30-year-old Odessa, Texas resident Jody May (website is www.jody-may.com ) has been a bodybuilder for about half her life. She's one of a group of up-and-coming female bodybuilders at a time of growth, and controversy in the sport. In fact, even the use of the term "sport" to describe female bodybuilding has been debated.
Female bodybuilding has been hammered with allegations of steroid use by some contestants, "limits" placed on the "size" of muscle development a woman can have in a contest, forays into the sex industry on the part of some of the sport's participants, and the very termination of some female bodybuilding events because they were viewed as just not popular with the public.
In all of this, the growth of female bodybuilding in number of participants, websites, and local and regional shows, can't be ignored. Indeed, the very "Merchants of Cool" have started to feature cut and well-muscled women in advertising as a nod to an ever increasingly body-aware American society. Top-ranked television shows like Alias feature strong women, even if they're not as well developed as Jody May.
Indeed, if television follows the Internet and features more female bodybuilders like Ms. May, we will see an explosion of participation in and fans of, the sport leading to the emergence of a new vehicle to promote products and services from IPods to tanning salons. But will television and marketing decision makers pay attention and do this?
So, we've reached a cross roads in female bodybuilding. We talked with Ms. May about this, and about her.
Q: Where did you go to college?
Jody May: Odessa College
Q: What was your major?
Jody May: Associate of Applied Science-Physical Therapist Assistant
Q: Did you play a sport?
Jody May: I was a Cheerleader in college. (Editors' note: for those readers who may not be aware of the growth of cheerleading, it's now recognized as a multi-million-dollar industry in America. )
Q: What women's bodybuilding contests have you entered, and how did you do?
Jody May: Well, I started with a fourth place finish in the Lackland Classic in 1999; I was a Venus Model Search finalist in 2001; I placed first in the Southwest USA Fitness Model Search in 2001, in 2002, I took eighth in the John Sherman Fitness and Figure Classic; in 2003, I was a national qualifier for the Ronnie Coleman Classic and first place novice heavyweight; I took first and overall in the Southwest USA-Open in 2004 and I was 11th at the NPC Nationals the same year.
I'm getting ready for the Nationals in November.
Q: Can you remember exactly why you got into bodybuilding and what year? For some, it was because a boyfriend or husband was in it. For others, it was because they were in athletics already, and liked the results from weight lifting. There are other reasons. What was it for you?
Jody May: I became interested in bodybuilding when I was 15. I was a severe asthmatic and was not physically able to play sports. I finally was allowed to try different sports because my doctor thought it would increase my lung capacity/endurance. I participated in multiple activities then one day I saw a Muscle and Fitness magazine. Cory Everson was on the front. My parents allowed me to join the local gym and I took the mag in to the trainer and told him this is what I wanted to doÉ.basically he laughed. The athletes in the magazine looked so strong and that I how I wanted to feel.
Q: For our readers, what is a "pro card?" Do you have a pro card, or want to get one? What does a woman bodybuilder have to do to get a pro card?
Jody May: A pro card just means you are a professional athlete. I am not a pro but of course that is what all the amateurs are striving for. To turn pro you have to win Nationals or USA's
Q: How much money per month do you spend on bodybuilding-related materials, services, and supplies. For example, gym memberships, supplements, food, travel, etc. In other words, what does your budget look like?
Jody May: Honestly I don't know for sure, I don't even want to know. I can give you a basic run down on the expenses. First you have to have a NPC card-$70, entry to show, about $60. I spend about $100 per week on food, Suits depend on what you want last year I spent $400 on 2 suits I wore twice for a total of about 10 minutes. Tanning products-tanning bed monthly $20 then color for the show..oh about $100. Travel expenses can be crazy, air fare, hotel in about $100 per night and you usually have to be there 3 days maybe 4. All in all I have a real job to support my hobby that is more work than my real job that I actually went to school for!!
Q: Some women bodybuilders raise money via donations through their website, or a members section. Is this true for you?
Jody May: I have recently began doing this and doing WebCam shows. There is little financial support for female bodybuilding so you have to really love it to do it. It really does help with the competition expenses.
Q: If you have a member's section, how's it going? What are the good parts and bad parts of having this kind of Internet club? Are all of your members male?
Jody May: My site is really going well. My webmaster Andy of Andysmusclegoddesses.de takes very good care of me. There are bad parts to everything and the worst thing about this is the fact that is someone is paying for things they expect you to do anything they request. My members know that I have limits and they respect my boundaries, I appreciate that.
Q: You obviously have fans. When did it first hit you that you were gaining a fan base? I mean, was it a sudden rise in emails? Was it a phone call from someone you didn't know? Share with us when you first realized that you were gaining fans. Have you ever been asked for your autograph?
Jody May: I went to a show in Dallas about a year and a half ago. Of course I can't go to Dallas without going to the mall. I was just walking along with some friends when this girl comes running up to me from behind literally yelling my name. I turn and have no idea who she is. She starts asking me all these questions and takes my arm drags me back to the store she is working in and has me sign an autograph AND she calls her brother and has me say HI!! It was very funny, and I was very shocked, still am!
Q: Do you have women bodybuilders as friends? If so, who are they? If not, why not?
Jody May: Bonny Priest, Gina Davis, Melissa Dettwiller, Amanda Dunbar, Jennifer Sevia
Q: Is there a tight "sisterhood" among female bodybuilders? In other words, is there a kind of "unofficial club" that you know of. If not, why not?
Jody May: I don't know about official clubs but everyone is very friendly and supportive. Sometimes it is nice to have someone to talk to that has been in the same boat.
Q: Male bodybuilders seem to have no problem gaining corporate sponsors. Why is this not the case for women bodybuilders? Or am I wrong? Do you have a corporate sponsor?
Jody May: I do not have a sponsor, but of course would love to have one. In part I believe the problem has to do with the fact that the girls sometimes take it to the edge with their size and hardness. The public can't relate and they don't want to see that. The media give bodybuilding a bad wrap by showing the bad side when there is a bad side to every sport, but the public can relate to football or baseball much better.
Q: Are your parents and/or family supportive of your bodybuilding work?
Jody May: I am very blessed to have a very supportive family, they don't understand why I do it but they respect my choice.
Q: Does being a female bodybuilder change how men respond to you? What about people in general? What have you learned?
Jody May: In general I have a positive reaction. I have also learned that you have to have the drive inside you to do this, it is in your blood, you can't really learn it or teach it, it is too demanding. I also know that people are very curious about it and ask lots of questions and as soon as you say "all I eat are chickens and egg whites" they decide instantly it is not for them!
Q: Some have said and written that women's bodybuilding is dying. In your opinion is this really true? If not, why? If it is dying, what can or should be done to save it?
Jody May: Honestly I don't feel it is dying. Bodybuilding will never be a mainstream sport, but they are many supporters and competitors. I also believe the new rules for not coming in so hard and big will help. People want to see someone they can relate to on a personal level.
Q: Should women bodybuilders have their own organization that stages events, pays prize money, and "connects" women bodybuilders? Is the IFBB hostile to the idea of women with muscle, given that
it recently posted a "restriction" on how muscular a woman can be?
Jody May: I don't think they are really hostile but as I said before the public wants to be able to relate to someone and no one can relate to some of the physiques that have been on stage in the past few years. I believe they are just setting limits.
Q: What's the future for you in women's bodybuilding? Do you want to use it to get into entertainment, as some like Rachel McGlish did? Do you want to just build an Internet following? Do you want to be a spokesperson for companies? Share with us.
Jody May: Actually I do it for my self. There are very few sports that you are able to compete in, as you age and you just get better with age in bodybuilding. I also appreciate the fact that I get many emails from people saying how much I have inspired them to live a healthier lifestyle or that they too have asthma and realize they can be active.