!!
Joking aside, although I'm not (truth be told) actually joking, a 4th in her (tallest of the tall) class at the Nationals did represent her biggest competitive achievement to date, but it's not, I would imagine, Kelsey's turns in heels that get her so many votes but those "impressive" shoulders, those "beefy" biceps, those forearms with "so much detail"... and that face. "Muscleopatra" one forum wag has dubbed her. He's bang on.
She's 5'11" you know. Imagine such a frame with muscle let loose all over it. Perhaps even Physique might not be able to accommodate Kelsey! I'm getting ahead of myself though. But on January 20th I did read this on the forum whose first rule is... She is moving from Figure to Physique. There was a note on her Insta. Hurrah! But then, January 21st... Not entirely sure now, the note's no longer there. Damn!
DIANA SCHNAIDT (#11)
IFBB Physique Pro
And the other day I gave the impression that Joanna Romano was a hard worker! Diana takes Joanna's 5 Physique contests in a season and raises her. By two!!! Seven contests really is above and beyond the call of duty, and, as has been pointed out elsewhere, each time Diana "gets so damn ripped it's amazing". From the Arnolds to New York via Florida. From Dallas to Chicago then back to Florida for the Tampa Pro before ending the season in San Antonio. (The many) fans of Diana, aka "just about the most beautiful woman in Bodybuilding" got treat after treat after treat in 2017.
Of course all of this was, like Joanna's travels, in aid of an Olympia qualification which never happened. Nor is it something that top doctors recommend, and indeed it did leave Diana feeling (and looking) a tad unhealthier than usual by season's end. Still, she can look back at runner's-up prizes from Dallas and Chicago - by far her best pro results (including those from her Figure days) - and feel that perhaps this year she might not have to zigzag across the USA quite so much before she finally nails the dream ticket.
She's already been back on the competitive horse. Unplaced at the Arnold probably not the start to 2018 she was hoping for, but "damn ripped" she was, and as her Instagram followers will confirm, she's not letting up on the training one bit. Apart from everything else that Diana's got going for her, you have got to love her (some would say) insane, medical-advice-be-damned level of commitment. I know I do.
DONNA MURPHY RE-ENTRY
2017 UKBFF British Physique Champion
Going from one division to another is a big jump, said Donna Murphy earlier in the year. I mean, some of the Physique girls are incredible. Kelsey Haas take note - Donna comes back into the Hot and Hard 100 for the first time since 2016 as top Brit, and as the reigning UK Physique champion. In short, as one of those "incredible" women she talked about earlier in the year. Or, as one voter put it, Donna is back, and she's back this time "transformed into a straight up Goddess of Feminine Muscle".
Honestly, it would have been an enormous let-down if she hadn't won, but even the UKBFF couldn't f*** this one up. With the help of Mr. and Mrs. Corinne Ingman plus the support of British IFBB pro Carly Thornton, Donna has achieved, to borrow a phrase from Paige Sandgren, "a package the judges can't deny". Endearingly, it seems like the only person who wasn't anticipating the win was Ms Murphy herself.
After the win, the female muscle lovin' world couldn't get enough of this "strikingly beautiful and beautifully built" woman. But unfortunately it seems some of us were a bit too forward in the clamour for more. The upshot is you will have to request your follow with Donna now. Well done us. We should all watch Rebecca Andrews' loving portrait of Donna, filmed before she even competed in her first (regional) Physique show, to remind ourselves of that beautiful body and her intriguing thought processes, as well as the fact that we really must learn to behave ourselves better in future.
BAKHAR NABIEVA (#43)
Consider what it must be like to be "loved", "worshipped" by a following equivalent to the population of major European city. Can't be bad for the self-confidence, can it? Not to mention the financial perks. Her business is that body. And business is good.
During his brief stint as FMS editor, C. Moore Glootz wrote a lengthy, candid, and frankly XXX love letter to Bakhar last December - the above extract one of the (few) passages that we're willing to repost. And it seems - if her promotion of nearly 30 places up the Hot and Hard 100 is anything to go by - more than a few more voters than last year are, like C. Moore, "starting their day" with Bakhar on a regular basis.
Whatever she does to build "such unique and unmistable legs and glutes", it's working for her. Now with a scarcely credible Instagram following of 1.6m (more than most of the rest of the women in the entire Hot and Hard 100 put together). Rumours that she can smile and does train other parts of her body are, as yet, unconfirmed.
LAUREN QUINN NEW ENTRY
2017 NPC Jr. Nationals Overall Physique Champion
We are pleasantly surprised to see that our second highest new entry this year (yes, there's an even higher one) is one of the few women who we have devoted an entire week with on FMS praising. Lauren doesn't always seem to be especially appreciative of male admiration, which - and I guess I would (being an appreciative male) say this - I think is a shame, because she gets plenty of the typical "look like a man" hate via social media, so you'd hope, as long as we don't overdo it, that our support would be a positive force for her, and clearly there are many FMS readers who feel the same.
Lauren had looked like a natural born pro for quite a few years, and in 2017 she delivered on that promise, dominating Physique at the Jr. Nationals - (re)watch the backstage footage and (with respect) she seems a class apart before the contest had begun, and though she never takes herself too seriously (one of our Lauren posts focused solely on her endearingly silly sense of humour), I reckon she knew it.
She almost immediately put her pro card to use and felt the raw heat of Physique at the highest level - looked sensational, placed nowhere. Nevertheless, the woman who is often (really, it might be the same person but you see it all over the forum threads devoted to her) called "the supermodel of female muscle" will be back, even bigger and even better, and getting all the (hopefully respectful) male admiration she merits.
ISABELLE TURELL (#27)
A stars and stripes bikini. She leans slowly back into the sofa she's on, casually accentuating her abs, and then equally casually she hooks a thumb into her bikini bottoms to reveal yet more of the cuts and veins that lie below her navel. She pauses, as though contemplating her next move, which turns out to be raising her left leg, all the way up. Muscles twitch and pop in her hamstrings and calves. She grabs her raised ankle and pulls back - more twitching and popping - and then slowly pulls her leg out so she's doing a half-splits before crossing it back over to reveal her rippling left glute. Both legs in the air, and she pulls them apart. A full splits, the bulge in those bikini bottoms suddenly so prominent... I'd salute that flag as often and as hard as I could, writes one forum wag. Just another Instagram post by Isabelle Turell.
I don't think we've seen the best of her in 2017, wrote one voter (who anyway had Isabelle in his top 10), and I think he's probably right. Having said that though, not-the-best of Isabelle is still better than most because, as our voter adds, She is one of the most striking women out there. Besides, there are very few who enjoy showing off quite as much as she seems to, and that's always a winner with the community.
Isabelle was absent from the Hot and Hard 100 for its first two years, debuted at #33 in 2016, rose to #27 last year, and now we find her getting even more votes (in fact, this year she got more votes than she had in the previous two combined). As long as she keeps doing what she does, I wouldn't bet against her doing even better next year.
SANDRA GRAJALES ROMERO (#29)
2017 IFBB Governor's Cup Figure Champion
And we end today with another, very different looking, woman on the up. One of the features of this year's list is the increasing number of women from the Figure division. At #11, Sandra is higher than all bar one, up a full 18 places on her 2017 position.
Last year saw Sandra continue her rise up the Figure tree as well and she secured her 2nd pro win at the Governor's Cup in California. She looked, according to one voter, "simply extraordinary" doing so, and afterwards she went on, after coming 14th on her 2016 debut, to gain a place in the top 10 at the Olympia for the very first time.
Sexy without being overtly sexual, her appeal lies, according to another Sandra fanatic, in the fact that she's "just so pretty" and has "built an astonishing set of muscles - the show muscles like the biceps and quads, but also the muscles that are often ignored - the triceps, the rear delts and so on. She's the complete Figure package".
Sweating? Breathless? Not sure where you are or what your name is?
You and me both.
We reveal your 2018 Top 10 on SUNDAY.