There are some people in this world who need to please others. And not just please them every so often; they have this burning desire to please everybody every time with everything they do.
This, of course, is an impossible task. But that doesn’t stop certain people from trying to do so with all their might.
Call it insecurity. Call it a psychological complex. Call it irrational. Or you can chalk it up to good business sense. Being a bodybuilder isn’t just a lifestyle. It’s a business venture. Like all business ventures, success isn’t guaranteed, nor is the formula for success set in stone permanently. In our ever-changing market of goods and services (which is becoming more internationally-driven as the years go on), what works today won’t work ten years from now; just as what worked ten years ago isn’t the same as what works today.
The same is true for how a female bodybuilder has to promote herself to the public. In decades past, there were more “traditional” routes to how she could achieve financial success. Competitions were still fairly lucrative and endorsement deals were there for the taking. The money in it wasn’t always reliable or plentiful, but you knew where it was if you wanted it.
Today, things are much different. Big, brawny female bodybuilders aren’t given the opportunities they once were. They aren’t becoming extinct by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hard to imagine the glory years of the 1970s and 80s returning any time soon.
So here’s the fundamental dilemma: The general public – and whether this assertion if fair or not can be up for debate – tends to gravitate toward people who fit “one size fits all” molds. If we’re talking about strong women, they want these women to fit all these criteria:
- Tough, yet approachable
- Strong, yet vulnerable
- Muscular, yet traditionally feminine
- Accomplished, yet still physically beautiful
- Intelligent, yet not condescending
- Individualistic, yet still marketable
- Talented, yet unintimidating
- A woman, yet not defined by her gender
- Speaks her mind, yet doesn’t ruffle any feathers
- Dedicated to her craft, yet still has time to do “woman” things like get married and raise children
These hideous double standards are obviously not felt by the majority of male athletes. Whether the typical sports fan would ever admit this or not, this is how we treat our female athletes. In many cases, they feel this way without even explicitly knowing it! Talk about having certain attitudes ingrained into our psyche from birth.
If a female bodybuilder were to be one of those types who needs to please everybody every single time, she’ll go crazy and would tear all her hair out. Thankfully, the vast majority of FBBs are mentally strong and ignore useless nonsense like that. But this illustrates the predicament that comes with the territory of working in the industry. Female bodybuilders cannot possibly please everyone. The so-called “perfect balance” of being someone who can appeal to all audiences is a myth. Not even the most popular celebrities in our society are universally popular with all people. Singers, actors, TV personalities, writers, sports heroes, etc. Everyone has their fair share of critics. This isn’t a reflection of them, however. This is more of a reflection of the diverse tastes, opinions, and aesthetic standards we have available to us.
So how does one survive in a business where appeal is the name of the game? After all, if enough people don’t like your brand, your earning power will quickly diminish. Blockbuster Video no longer exists because Netflix (and, ahem, online pirating) replaced it as the consumer’s top choice for purchasing cinematic entertainment. Therefore, FBBs cannot completely ignore the importance of mass appeal.
What is she to do? There are two routes:
- Appeal to as many different audiences as possible
- Appeal to a very specific audience and take full advantage of this niche market
One could argue an FBB would best be served if she pursued route #2. Non-bodybuilders like soccer players, tennis players, basketball players, MMA fighters, and prominent fitness celebrities are more likely to find financial success if she dips her toes in route #1. But this could very well be wrong.
To an extent, appealing to a niche audience is what FBBs do currently. In many respects this is their only viable option to staying financially secure in today’s world. This isn’t a criticism of the “Female Bodybuilding Business Model.” This is just an observation of what actually works.
Ever heard of the “80/20 Rule?” Also known as the “Pareto principle,” in the business world it states that in general, 80 percent of your business revenue will come from 20 percent of your customers. If you open up a coffee shop in the middle of a busy downtown business district, your most valuable clients will be the people who buy an iced latte or white chocolate mocha from you five days a week. The spunky happy-go-lucky traveler who’s in town temporarily to visit his in-laws and decides to stop by your establishment only one time isn’t. That guy may be a totally nice person, but his value to your business is limited. Your repeat customers who loyally visit your shop on a consistent basis are way more important in the long-term.
For an entrepreneurial female bodybuilder, she must take heed of the 80/20 Rule. She may not have the largest number of clients available to her, but she can have a smaller group of fans who will follower her to the ends of the Earth. They may be small in size, but their return on investment (ROI) may be significant. One person who will buy tickets to a bodybuilding competition, pay you $500 for a muscle worship session, and purchase customized swag through your website is more valuable than 20 people who know your name but don’t want to have anything to do with you.
This small group of fans will adore you for who you are. They aren’t disgusted by your large size, shrunken breasts, deepened voice, and blunt personality. In fact, they love you because of all those things! Sadly, some FBBs feel like they need to get “smaller” in order to survive in the industry. That’s sad and hopefully they choose to look the way they want to look regardless of what other people think. But the pressure of being an elite athlete who remains unambiguously “feminine” persists whether we like it or not.
However, that doesn’t mean an FBB should be compelled to sell out who she is as a human being in order to earn a steady income. If she wants to squat so much her legs grow to the size of tree trunks, then she has every right to do that. If there are people out there who want her to stop squatting so damn much because she’ll end up “looking like a man,” here’s a pithy comeback for them:
Go fuck yourself.
That’s right! An FBB doesn’t have to be that crude, but she can be if the situation calls for it. The truth is, not everyone in the general population appreciates thick strong legs on a woman. But for those of us who know who Shannon Courtney is, a small but significant portion of us do in fact appreciate the finer things in life. Miss Courtney’s legs are definitely in the category of the “Finer Things in Life,” right up there with 50-year-old scotch whiskey, the cinema of François Truffaut, Lamborghinis, and Thai cuisine.
Shannon Courtney’s legs might be the best illustration of the 80/20 Rule. A vast number of us would appreciate her hard work and provide her a “you go girl!” compliment. A smaller number of us would willingly pay her $300 for the right to touch her legs. I have no idea if Shannon offers these kinds of services, but that’s not the point. If she wanted to, she could make a healthy buck on the side. For many female bodybuilders, they actually make a living wage offering customers the ability to touch their hard-earned bodies.
In order to survive in today’s interconnected world, a female bodybuilder doesn’t have to appeal to large audiences. She only has to find a specific niche and saturate that market to the best of her ability. And there is no doubt that such a niche market exists. It may not be obvious or widely talked about, but there are plenty of guys and gals in this world who share a keen interest in muscular women.
These are the people who matter to an FBB. Not the rest who are openly disgusted by her life’s choices. An FBB shouldn’t waste her time trying to please people who don’t already appreciate her beautiful muscles. Trying to convert them will be an exercise in futility. Instead, she should focus her attention on cultivating meaningful relationships with clients who already love her muscles. That will reap much more ROI.
Thankfully, most female bodybuilders are already doing this! This essay isn’t telling them anything they don’t know already. But it can serve as a reminder to the rest of us that living life as an FBB can be arduous, frustrating, and unpredictable. There are outside forces working against you. The deck is not stacked in your favor. But all is not lost. There are avenues to success that are proven to work on a practical level. The challenge is tapping into those avenues and feeling confident, supported, and empowered to do so.
Indeed, you cannot please everybody. This requires either maintaining the (impossible) “perfect balance” that appeals to all audiences … or diluting your product. The first option is impractical and the second option forces you to compromise your integrity. Either one stinks. So your third option is probably your best option: Screw what the masses think and embrace what your dedicated fans think.
And let’s be honest. Not even your most dedicated fans will appreciate everything you do 100 percent of the time. That’s totally fine. But you know they’re in your corner, cheering for you every step of the way. They may not make up large numbers, but their proud loyalty amplifies their voices ten-fold.