I Am at Her Mercy (part 1 of 2)

When you think of Kathya, think of Heather Pedigo.

The world has gone to shit. And we are all responsible.

It happened so fast. One day we were all minding our own business. Going to school. Going to work. Going to church. Staying at home watching television. Sleeping in. Smoking pot. Begging for spare change. Climbing mountains. Working out. Making business deals. Doing whatever it is that we do.

Then one day, it all came to an end.

For most of us, that is.

When The Singularity began, it happened so quickly we couldn’t keep up. Cities shut down. Militaries were derailed. Police forces were left impotent. World leaders were kept in the dark. Electrical power grids everywhere failed. And the rest of us were left confused, scared, and ill prepared for the fallout.

To this day, I still do not know what caused The Singularity. Was it an ingenious computer hacker? A virus? A techno-terror attack? A vast conspiracy? The work of a doomsday cult? An act of God? Or really, really, really, really, really bad luck?

Nobody knows.

And we’ll probably never find out.

The Singularity destroyed 86 percent of the world’s population. Some died by diseases. Most died by starvation or a lack of access to clean drinking water. The rest died by civil wars that tore countries apart. Many of these wars are still going on, despite the fact any rational person should know that fighting each other is a useless and counterproductive endeavor at this point. The survivors are scattered throughout the planet, scavenging for food and making ad hoc alliances whenever it’s mutually advantageous.

It’s been fourteen months since The Singularity struck our planet. Or is it fifteen months? I lose track of these things. Time doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s funny. Not too long ago I was a hot shot attorney at one of the most powerful law firms in America. I used to dine on happy hour steak tartare and champagne after work. Today, I have to resort to eating dandelions and the carcasses of stray cats in order to survive. The fine line between prosperity and depravity is miniscule. Life is a tragedy and William Shakespeare is spinning around in his grave. Or pointing at us and laughing his ass off.

I still live in America. Well, I think the country I reside in is still called that. Traditional political structures cease to exist. There is no government. There is no United Nations to bail us out. There are no institutions that will save us. We are alone.

Today, I’m trudging through a wasteland that used to be called New York City. It’s taken me about four weeks to get here. It’s weird. Most of the buildings are still standing. A few have been destroyed by arsonists. Looters have stolen most of the things that are of real value. I think I’m in Brooklyn. I visited NYC once when I was in college. But that was many years ago. Back then life was carefree. We thought we were living in Golden Times. Hell, compared to right now those were Golden Times. Damn. I should have appreciated it when I had the chance.

A wasteland of civilization’s end.

I think I’m close to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. I just saw a sign that said something about Pier 12. Right in front of me is a beaten down brick house. The front door is wide open. I figured there isn’t a scrap of food left in there. So far I’ve seen a small handful of people meandering around. Maybe eight or nine total. They’re all like me. Emaciated, aimless, and emotionally numb. How can you feel anything anymore? It doesn’t make sense.

Next to the brick house is a small building that looks to have been a daycare center at one point. I can guarantee you no one is in here. Very few people are having babies anymore. All the hospitals have shut down. I’m tired and need a nap. I’m sure this place has spare blankets I can snag for the time being.

The door is locked. I lean against it to see if my bodyweight can nudge it open. It doesn’t. Across the street I spot an aluminum baseball bat sitting on an overgrown lawn. Perfect! Some little leaguer must’ve left it there. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I borrowed it momentarily. Heck, he and his family are probably either dead or hundreds of miles away from here.

On the side of the building is a window that is cracked but still intact. I approach it and eyeball its structure. It appears to be an old window that should shatter pretty easily. I take a cautious step back, breathe deeply, raise the bat above my head, and swing as hard as I can.

CRASH!

One swing is all it takes. Indeed, this is one really old window. A newer weatherproofed window with glass an inch thick would take several attempts to even crack it, never mind shatter it. Carefully, I climb into the building and try to avoid getting cut. Once inside, I look at my hands and see my left thumb and right index finger are bleeding slightly.

Damn it.

I see out of the corner of my eye a first-aid kit sitting on a shelf. This is a daycare center, after all! I open it and find bandages, disinfectant wipes, strips of gauze, and a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer. Jackpot! I should keep these things. You never know when you’ll need it.

In the toy room there’s an empty SpongeBob SquarePants backpack lying on the floor. Embarrassed, I place the first-aid kit inside it and sling it across my shoulder. I mean, who cares that I’m walking around with a kiddie backpack? It’s not like I’m eating my own shit, which I just saw a bunch of old guys do about an hour ago. That made me sick to my stomach.

Civil unrest.

Now I need to find some blankets. Winter is coming. It’s early November, I think. We’re only a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, an American holiday that we don’t really celebrate anymore. At least, nobody I know still celebrates it. Soon, the days and (especially) nights will get cold. Blisteringly cold. So cold one could almost freeze to death. The first winter after The Singularity struck was brutal. Many people died from that alone. Including my sister, her husband, and my three nephews. They had the misfortune of living in a suburb of Chicago. Last winter was unforgiving. It was harsh. Fucking cold weather.

“If I were a blanket, where would I be hiding?” Nobody will answer my question of course, but it’s worth asking anyway.

Down the hallway I see a door that appears to lead to a storage closet. Bingo! That’s what I’m looking for. Still carrying the aluminum bat, I’m guessing I can simply twist the doorknob and it’ll open right up. Unless this too is locked. Which I hope is not the case.

Thankfully, the door cooperates and is not locked. It is in fact a storage closet. I’m surprised this hasn’t been raided yet. I guess today is my lucky day. Inside are sleeping mats, pillows, rolls of toilet paper, large bottles of water, a fire extinguisher, and…

Blankets! Yes!!!

They’re all small, which is not a bad thing. It’s not like I’m going to share it with anyone. My girlfriend and I got separated after The Singularity hit. I haven’t seen her since then. I wonder if she’s still alive. I somehow doubt it. She was never the “survivor” type, even though she loved the show.

I gather three baby blue blankets, blow off the dust that has accumulated around it, and stuff them into my SpongeBob backpack. I also grab a bottle of water for good measure. Always stay hydrated, even in a post-apocalyptic nightmarish landscape such as where we are.

Exiting the building is a lot easier than entering it. I unlock the front door and simply stroll out like I own the place. No new cuts on my hands. Thank God. Once outside, I see the sun drifting lazily over the horizon. It’ll be dark soon. Probably in an hour and a half from now. Or less. It’s time to get to shelter. I found a place in Queens near JFK Airport that used to be a 5-star hotel. A larger-than-normal band of survivors have made it into a makeshift shelter. It’s pretty sweet. The food and water supply are surprisingly abundant – relatively speaking. There are a few beds left unoccupied. It’s fairly peaceful. We’ve reached the point where fighting is no longer a problem. We need each other more than we can allow petty differences to tear us apart. It’s kind of cool how in the face of extreme circumstances human beings finally learn how to co-exist peacefully. Too bad it has to be under extreme circumstances, though.

A SpongeBob SquarePants backpack.

I think I know where I’m going. Just walk along the water until I hit the Howard Beach neighborhood. Then I head north on Cross Bay Boulevard until I hit Pitkin Avenue. Then I…

“Hey! You there!”

I stop dead in my tracks. The SpongeBob backpack still slung over my shoulder, I turn toward the source of the voice. It’s female. But deep enough that it could possibly be a guy. At first, I don’t see anybody. The road is desolate, but that doesn’t mean someone couldn’t be lurking in the shadows.

“Who is it? Am I trespassing? What’s the problem?” I call back.

No response.

“Seriously. I mean no harm! I’m just a guy trying to survive, like the rest of us. Where are you? Show yourself, please!”

Still, no response. Just silence. This is eerie. And uncomfortable.

Suddenly, I see the figure of a person standing next to a telephone pole. As I turn toward him or her to say something, I feel a cold blade touch my throat. That makes me freeze. My heart is pounding. A strong hand grips my left forearm and twists it behind my back. I gasp. My knees buckle and I fall helplessly to the ground.

“Wha…what’s going on?” I’m desperate for an answer. Whoever it is, it must be a guy because they have me in the strongest grapple I’ve ever been in since my high school wrestling days.

“Are you one of them?” No doubt, the voice sounds female. But how the hell can a woman be so fucking strong?

“No, I’m not. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Who’s this “them” you’re referring to?”

My attacker lets go of my arm and walks in front of me so I can see them. They still have the knife pointed straight at my throat. One false move and they can slit it and make me bleed to death. I am at her mercy.

“I didn’t think so, but I can never be too careful,” my attacker replies. Indeed, it is a woman! She’s wearing a dark brown leather jacket that looks as worn as a leather jacket like that should be. Along with ripped jeans, black boots, a gray skull cap, and a utility belt – she’s dressed like how a Hollywood producer would think a post-apocalyptic gangster should dress. She’s husky, which could mean either she’s fat but hides it well or her clothes are too big for her.

“Who the fuck are you? And what’s your name?”

Still on my knees, I look up and try to answer her questions in a calm and rational manner. “My name is Preston. I’m from Washington D.C. but now I don’t live anywhere. I’m a scavenger just like everybody else.” She seems like she’s buying my story, which is 100 percent true, by the way. “I just arrived in New York earlier this morning. I was walking around looking for blankets and stuff. I found some in an abandoned daycare center a block away from here.”

A city on fire.

I point in the direction of the daycare center. Smartly, she doesn’t look away from me and continues to threateningly point the knife near my carotid artery.

“Maybe that’s true, or maybe not. I don’t know for sure. My name is Kathya. Have you ever heard of me?” I nod my head “no.” She seems to believe it. “Okay, have you ever heard of the Daughters of Athena?”

“No. Never heard of it, Kathya.”

Upon hearing me say her name, Kathya’s head turns slightly to her side. She doesn’t blink and stares directly into my weary eyes. I sense a small smile crack her militant façade. Then, she grabs my hand and pulls me up to my feet. She notices blood dripping from my right index finger.

“We have to get out of here. Now. The Daughters of Athena isn’t popular in these parts. My very presence here could spark an all-out gang war. Hurry!” And with that, Kathya takes my hand and sprints toward an abandoned pub. I struggle to keep up. Not only is she strong, but she’s also fast! She opens the door with a small key she takes out from her utility belt. Before I can catch my breath, Kathya pulls me into the building and slams the door shut. She locks it. I look around and see an empty bar that’s clearly been robbed of all its booze. Not even a spare chair can be seen.

“Follow me, Preston.”

Damn. Hearing her say my name brings shivers down my spine. It’s been a long time since I’ve engaged in such a lengthy conversation with a woman. Kathya isn’t very pretty, but she’s sturdy and confident – which can make someone appear more physically beautiful than the really are. Kathya leads me down a dark hall. At the end, we go into the bathroom. The toilet is gone, but that doesn’t matter since it doesn’t appear we’re here to take a joint piss. Kathya opens the bathroom cabinet hanging over the space where the toilet used to be, revealing a 10-digit security keypad.

“What the fuck?”

“Don’t tell anybody that this is here, got it?” She enters several digits. A “ding” sound comes from the ceiling. Then, Kathya walks over to the south-facing wall and pushes against it. A mysterious door opens. My jaw drops to the floor, metaphorically speaking. It leads down a long flight of stairs. But I’m still standing here, frozen and totally in shock.

“Yes, I know this is a lot for you to take in right now. But follow me, please.” I take a small step toward the door but stop. What the fuck is going on right now –

“PRESTON!”

“Uh, yes ma’am! I’m coming…” I follow her meekly down the staircase. It’s dimly lit, but thankfully there’s railing on both sides. I grab onto both rails and slowly descend. The door closes behind us without any of us doing anything to close it. What the hell is this place?

“This building used to be a speakeasy during Prohibition times,” Kathya explains. “The upstairs room used to be a diner that served meatloaf and cold potato salad. But downstairs is where flapper girls and rich Wall Street bankers used to party all night, get drunk, and have wild orgies till dawn. Even before The Singularity fucked up all of humanity, this speakeasy was a haven for radicals, extremists, and social outcasts. People like me.”

We stop at the bottom of the staircase. Up ahead is another short hallway. At the end is a large, imposing stone door.

Environmental destruction.

“A speakeasy, you say? That’s neat. I’ve read about them but never actually visited one.” My head is indeed swimming with a lot of new information. Not only is there some kind of radical underground street gang living here, they appear to be in some kind of turf war with another rival gang. How cool is that?

“Is there a secret password to get in through that door? Or do we need to enter another pass code?” I point to the stone door ahead of us.

“Unfortunately Preston, you aren’t going through that door.” Kathya has a look of regret on her face. I cannot figure out why and am about to ask her about it, until I feel a powerful blow against the back of my head.

I fall to the floor and immediately pass out, knocked out cold.

To be continued

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All Hail Queen Alina

Bow down and worship Alina Popa!

Alina Popa is the GOAT.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the lingo the kids are using these days, “GOAT” is not an insult. It’s not what Charlie Brown feared he would be if he were to give up the losing run at the end of his playground baseball game. It’s not an animal. It’s not one of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs. No. GOAT stands for Greatest of All Time. It’s the highest compliment one can bestow upon a person. It’s a high honor.

Miss Popa is the GOAT. Or a GOAT. Or one of the GOATs. Or in the top 5. Or top 10. We can’t all agree where she ranks among the greatest female bodybuilders in the history of the sport, but for the time being most of us should be able to recognize that Alina is one the best of the best of the best of the best.

For many reasons, Alina has captured our hearts and imaginations. She’s beloved. She boasts near universal adoration. Everyone loves and respects her. If you were to take a straw poll of one thousand female muscle fans worldwide and ask them who their favorite FBB currently is, I’d wager a guess that more than 80% would have Alina somewhere in their top 5. If she’s not in their top 10, then they’ve lost all credibility as far as I’m concerned. If they’ve never even heard of her, then I don’t know if it’s fair to call them a female muscle fan in the first place.

Alina’s appeal is fascinating to break down. She doesn’t have the crossover appeal of Cindy Landolt, yet she’s probably more beloved than she is. Alina doesn’t participate in sexually explicit pornography like Denise Masino or Brandi Mae Akers, yet she’s still considered unbelievably sexy. She isn’t as prominent on social media as Lauren Drain, but Alina is heads and shoulders more popular than Miss Drain will ever be. That isn’t to insult Miss Landolt, Miss Masino, Miss Akers, or Miss Drain – but rather to point out the impressiveness of Miss Popa’s popularity.

But it isn’t just about popularity. It’s emotional appeal. Alina makes us feel things. Intense things. Intense thoughts, feelings, and fantasies. One does not simply look at a picture of Alina flexing her large muscles and not experience a rise in blood pressure. Unless one is already in a vegetative state. Heck, looking at Alina’s body of work may very well put you in a vegetative state. And you probably wouldn’t complain too loudly when that happens.

She is a unique lady. She’s a one-of-a-kind. Her appeal is both obvious and not obvious at the same time. Alina is the GOAT, but she’s more than that. She’s a queen. No, rather she’s THE Queen. The Queen of Female Bodybuilding.

Alina Popa was born on October 12, 1978 in Brăila, Romania. Like many female bodybuilders, she led a fairly active lifestyle, having competed in track and field sports since she was 12 years old. In her late teens and early 20s, Alina became a regular gymgoer and started to do what guys always do at the gym but some ladies are reluctant to: lift weights.

In 2000, she placed 2nd in a local regional contest, which probably boosted her confidence and gave her the “hunger” to compete in more. That obviously set off a firestorm. The rest of her impressive résumé is as follows:

  • 2000 IFBB National Championship – 3rd (HW)
  • 2003 IFBB National Championship – 1st (MW)
  • 2004 IFBB European Championship – 2nd (HW)
  • 2005 Mixed Pairs European Championship – 2nd
  • 2005 Women’s European Championship – 5th
  • 2006 Grand Prix Due Torri – 1st
  • 2007 NABBA Miss Universe – 1st (Miss Physique class)
  • 2008 IFBB Worlds Santa Susanna – 1st (Overall and HW)
  • 2010 IFBB Ms. International – 8th
  • 2011 IFBB Ms. International – 3rd
  • 2011 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 5th
  • 2012 IFBB Ms. International – 3rd
  • 2012 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 4th
  • 2013 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 2nd
  • 2014 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 2nd
  • 2016 WOS Rising Phoenix World Championships – 3rd
  • 2018 IFBB Muscle Vodka Tampa Pro – 1st
  • 2018 Rising Phoenix World Championships – 1st

There’s no need to rehash the controversy in 2014 when Alina placed 2nd to Iris Kyle in the final Ms. Olympia contest. Alina placed 2nd the previous year and every prognosticator thought this would be the year the seemingly unstoppable Miss Kyle would be unseated. Alas, that did not happen. Iris won her 17th overall IFBB professional title, an eyepopping achievement that deserves considerable recognition. But in the hearts and minds of FBB fans everywhere, Alina deserved to place 1st at least once while the Ms. Olympia still existed. She may not have persuaded enough judges to earn that crown, but she’s definitely earned our awe and admiration. We understand that one’s accomplishments are not always defined by others.

So as far as professional competitions go, Alina may not technically be the GOAT, but she’s nevertheless one of the greatest to ever have stepped onto the stage. But for those of us who don’t need external validation for the things we love, we can live with that. Others who crave that validation are probably still bitter to this day.

Alina is a Queen because she’s everything you could possibly ask for in a female bodybuilder. She has it all: Brains, beauty, brawn, charm, and grace. She’s beautiful, yet approachable. She’s accomplished, yet humble. She’s tough, yet kind. She’s relentless, yet grounded. She’s glamourous, yet authentic. She’s strong, yet compassionate. She’s muscular, yet still unquestionably feminine. She’s big, yet curvy. She’s confident, yet amicable. She’s a woman, yet she doesn’t let her gender define her.

Her body is flawless. Some may have been disappointed when she decided to get breast implants, but that is neither here nor there. She can choose to enhance herself if it makes her happy. Alina has achieved the near impossible: She appeals to female muscle fans across the entire spectrum. She appeases those who love big, big, big muscles. She also appeases the folks on the other side of the aisle who value traditional femininity and are turned off by FBBs who exhibit too many “masculine” qualities. There’s nothing masculine about Miss Popa. She’s as feminine as can be.

When the sport of female bodybuilding rose to prominence in the 1970s, there was a stigma attached to women who were so bulky it (supposedly) compromised their “femininity.” As a result, many female competitors intentionally chose to not get too big out of fear it would damage their ability to win contests. That’s bad news. So praising Alina’s uncanny ability to perfectly balance femininity and muscularity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s the reason why she’s so beloved by female muscle fans around the world. On the other hand, it feeds into the perception that female bodybuilders are somehow obligated to also look feminine because not looking sufficiently feminine can be detrimental to their success.

Hm. This is an awkward place to be. It’s discouraging to praise ladies like Alina, Cindy, and Minna Pajulahti for their femininity and strength because – even if it’s implicitly implied – it reinforces the belief that women who are not like them are somehow inferior. Jennifer Kennedy and Kathy Connors are not inferior. They’re also awesome and deserving of respect. They may not get the same universal adoration as the previous group, but they are still worthy of our undying love. It’s much easier to defend Cindy Landolt than it is Miss Kennedy, a fact that begrudgingly acknowledges the reality that traditional femininity still matters to a great deal of people.

FBBs like Miss Kennedy have deep voices, masculine-looking faces, and a “roughness” about them that makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable. One cannot deny that, even though one can also argue that these features do not chip away at her identity as a strong sexy woman. Alina’s presence is a breath of fresh air because she checks every box a female muscle fan could ask for, in addition to not having to carry much of the baggage typically associated with muscular women.

There isn’t a whole lot you can criticize about Alina. But we think of her as a Queen not just because of her crossover appeal, flawless beauty, perfect balance between muscularity and femininity, and considerable professional accomplishments. She’s earned her Queen Status because she makes us feel things very few other women – muscular or not – can also conjure up.

One of her most famous talents is the ability to isolate her muscles and bounce them on command. It makes us swoon faster than a pack of teen girls at an Elvis concert circa 1956. She can wiggle her glutes, bounce her pecs, and make her quads dance as if it were a cast member of Soul Train. Her muscle control is a sight to behold. It takes your breath away. Your eyes are peeled to the screen as you watch her show off her skills. It’s a shocking reminder of how in control she is of her body. She doesn’t just spend hours a day at the gym building her body – she owns her body. It doesn’t own her. She knows her physical self better than most of us think is even possible. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Watching Alina control her muscles – and knowing that we can never do that no matter how hard we try – makes us appreciate her that much more. She’s a Queen because she controls her domain with an iron fist. She’s a Queen because she doesn’t let anybody stand in her way. She’s a Queen because she does what she wants, looks the way she wants, and pursues her dreams with reckless abandon.

For the longest time Alina chose not to get breast implants. Then, she went under the knife in 2017 and looks great as a result. Does she look better? Yeah, but once again this is a tricky area. That isn’t to imply that she looked inferior before. She looked stunning before surgery and she still looks stunning today. Personally, I am not super picky about whether or not an FBB chooses to get breast implants. I love strong flat chested beauties as much as I love strong enhanced beauties. Fans may bicker and argue amongst themselves, but you’ll find no quarrel with me.

Whenever I scroll through photos and videos of Miss Popa I’m reminded of the famous quote from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet when Romeo remarks “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” Likewise, before Alina, true beauty did not exist. You’ve never actually seen a truly breathtaking woman until you witnessed Alina in action. Watching her strut toward the camera, flex her quads, and give the viewer a sweet but naughty smile is enough to give us cardiac arrest. But more than that, it’s sort of like a spiritual experience. Your brain realizes it’s seeing something that’s different from what it’s seen before. It’s difficult to explain, but universally understood by those who’ve experienced it.

Watching Alina is like being touched by the hand of divinity. You notice every muscle fiber, every curve, every fine detail of her immaculate body and wonder how a human being could possibly look that way. It’s as though every “traditionally beautiful” woman you’ve ever seen don’t matter anymore. Like Romeo, Shakespeare’s famous male protagonist thought he’d seen it all. He thought he knew what a beautiful woman looked like. Then, he saw Juliet. And his whole world came to a crashing halt. His paradigm shifted. His perspective changed forever. What he thought he knew he immediately threw away into the trash can.

He knew nothing. And now he knows everything.

In similar fashion, we thought the “perfect woman” would look like Marilyn Monroe or Pamela Anderson or Trish Stratus or Megan Fox. Little did we know that our standards were way too low. Heck, our standards weren’t even in the right curriculum. Alina Popa dominates them all. She vanquishes her enemies like Alexander the Great marching through Persia. She redefines beauty, or even transcends the word “beauty.” Yes, that’s more like it. She transcends all conventional wisdom.

Alina transcends the sport of bodybuilding. She’s bigger than it – metaphorically speaking. She’s in her own class. She may not be the most accomplished or legendary or historically noteworthy, but she’s loved by everyone who knows her or knows of her. There’s also something strangely pure about her. She rarely does nudity (only a few photos of her topless exist) and she never does any kind of porn. That isn’t to demean any FBB who does go down that path, of course. But in Alina’s case, it works to her advantage. She’s sexy, but not in a naughty kind of way. She’s sexy in a way that isn’t wholesome (this isn’t the Disney Channel), but it’s not gratuitous either. Her sexiness is more charming than sinful.

If this seems like a series of rambling observations, that’s because it’s impossible to succinctly explain why Alina Popa is so amazing. All one can do is talk endlessly about why one loves her. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not rational. It’s unambiguous, yet not easy to describe.

In short, Alina Popa is a Queen because she exhibits one characteristic that very few beautiful women can match: Control.

Her muscle control is one thing. Her control over our hearts and minds is another. She controls us. Her beauty, brains, personality, aura, and ethereal nature have us in the palm of her callused hand. She can do the most mundane activity and make us go crazy. She can walk down a hallway wearing heels. She can bake bread. She can sit on a couch and watch TV. She can lie down on a bed and simply look up at the camera and smile. She can just stand there wearing a bikini and not say a single word. Alina can do anything and still make us go gaga over her. She doesn’t have to try to be sexy. She just is. Whether she’s wearing sweatpants or an elegant dress or a sparkly bikini, Alina appeals to us no matter what.

Come to think of it, she’s the most minimalistic female bodybuilder in the world. She’s simple. She doesn’t need to put too much effort into being sexually appetizing. She simply is…all because she busts her butt at the gym day-in and day-out. She makes immense sacrifices to look the way she looks. She puts in more work in a single day than most of us do in a month. And she does this because she wants to. It empowers her. It inspires her. It’s motivates her to get out of bed every morning. It’s her raison d’être. And we are grateful for her for making these tough decisions.

I believe Alina once told a story on Instagram about how her Romanian mother at first didn’t approve of her daughter becoming a female bodybuilder because Romanian girls are supposed to be “narrow and skinny.” But once Alina started winning trophies and accolades, her mother fortunately altered her opinion. Alina breaks stereotypes. She challenges what you thought you knew about female bodybuilders. And she does it with the cutest smile on her face.

Her muscle control mirrors her emotional control over her fans. Female bodybuilders are often described as being either “queens” or “goddesses.” A goddess is a deity who’s powerful but remains fairly detached from human civilization. A queen is also powerful but directly rules over her kingdom. A True Queen looks after her people with kindness, benevolence, and sternness. She’s authoritative, but not oppressive. A True Queen earns the trust of her people, as opposed to ruling over them through fear. A True Queen’s legitimacy comes from a place of love, not malice.

Alina Popa is loved. That is why she’s a Queen. Not because she says she’s a Queen, but because we say she’s a Queen. Because we want her to be our Queen. She’s a democratically elected Muscle Queen, not one imposed upon us by a third party. See the difference?

All hail Queen Alina!