Female Bodybuilding. Yes, Female
Female Bodybuilding. Yes, Female.
Female bodybuilding. The words themselves evoke a host of opinions and emotional out cries that could competently be on par with the subject of those evil decrepit substances known as steroids. oooh Steroids! What is it about the female end of our sport that has led to such disagreeing and disputing claims? Is the pursuit of this sport, is the pursuit of the prize not indeed the same rigorous endeavor the male counterparts strive and struggle to achieve?
Many would point out that woman were not predestined to ever carry this kind of muscle on such dainty frames. But the criticism does not stop there, not hardly. Critics and naysayers alike make outrageous accusations that what these women have achieved is not only “unnatural” but also a direct slap in the face of pure wholesome feminine beauty. Many of these same individuals are in fact supporters of bodybuilding, as long as it’s a man standing on stage; a bit hypocritical if you ask me. After all, and yes it has been said before, is there really anything natural about bodybuilding in the first place, regardless of sex? Does any man or woman “naturally” achieve a level of supreme muscular development by simply adhering to what is natural? To clarify, no, I am not referring to the advent of drug enhancement. By natural it is meant to convey the simple state of the human body and it’s “natural” tendency and inclination to remain in a stagnant comfortable state.
The critics of female bodybuilding do not stop there, there distaste for the sport does not end with the cry of “please baby, don’t grow any muscle.” These critics use their opinion and it’s in fact just that, an “opinion”, to degrade these women to a level that would make the most cynical human being cringe. They stand on their soapbox making outrageous claims, screaming obscenities at these women all in the name of a justified and righteous supposition. Claims and accusations are made, that in fact these very women have indeed turned themselves into men. That they have turned there backs exhaustively on their natural alluring female form and traded in their beauty for a muscle bound physique that is covered in body hair and presents itself with a voice that would give Isaac Hayes a run for his money. It’s not enough for them to simply hold these assumptions, not even close. It would seem every last one of them is hell bent on voicing these allegations perched on a mountain top, as if God himself had sent them on a crusade to eradicate female bodybuilding. Is this right? Is the critic justified in the manner in which he voices his assumption? I’d imagine we all know what they say about “assuming.”
For the sake of argument, lets say he’s hit the nail square on the head. Lets say his assessments have been such a revelation that his war against female bodybuilding is in deed a righteous cause. So much so, he should be praised and adorned for the enlightenment, in which he has bestowed upon us all. Could this conceivably be a good thing? Can opposing opinions ever be taken as worthwhile when they are presented in such a manner of abhorrence and loathing, that the manner in which they are brought forth would make Satan himself blush with embarrassment? This does create a problem for the opposing crowd. Rarely does change occur when the roots of its opposition is stooped in hate mongering speech. Yet the credibility of the female bodybuilding critic gets much worse, particularly when it comes to fruition that their claims are based on misguided half truths, as well as outright lies.
Where then in lays the truth? Although apparent, the manner in which the critic voices his opinion is harsh and without class. In certain cases it may be true, some women who take part in bodybuilding may have indeed pushed things a bit too far. This is however no different then their male counterparts. Further, even if a very small portion of its population has in deed gone “too far” it would still in no way justify brutal, incessant behavior.
The undeniable truth remains, many women who take part in this sport have in fact built phenomenal physiques, worthy of admiration. All the while maintaining and in some cases, improving on a look that is unquestionably very feminine.
I recently caught up with up and coming bodybuilding super star Melissa Dettwiller, and I can think of no other person who would be more qualified to shed some light on the subject. For any bodybuilding fan, there is no way on this earth you could be a fan and not know who this woman is. Although at this state, she is not yet a pro, but her impact and influence on the sport of female bodybuilding has already surpassed many of today’s top athletes. And oh yes, for the few of you reading this who don’t know who she is, I can assure you, although bodybuilder by profession, this bodybuilder is 100% all woman.
JE: Hey Melissa, I really appreciate you taking the time to give our readers some insight into the realm of woman's bodybuilding
MD: HI Justin! Thank you for inviting me!! It's good to see you!
JE: How did you first get into bodybuilding? Have you always had a desire to compete or was this something that slowly developed over time?
MD: I started tinkering with weights when I was around 17. I joined a gym where my now husband Danny worked as a trainer, but I wasn’t really all that serious about working out. Danny told me I had incredible genetics, he has an eye for these things, and he thought I could really stand out on stage if I put my mind to it. I suppose that was around 2003. Well, I took his advice, hit it hard, competed in my first show in Nov. of 2004, and the rest is history!
JE: So competing was never a thought until Danny commented on your potential? Did it take a lot of prodding from him or did you jump right in from the get go?
MD: No, not really, it never crossed my mind, but when he mentioned it...I looked around and took notice to the other girls that were entering shows and said to myself "I can do this". Before all of all this, I'd seen pictures of Debbie Kruck (she is FLAWLESS!!!) in magazines when I was a little younger, and an MSNBC program featuring Colette Nelson and I was in awe that someone could be so muscular, and drop dead gorgeous at the same time. I reminded myself of that very program and all those magazine pics and it was on! (Big Smile)
JE: What is it about bodybuilding that has kept your drive to be successful alive for so long now?
MD: Basically, I just love the way it makes me feel. I feel sexy when I am in shape. I feel healthy and energized all the time, and I love having people approach me in various places asking for advice, asking what they can do to become a more healthy/in shape person. I am very approachable, and love to help people. It's not really a chore for me at all to keep my drive going. For me it's more like a privilege.
JE: Hey, it’s a privilege for your fans too. You obviously have quite a few of them who enjoy your success as well.
*MD: Awwww, well thank you! I appreciate all my fans so much. It really feels good when you know you have supporters and people who are counting on you for help with their goals etc. Like I said, it just makes me feel good!
JE: As you're well aware, many female bodybuilders take a lot of heat and criticism from the general public. Many even take some of this from some of the "supposed" fans of the sport. Is any of this negative criticism justified in any way?
MD: I think people lash out at others because of insecurities they have about themselves. I feel if a person is secure and content with themselves, then they wouldn't feel it necessary to criticize others in an attempt to make themselves feel better in comparison. I find that when I do hear criticism, whether from a male or female...that individual is more often than not in terrible shape or for whatever reason doesn't command the attention we do. A lot of it's done out of some form of jealousy too, in one way or another. It takes a very unhappy and insecure person to lash out needlessly at someone...unhappy with some part of their lives whether it be their appearance, financial trouble, whatever.....truly secure and happy people never lash out at anyone for anything really....it never crosses their minds. Why is that? There is definitely a pattern
JE: In your opinion, what is the biggest reason for this negativity? Is it a simple lack of understanding and education that leads these individuals to be so harsh?
MD: Insecure people do not like seeing others attain what they cannot. It fuels them with rage and despair. Whether it be a world-class physique, financial stability, fame ...whatever. It's actually quite pitiful. They become obsessed with bashing people, and saying negative things about them...yet they continue to be owned by the very people they criticize the most. JE: How so?
MD: How? Because they absolutely cannot stop talking about them. They are constantly thinking about someone they do not like, (laughs). Who has power over whom? They are the property of the very people they ridicule. In my opinion they have to be suffering some form of deficiency, (laughs)....think about it: Every time there’s a baseless attack on someone whether it be in the newspaper, message boards, wherever, it's also an advertisement of the very person they despise to countless adoring fans. The bashers practically work for the bash-ees. What's that internet tough guy, keyboard cowboy term....."owned"? WHO REALLY OWNS WHO? (winks)
JE: Internet tough guy, owning? Let me guess, you’ve run across some of these powerful warriors a time or two?
MD: Yeah, (laughs)....they litter the internet, unfortunately. But thank God for 'em....they unknowingly do most of my advertising for me, (Laughs)
JE: How does this negativity affect you as a bodybuilder? More importantly, how does it affect you as a human being? I would imagine that at times it can be pretty tough.
MD: I can't be bothered by these things. You have to consider the source in cases like this and ask yourself if that persons approval or opinion is worth anything whatsoever.
JE: So I guess it’s safe to say these people can go screw themselves huh?
MD: Ahh, they can do whatever they want....they don't merit the time it would take to tell them to "F--K" off, (big laugh)
JE: What is the one thing that could be done in the realm of female bodybuilding that could ultimately change this perception? Do you see yourself as being in a position to help lead this change in attitude?
MD: Well, I think most of the criticism stems from a lot of the females going overboard with harsh chemicals. They have already taken a step in the right direction by asking the female to come in 15-20% less muscular. In every part of life, there are those who ruin it for others. In this case, it is the female bodybuilder that has more circulating androgens than Godzilla, lol. Some people take things too far, and when those things cause a female to have a five o'clock shadow, hair on her traps, and a voice that could be mistaken for James Earl Jones', all in the name of a trophy, it's time to re-think a couple things, lol. ;)
JE: What can be done then?
MD: What can be done? Drug testing isn't an option....it costs too much. But if the judging would lean towards the well conditioned, healthy, feminine bodybuilder without having altered facial features or any other signs of obvious drug abuse, I think over time some opinions might begin to change.
JE: You would think that the judges would be all over this criteria, after all, the fans of the sport have been calling for it a long time. You already mentioned that the judges have made a point in asking for this, but some would argue they still don’t hold to it 100% of the time. Why is that, what’s it going to take for them to hold true to their rules?
MD: THAT is the ten thousand dollar question, sweetie.
JE: What do you think the future holds for women's bodybuilding? Do you feel that it is a sport that will continue to grow in a positive manner, or have the years of ridicule taken too much of a toll on the sport for it to ever fully recover?
MD: Well, that’s the $25,000.00 question, lol. Only time will tell. Maybe if the judging would change in a manner that would force the competitors to look more healthy and feminine, more of the general public and yes, even others in our sport would begin to accept us resulting in a more positive environment in general.
JE: What about getting more young blood into the game? For a long time, men's bodybuilding has been faced with the fact that its competitors are not getting any younger, and the ranks of the "up and comer" have been thinning out for quite some time. Thankfully, this problem looks as if it soon to be remedied with new comers such as Phil Heath and Dennis Wolf, along with a host of phenomenal competitors who are knocking at the door of the pro ranks with an unmatched ferocity. This has definitely been a breath of fresh life into the sport and can only lead to better things. But what about women's bodybuilding? What is it going to take for it to enjoy some of the success in terms of "New blood" compared to what male bodybuilding has experienced these past few years?
MD: As I stated a moment ago, I believe with more healthy, attainable, and most of all, desirable physiques gracing the female bb stage, there would be more interest in the sport. This would undoubtedly draw new competitors as well as fans and supporters.
JE: Now the big question, the one thing that has caused such a large part of the problem in female bodybuilding's growth, acceptance and perception. Critics claim that the major downfall is drug use, that in fact many of these competitors have taken the road of male-hormone use and done so in a manner that has ultimately destroyed their bodies as well as their femininity. Many of these same critics, who mind you, do in fact approve of men using these very same hormones, but they claim for a female it's just not right. Obviously, any woman can build a fantastic physique completely drug free, but would you find that these statements made by critics to be hypocritical as well as completely misguided and based on a lack of education?
MD: I think it's very hypocritical, mostly because the powers that be set the stage to begin with by rewarding the very females that have basically ruined their femininity with drug abuse, for nice shiny trophies. This seems to be NOT what they want to see. Notice the number of figure competitors and the amount of exposure and support they have. If that wasn't the look they appreciated, desired, liked, whatever, why were these people with destroyed facial features and drug saturated bodies awarded with high placings to begin with? Look where we are now! But, in defense of the powers that be, they forced NO ONE to do to themselves what some have. It all goes back to prioritizing health and fitness over an abused body and a trophy. People have made their own beds. Even as hypocritical as it sounds at first, I do not blame the judges. I blame the athletes who went to far. If everyone had stayed within reason in terms of their physiques and health, it would have forced the judges to judge what was in front of them.
JE: You don’t blame the judges? Come on, they’re the ones that hand out these "shiny trophy’s." If they would hand out the over-all spots to women who fit the mold you’ve described more often, wouldn’t this change things for the better? Don’t you think there has to be some level of accountability for the judges?
MD: Well, I guess you've got a point....but then again, IF ALL THE GIRLS WOULD COME IN LOOKING HEALTHY AND FEMININE, then the judges would have no choice but to choose from THAT look. I blame the competitors more. By coming in like most are, they're giving the judges the opportunity to choose whatever look they feel like rewarding that day. I say, why give them the chance, level the playing field…ya know?
JE: With everything we've talked about, do you truly believe that it is possible for a woman to build a muscular physique, while at the same time maintaining a level of beauty and feminine appeal that is up to par with women who do not take part in the pursuit of bodybuilding, competitively or otherwise? Obviously, I believe you have proven that without question this is in fact a reality. No sane individual could claim that you have not maintained a level of undeniable glamorous feminine appeal. Even so, I'd like your take on this.
MD: Well thank you for the sweet compliment! (smiles) YES, I believe a woman can build a sexy, more muscular, and defined physique without destroying her body. When a woman goes overboard with male hormones, their bodies begin to think like a man's. The curves begin to disappear, the voice changes, the face begins to become distorted, etc. Where if a woman does things within reason, this will not happen. I believe it is apparent in those who have and haven't. Everyone has different opinions of what is sexy or not...but to answer your question, yes. In fact, I believe it would be much easier for a woman to build a muscular physique while maintaining femininity that would be appreciated by all BECASUE of the lack of harsh chemicals.
JE: Obviously, while not yet a card carrying pro bodybuilder, you have built a pretty good name for yourself in this sport. It's safe to say that anyone who follows the sport of bodybuilding would have a pretty good idea of who you are. After all, most of IFBB pro's are not near as well known as you are. What do you attribute to this success and what do you feel would be in the best interest of other female competitors to be able to reach this same level of success and notoriety in the sport?
MD: That's a toughy, (laughs). I have a different look than a lot of the other competitors...not better or worse...just different. I'm bigger and more muscular than figure competitors, but much smaller than most female bodybuilders. Through sound contest prep advice from my nutritionist, Dave Palumbo and his soon to be wife, Colette Nelson, along with brutal (lol) training by my husband Danny, and also, now, IFBB Pro, John Sherman, I have thankfully and luckily been able to maintain a nice balance of muscle and feminine curves. Whether I win shows or not, I stand out simply because I'm sort of a hybrid, so to speak, so this ads to my name getting around I believe. I've been told by you, thank you! (Smiles) and others that I'm one of the few that bring a more healthy, feminine presence to the stage. This helps as well of course in my named being mentioned.
JE: What can you say about working with Dave? How much of an impact has this made for you? No one can deny he knows his stuff, look what he’s done with his competitors the past few years..
MD: Dave is God, (laughs) I have NEVER made so many dramatic changes in such a short time, in my life, as I have and currently am by working with Dave. I do exactly what he recommends, and I change for the better just about on a daily basis. I am so lucky to have him and Colette in my corner. I have never come across another human being who has the knowledge that man has, about how the body works, and nutrition, etc. He is a fountain of information and is always very eager to help everyone. He truly enjoys being able to help people and I cannot praise him enough.
JE: Back to your rise in popularity. Is there anything else you’d attribute this to?
MD: I have also, done quite a bit of adult related modeling, before I began competing, as well as now, actually. This has also greatly contributed to my name buzzing around...and the popularity you speak of, resulting in the overwhelming success of my website, www.MelissaDettwiller.com .
I think what other females need to do in order to gain attention or success, is don’t just blend in. They should do whatever makes them happy, whatever they enjoy, and do it THEIR WAY... add their own twist to it. Be an individual. If these things are being done...then they have already succeeded.
JE: Adult modeling, there’s the hot topic. You know there has been a lot of debate about competitors taking part in this sort of thing for a while. Whether you approve of it or not, it is something that exists, not just in the bodybuilding world, but in every group on the planet. Even so, any competitor that does this sort of thing is going to take some heat for it. Is it worth the heat and criticism? Does the name recognition that comes from it out weigh the negative aspects?
MD: What someone does when they are not standing in front of the PHSYIQUE JUDGING PANEL has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with what they look like on stage....and last I heard bb competitions USED to be judged, on, ummm...PHYSIQUES! (smiles)…imagine that! Isn't it funny how bodybuilders who do adult work on their own time catch so much heat, yet bodybuilders who are basically felons, just not all have been CAUGHT yet, (laughs) with 20k a year drug habits are worshipped? Didn't we have such a person representing a very high position in the sport for a long time, who while BEING A POLICE OFFICER, daily broke the law by administering certain illegal substances into his/her body, probably nonstop for the past oh, say 15 years of his/her life? Last I checked adult performers paid taxes and were doing nothing illegal....but WE are they bad guys, (sarcastic laugh)? WHAT'S REALLY WORSE? According to the law....adult performers aren't....
NOW, that being said, I AM NOT judging, disapproving, condemning, flaming, or whatever you want to call it, those who partake in illegal activities in order to maintain their positions in the sport. Hell, I love these guys/gals...they're like family! I feel at home with them, (smiles) (Mafioso violin music playing in the background, (big laugh) Who the hell am I to judge what someone does on their own time? It's none of MY damned business. All I'm saying is we basically have felons being worshipped, while tax-paying, adult performers are being called out, (sarcastic laugh)....go figure.
Is it worth the heat? For me it is. I LIKE WHAT I DO.....and no amount of negative feedback could possibly EVER feel worse than my lifestyle being dictated to me by another's b.s. opinion of what's right or wrong. I do what makes Melissa happy. (Winks)
JE: What about the way this could possibly affect you on stage? Obviously, not all the judges are going to approve of you taking part in this sort of thing. Do you believe that there have been times when you placed lower then you should have because of some judges were out to prove a point?
MD: I would HOPE that has never happened or will never happen. Their personal opinions have nothing to do with what I look like standing next to the other girls on stage. As I stated above...last I heard, bb shows were judged on physiques...isn't that the whole idea of um, training and dieting? (laughs)
JE: Let me ask you this. Do you have any regrets at all about taking part in the "adult" world? If you had it to do over again, would you do things the same way?
MD: I have no regrets whatsoever and YES I would do it all over again. I could not be more content with every aspect of my life and I would not do a thing different if I were given the power to.
JE:Last question about this. Do you think there is a direct correlation between the bodybuilding world and adult entertainment? Any idiot can easily see that both worlds strongly involve the human body, but it’s not like the same thing is going on in these two worlds. I can’t imagine showing up to the Arnold Classic and seeing a reenactment of a porn clip on stage.
MD: I suppose so. The only similarities I see are the fact that they are both dealing with beautiful bodies, well, for the most part, and raging hormones! (big laugh) It seems to be common to both worlds that the one with the best/prettiest toys wins...so yes, I'd say they have more than a few things in common.
JE: Last question, what does the future hold for Melissa Dettwiller? What can we expect to see as you continue to succeed in this sport?
MD: Oh, I dunno, (laughs). Hopefully I can have some sort of influence on athletes taking a more healthy approach to taking the stage for one. I'm just going to keep on doing things the way I like to do them, MY WAY, (laughs) and take one day at a time. (Smiles)
JE: Melissa, it was great talking to you and I wish you the best. Hopefully next time we talk you’ll be a IFBB card carrying pro.
MD: Thank you so much, doll! It was wonderful chatting with you, as well, Justin. You're even cuter than the last time I saw you! (batting eyes, and twirling hair ;o) Thank you so much for having me and I look forward to our next meeting! So there you have it. Sound words of wisdom and insight from one of the most prominent women in this sport. Female bodybuilding is not for everyone, not everyone will enjoy it or support it, but this can be said for the men as well. But for those who do find themselves in the "yes, I enjoy and respect female bodybuilding" crowd, it’s competitors and individuals like Melissa that bring forth many positive attributes to the sport.
For more information on Melissa Dettwiller, check out www.MelissaDettwiller.com, www.BuffdollStudios.com and www.BuffBunnies.com