As a photographer, I started focusing on female bodybuilders when they started competing. The sport was evolving rapidly, and in 1989 a photographer friend told me about a young woman named Lenda Murray who had just won the IFBB rth American Championships. I wrote an article and photo series for Muscle & Fitness magazine called "The Shape of Things To Come" predicting that Lenda would win the Ms. Olympia.
Lenda says she posted the article on the wall at Detroit's Powerhouse Gym for inspiration. Of course, everyone knows that Lenda Murray won eight Ms. Olympia titles and became the sport's most popular female bodybuilder.
Having a young champion like Lenda, one with a lot of musculature, a beautiful face, a cheerleading background, an aesthetic physique and a winning personality is very special. Having another female master who can be described in the same way years later is even more special. Especially when she's from the same Detroit Powerhouse Gym. It's like lightning striking the same place twice.
wings of strength
The new champion on the scene is, of course, Andrea Shaw, now the winner of three Ms. Olympia titles (so far). As a young girl, she was interested in gymnastics and competitive cheerleading. After middle school, she burned out from gymnastics and cheerleading. She was also determined to get a college degree.
Andrea's mother, a registered nurse and former personal trainer, encouraged her athletic aspirations by getting her to train at the Powerhouse Gym in Centerline, Michigan. At the age of 15 she started going to the gym alone. Her mother's training partner was a bodybuilder who advised her on muscle building exercises when she was 17 years old. Drea says that at that point she had no desire to be a bodybuilder but wanted to be a model. But genetics rule modeling as much as they do bodybuilding, and Andrea wasn't big enough for a successful career in fashion.
Many bodybuilders have found that building muscle is seductive. Both Lenda and Andrea initially had other ambitions and found bodybuilding through their sporting discipline. Once you start strength training and experience the transformation of the body, you won't want to stop. Andrea's physical development has been recognized by members of the gym, most notably IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Ron Love, who is a gym regular and the first to also encourage Lenda to consider bodybuilding. “Of course,” says Andrea, “it was a huge help to take inspiration from Lenda Murray, knowing her start was here at Detroit Powerhouse Gym. Lenda was a track and field athlete and a cheerleader, and I was a gymnast and a cheerleader. Lenda was not only known for her muscles, but also for her outstanding symmetry and muscular shape. People like Ron Love told me my body had the same characteristics.” Lenda's eight world titles were such a presence in Michigan that those achievements provided a foundation for female bodybuilders to build on.
Andrea started in figures in 2008 and of course her success wasn't linear. There were changes, stops and starts. Her physique evolved and she changed her categories from Figure and Women's Physique. She earned her college degree and then decided to take an eight-year hiatus from competing but not from weight training. This is significant because the development of female bodybuilding has been significantly slowed down because of competitors competing too early and then competing too often. Male bodybuilders often don't turn pro until they've been in the sport for twelve or fifteen years or more. Many of the female champions of the past were just beginners when it came to their ultimate potential. They just didn't train long enough and were often discouraged from gaining too much muscle mass.
In 2018, Drea became an IFBB Pro in the Women's Physique Division, where her physique continued to develop and place high, but did not qualify for the Olympia. After placing 2nd at the Chicago Pro in Women's Physique, Lenda Murray realized that Andrea would certainly thrive if she moved into the women's bodybuilding division. In 2019 Andrea beat many of the top female bodybuilders and in 2020 she captured all first place wins to currently be known as the best female bodybuilder in the world.
Andrea is known for her work ethic and training like a machine with 100 percent constant effort. Bodybuilding success requires both nature and nurturing. You must have the genetics, but then invest the time and effort it takes to fully develop your gifts. That requires a certain committed mentality. As Arnold always said, one of the more important muscles for a bodybuilder is the one across the neck.
One thing a lot of people don't realize about Drea Shaw is how tall she is. She competes in form at 175 pounds. Compare that to Lenda Murray, who weighed about 150 pounds at her best - both being the same height at 5.5 inches. "In the 1980s and 1990s, competing too early and too often prevented many women from reaching their full potential," says Lenda Murray. “One problem is nutrition. Competitive dieting is extremely stressful and really slows down your development. I've known many women who competed no later than two or three years after they started training in earnest. That must limit your potential development.”
Also, until recently, both male and female bodybuilders tended to overtrain with too many sets, reps, and workouts and not enough time to rest and recover. With more recovery time, bodybuilders have a greater chance to grow and develop. But the nature of the sport is that it evolves over time. Lenda Murray was tall enough for the early 1990's just as Andrea Shaw is tall and muscular enough to win Ms. Olympia championships today.
But another thing they have in common is how good they are for the sport and how conducive they are both. When the Ms. Olympia was discontinued after 2014, one reason was the lack of a highly marketable champion to help promote and grow the sport. We saw that with the first Ms. Olympia Rachel McLish, the super popular Cory Everson and of course Lenda Murray. The same was true of professional golf when Tiger Woods emerged and tennis when Serena Williams was the reigning champion. We are now in the Andrea Shaw era and the future of female bodybuilding looks bright and promising
wings of strength
History of the Andrea Shaw Competition
- 2022 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 1st
- 2022 WOS Rising Phoenix World Championships Pro Women's Bodybuilding – 1st • 2021 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 1st place
- 2021 IFBB Pro League WOS Rising Phoenix Pro Women's Bodybuilding – 1st • 2020 IFBB WOS Ms. Olympia – 1st • 2020 Pro League WOS Rising Phoenix Pro Women's Bodybuilding – 1st place
- 2020 IFBB Omaha Pro – 1st
- 2019 Pro League WOS Rising Phoenix Pro Women's Bodybuilding - 7th place • 2019 IFBB WOS Chicago Pro Championships - 2nd place • 2019 IFBB Toronto Pro Supershow - 11th place
- 2018 National Team – 2nd
- 2018 rth Americans – 3rd place
- Lenda Murray Detroit Classic 2018 – 1st
- 2018 John Simmons Championship - 1st
- 2018 Ohio Natural Championship – 2nd
- 2016 John Simmons Championships - 4th place