Bodybuilding is a sport that has been traditionally dominated by men, but many women have made their mark as bodybuilders in recent years, as the sport has evolved. Women are impressively showing their muscles and prowess and they are coming up winners in all kinds of athletic competitions in every type of sport, and bodybuilding is no exception.
More and more women are becoming known for their physical capabilities, mental toughness, and multitude of talents. Most female bodybuilders have been pro wrestlers and actresses as well. It can be difficult to say which women are in the top rankings, because many sites focus on the younger competitors.
Here is a list of ten of the most popular and famous women Bodybuilders who have made a name for themselves in bodybuilding:
10. Denise Masino
Denise Masino, born Denise Sanchez, is also of Puerto Rican descent, and was born in New York and is a professional female bodybuilder. She won the lightweight class at the l995 NPC National championships. She began competing in l996 as a bodybuilder until the year 2007 and was the 2003 Night of Champions winner. She has been featured in many fitness and bodybuilding magazines during her career. She has been a two-time Centerfold in Flex Power and Sizzle and was voted the “sexiest bodybuilder alive” by Iron Man. She was in Flex’s l997 Annual Swimsuit issue and Fantasy Lingerie issue. In l997 she co-founded Muscle Elegance, a magazine that features erotic pictures of female bodybuilders, where she is the main model. The magazine also produces videos and website Muscle Pinups. She also acted in the cultish vampire movie, “Blood +Kisses” that was released in 2005.
9. Gladys Portugues
Gladys Portugues is a Puerto Rican born American and former professional female bodybuilder and actress. She is the wife of Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, whom she later divorced and then remarried. The couple has two children. Her most significant achievements in bodybuilding were two top-10 placings in the Ms. Olympia competitions. She was first inspired to start training as a bodybuilder when she saw Rachel McLish on television. Gladys is also known as an actress, and help parts in Pumping Iron II: The Women in 1985, The Morning After, 1986, and It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive, l987. Later, in 2011, she appeared as herself in 8 episodes of the reality TV show, Behind Closed Doors with Jean-Claude Van Damme. In March of 2015, the couple filed for divorce again after 15 years of marriage.
8. Rachel McLish
Raquel Livia Elizondo McLish is an American Texas born female bodybuilding champion, author and actress. While attending college, she worked at a health club in Harlingen, Texas, and formed a partnership and founded the Sport Palace Association, and started two more fitness facilities in Corpus Christi and Brownsville. In l980 she won the Inaugural United States Championships and beat well known Andy Pallick to win the first-ever IFBB Ms. Olympia contest. For five years she appeared on the covers of numerous magazines and became sponsored by Dynamics Health Equipment Manufacturing Corporation. After a four-year career, she retired in l984. As the first woman to win the Ms. Olympia title, she is one of bodybuilding’s most recognizable personalities. She and was featured in the l985 documentary, “Pumping Iron II: The Women” and was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in l999. As an actress, she starred in Getting Physical, Aces: Iron Eagle III, Raven Hawk. She also starred in Herb Alpert’s ‘Red Hot’ music video and co-starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the fitness video Shape Up in l982.
7. Rasa Von Werder
Rasa Von Werder, age 70, was born in Germany as Rosa Sofia Jakstras, also known as Kellie Everts. She is known as a former female bodybuilder, stripper and founder of her own church. She trained for the l981 competition, but was barred from entering Caesar’s Palace IFBB competition in Atlantic City, Georgia, so she picketed them and wore a white bikini and spoke on a local radio show. In 2007, the World Bodybuilding Guide (WBBG) awarded her as the “Progenitor of Female Bodybuilding” and inducted her into their Hall of Fame. Rasa won the Miss Nude Universe title in l967 and Miss Body Beautiful in l974, later making appearances in Playboy and becoming an exotic dancer. In l978, she decided to become an evangelical minister and traveled the country as “The Stripper for God”. She has written 6 books on matriarchy and spirituality and started the website, “Woman Thou Art God.”
6. Marianna Komlos
Marianna Komlos, was a Canadian bodybuilder who passed away at the age of 35. She was also a fitness model and valet. She is well known for a controversial entertainment stint at the World Wrestling Federation in l999 as “Mrs. Cleavage” in a parody of the TV show Leave it to Beaver. When she began her bodybuilding career, she weighed 197 pounds, and in l997 she won the British Columbia middleweight championship. She appeared on the covers of numerous fitness magazines, including Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Women’s Physique World, and Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness. She married mixed martial artist and stunt performer Paul Lazenby in 2004 and they were together less than a year when she passed away in Sept. of 2004 from breast cancer.
5. Rebekka Armstrong
Rebekka Lynn Armstrong is a former American model and bodybuilder. In l986 she was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month. She made international headlines in l994 when she announced that she was a lesbian and was HIV-positive. Since then she has become an activist for HIV awareness, especially among lesbian and bisexual women.
During her bodybuilding career, she placed 1st in the 2004 Muscle Beach California competition, 1st in the Los Angeles Championships, and 1st in the NPC Pittsburgh. In 2005, she was 12th in the NPC Nationals, and later in 2009, she placed 1st in the NPC Los Angeles Championships, and 7th in the USA Championships. Armstrong is also known as an actress and starred in several Playboy films in the late 90’s. She is known as “the all-time scariest Playboy playmate”.
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4. Nikki Fuller
Another American, Nikki Fuller, is a professional female bodybuilder. At her largest size, she weighed in at 200 pounds and her biceps measured 18 inches. Some of her top lifts include 275 pounds for 10 reps on a bench press and 1,200 pounds for multiple reps on a leg press. In 1988 she won the Novice Oregon and the Emerald Cup in 1989. She turned pro after winning the overall and heavyweight titles at the l990 National Physique Committee Nationals. In 1988 and 1989 she won 1st place in the Henry Weinhard’s Handcar Races in California, Oregon and British Columbia. Her best win as a professional, was first place at the 1992 Jan Tana Classic. She also had top ten finishes at the Ms. Olympia and Ms. International contests. In 1993, Fuller was featured on the cover of The Women, a photography book of top female bodybuilders. She later turned to acting and pro wrestling.
3. Nicole Bass-Fuchs
Nicole Bass-Fuchs is an American bodybuilder, professional wrestler, actress and valet. She has worked for companies such as the Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Federation, XPW and the National Wrestling Alliance. She has made numerous appearances as a guest on the Howard Stern television show and is a current member of Stern’s Wack Pack. She was a female bodybuilder in the late 80s and 90s, and won the l997 NPC National Bodybuilding Championship. She was known as “the world’s largest female bodybuilder”. She also appeared in many films from l997 to 2000. Bass married Richard “Bob” Fuchs in l985, and he later died in his sleep at age 64 in 2013.
2. Lisa Marie Varon
Lisa Marie Varon is a former bodybuilder, fitness competitor and professional wrestler. She also competed in the 2000 Wrestlemania, and won the WWE Women’s Championship twice. She was five-time TNA Knockouts Champion under the name of Tara. Varon was a middleweight bodybuilding champion. She competed in the Miss Galaxy Competition and won the ESPN2’s Fitness America Series in 1997. Then, she competed at a New York fitness event in l999 and won second place, which earned her an International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) Professional Fitness Card.
Chyna is an American, born in New York, as Joan Marie Laurer. She is known as a bodybuilder and professional wrestler. At the World Wrestling Federation in l997, she was billed as the “Ninth Wonder of the World.” She is a founding member of the D-Generation X, and has held the WWF Women’s Championship once, and the WWF Intercontinental Championship twice. She was the first woman to participate in the Royal rumble and the King of the Ring events, and was the number one contender to the WWF Championship. She has been called “the most dominating female contender of all time”. She has appeared in Playboy magazine twice, and in numerous TV shows and pornographic films.