In the 1970s, before Joe Weider created the Ms Olympia contest, there were the NABBA girls, who were featured on non-Weider bodybuilding magazine covers and seen in NABBA contest reports. Standing out, was Jamaican Sandra Kong, who won the 1978 NABBA Universe, as well as Bridget Gibbons, winner of both the 1977 NABBA Ms Britain and Universe, along with the 1978 NABBA Ms Britain. In a matter of years, the femininity and natural beauty Kong and Gibbons represented would be eclipsed by a more competitive, hormonally augmented display of muscle, veins, and paper-thin skin.
The following video clip from Mark Anders’ Rich Piana Mini Documentary, created before the Ms Olympia was relaunched in 2020, discusses how, not intentionally but, for all intents and purposes, Rachel McLish was the feminine trojan horse which helped usher in heavily masculinized women into bodybuilding.
Whereas women like Kong and Gibbons fell more naturally into their NABBA titles because their end products weren’t too far from their original shapes, the IFBB Ms Olympia, after a Rachel beginning, turned, in a matter of years, into a competition of mini men, with plastic crammed under their stretched pec skin as a perfunctory visual reminder that the Ms Olympia was, after all, about women.
If, anatomically speaking, Kong and Gibbons represented something close to the female ideal in the 1970s, professional female bodybuilding became an activity geared towards becoming the opposite of that female ideal, under the pretense of competing towards an anatomical zenith for women.
Is it, the competition factor, that is at the root of change for change’s sake in women’s bodybuilding and, for that matter, current men’s bodybuilding? Take, for example, these shots of Alyssa Loughran taken around 2015. Genetically, she’s something a pinup artist would conjure, but would judges, coaches, and other experts inform her that, in order to advance in competitions, to take things to the next level, she needed bigger caps on her delts, to be more shredded, more vascular, have surgery, take male hormones and other drugs, to have her awkwardly shove her arms out to display flaring lats, etc… in other words, ignore her genetic gifts in order to have her conform to an inferior mold?
Sandra, Bridget, and Alyssa were, and are, genetic elites but the trendy excesses of change for change’s sake, wrought by competitions which demand drama, supplanted nonconformist genetic elites with a sort of elite, of non-elites, who comply to all the demands compelled by their judges, coaches, and others proclaiming expertise.