- The first bodybuilding competition called The Great Show came into fruition in the late 1800’s. This is after the ancient Greeks and Egyptians used lifting weights as a circus sideshow that had nothing to do with increasing one’s strength.
From there, bodybuilding grew into a large corporation. This of course, sparked the rise of the multi-billion dollar sports nutrition industry.
Even as bodybuilding for sport and competition has become increasingly popular among men, professional female bodybuilders are often talked down upon. Women in the industry have received many insults, both to their faces and behind their backs.
They’re often stared at and mocked while being told they look manly and unattractive. Today, we’re celebrating the accomplishments of some of the women who found success and empowerment in bodybuilding.
So, continue reading for some serious fitspiration!
Iconic Professional Female Bodybuilders
When it comes to praising the greatest bodybuilders, people usually shift their focus to the men. From Arnold Schwarzenegger to Dexter Jackson, there are plenty of men who deserve their legendary titles.
But that doesn’t mean the women in the industry should be overlooked. So, we’re shifting our focus today to tell you about 10 of the most iconic female bodybuilders of all time.
Gladys Portugues, also known as “The Tigress” is a Manhattan-born bodybuilder, author, fitness model, and actress. When she was a 20-year-old attending Marymount Manhattan College as an English Major, she watched Rachel McLish win the Ms. Olympia title, which jumpstarted her own interest in bodybuilding.
Starting her career as a bodybuilder and fitness model, Portugues graced the covers of many fitness and bodybuilding magazines. They include:
- Muscle & Fitness
- Strength Training for Beauty
- Muscle Training
Portugues also won several bodybuilding competitions and even ranked in the top 10 for the Ms. Olympia title twice.
She is currently married to action star, Jean-Claude Van Damme with whom she shares two children.
No list of female bodybuilders is complete without Chyna, the “Ninth Wonder of the World.” In 1997, her claim to fame came with her entrance into the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) where she won the WWF Intercontinental Championship title two times as well as the WWF Women’s Championship.
While she participated in a predominately male sport, Chyna she proved to millions of young girls and women that they can be just as strong and athletic as men. In fact, she was the first woman to fight in the King of the Ring and Royal Rumble.
Outside of the ring, Chyna made over a dozen television and film appearances including roles in:
- 3rd Rock from the Sun
- Chyna Fitness: More Than Meets the Eye
- Mad TV
- The Martin Short Show
- Illegal Aliens
- The Anna Nicole Show
- Cougar Club
- Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
- Fear Factor
Her image is even depicted in several video games and her autobiography, If They Only Knew was a New York Times bestseller. Chyna was a pioneer among female wrestlers and is still honored posthumously.
3. Cory Everson
There isn’t much that Corinna “Cory” Everson hasn’t accomplished. She is a bodybuilder who has authored 6 books and acted in several television shows and movies.
In 2005, she was inducted into the Muscle Beach Venice Bodybuilding Hall of Fame. But that didn’t come before winning first place in the IFBB Ms. Olympia 5 years in a row between 1985 and 1989.
As well as coming first in many other competitions, such as Bodybuilding Expo IV, Miss East Coast, IFBB North American Mixed Parts, and U.S. Bodybuilding Championships Couples.
At 60 years old, Everson is a wife and mother of two and is still in impressive shape.
4. Dayana Cadeau
Dayana Cadeau is a Canadian bodybuilder who won both the Women’s Open Olympia and Arnold Classic in 2011. But she is known widely for being a serial winner for a vast number of awards, including:
- The IFBB Quebec Provincial
- The IFBB Ms. Olympia
- The IFBB Jan Tana Classic
The above mentioned are just three of the over 20 titles that Ms. Cadeau won throughout her career. While she doesn’t plan to return to competitive bodybuilding, she enjoys a low-key life of reading, practicing yoga, and watching movies.
5. Iris Kyle
Although she’d been an athlete her entire life, by running cross country, playing basketball, and softball, Iris Kyle credits one particular event that inspired her fitness journey. A move to Orange County, California in 1994, prompted her to purchase her first gym membership in order to build a fit and toned body similar to those she saw on the street.
After attending the gym for a while, she became a member of the staff who gushed over the images she saw in fitness magazines like Iron Man, FLEX, and Muscle and Fitness. But it was a photo of Lenda Murray that Kyle posted on her fridge that took her training and bodybuilding to the next level.
And throughout her career, she has become arguably the most successful female bodybuilder of all time. She come in first in the IFBB Ms. Olympia competition 10 years in a row and holds 7 Ms. International wins.
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Professional female bodybuilders don’t get the credit they deserve for the hard work they put into their bodies. They are a rare breed that constantly makes sacrifices to look and feel their absolute best.
You don’t have to be as accomplished as the women on our list to dress the part. Check out our shop for inspirational fitness wear to keep and show off your beautiful physique today.