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!

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The Pleasure is All Mine: A Tribute to Xenia Onatopp

Xenia Onatopp. The pleasure was all hers.

Xenia Onatopp. The pleasure was all hers.

Everyone has a seminal moment that defines their youth. Alright, it may not actually “define” their youth per se, but a moment that certainly played an integral role in shaping their transition from childhood to adulthood. It may not have been a specific moment, perhaps a series of moments that culminated into an event. Or, it could’ve been a pivotal “ah ha” epiphany that forever changed how you viewed the world.

For me, it’s pretty obvious. I grew up a James Bond fan. My father introduced me to the old school 1960s Sean Connery Bond films when I was at least 8 years old. Maybe even younger. I don’t remember exactly, but the super suave British spy left an indelible mark on my childhood. Some kids wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Spider-Man or Batman. I wanted to be James Bond. And Indiana Jones, but that’s a whole other discussion.

Can you really blame me? Agent 007 can save the world from the forces of evil while enjoying all the benefits that come from being a charming and sophisticated gentleman. He can defeat agents of SPECTRE while enjoying a vodka martini (a drink I obviously did not know much about as a youngling) and making love to a beautiful woman. Even as a small child I knew that was a special perk, despite being prepubescent and not fully understanding what sex was all about.

However, my eyes opened further when I was introduced to a certain Bond girl (or rather, Bond villain) in Xenia Onatopp. It took me a while to understand the meaning behind her innuendo-laden name. But that didn’t matter. The character is featured in 1995’s GoldenEye, a fantastic Bond film that reinvigorated the franchise after the lukewarm reception to 1989’s Licence to Kill (notice I used the proper British spelling). I personally loved the second installment of Timothy Dalton’s tenure as 007, but that’s just me. Not everyone agrees. That’s fine.

But Xenia Onatopp, played by the gorgeous Dutch actress Famke Janssen, completely altered my reality. I felt my paradigm shift…even though I had no idea what that concept even meant (I still don’t). She wasn’t just a beautiful Bond girl. Nor was she just a typical megalomaniac Bond villain bent on world domination. She was…different. Exceptional. Dynamic. Memorable. Eye-popping. Charismatic.

Sexy.

Oh, yeah. Unbelievably sexy. Without question, Famke Janssen’s magnificent performance as Xenia will forever be remembered as one of the most unforgettable cinematic characters to ever grace the silver screen. Remember, she’s not just a remarkable Bond character. She’s an extraordinary movie character PERIOD. I also spent way too much time playing GoldenEye on Nintendo 64, so perhaps that added to her appeal. But Xenia Onatopp left an impact on my psyche. She definitely had a hand in formulating my love for female bodybuilders. Real life FBBs obviously pushed me over the edge, but Miss Onatopp planted a seed in my adolescent mind that bore beautiful fruit later on.

Xenia could have a classically elegant side, if you let her.

Xenia could have a classically elegant side, if you let her.

My parents didn’t let me watch GoldenEye when it was first released in movie theaters, so I saw it later in 1996 when I was nine years old. Remember the good old days of VHS cassette tapes? Yeah, of course you do! That’s how I first experienced Famke Janssen’s beautiful face and sexy Russian accent. I was quite impressed with Pierce Brosnan as the James Bond of the 90s, but I wanted to watch it over and over again purely because of Miss Janssen. Can you blame me?

No, of course you can’t.

It should be obvious why Xenia Onatopp captured my attention. She’s a beautiful and badass villainess who kills her opponents by seducing them, luring them into a sensual trap, and slaying them by choking them to death with her strong legs. Very lethal! Not only is she effective as an assassin, but she enjoys herself in the process. What’s the point of living if you can’t feel alive?

Whether she’s killing a Canadian naval admiral or attempting to do the same to James Bond in a hotel sauna, Xenia explodes on the screen. Your eyes cannot leave her whenever she’s in the frame. For an impressionable nine year old boy, her captivating presence worked its magic ten-fold. I hadn’t yet hit puberty, but I knew she was special for a reason I couldn’t quite explain. Her power enthralled me. The way she eliminated her enemies erupted an electric feeling inside me that made my heartbeat race a million miles per minute. I was aroused by her in a way only a prepubescent boy still in his latency stage could be.

As a Bond girl/Bond villain, Xenia is one of the few women who could match Bond’s physical prowess. She isn’t as muscular as a bodybuilder, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a movie, which means you have to use your imagination. Trust me, my imagination went into overdrive when it came to her!

As I got older and I started to re-watch the movie several times over, what struck me most was the realization that Xenia isn’t necessarily an evil person. Yes, she did the bidding of General Ourumov and Alec Trevelyan, but I never got the impression that she was super enthusiastic about their goals. Stealing a satellite weapon that fires an electromagnetic pulse toward a hapless target so that it can be used to rob London of a mountain-load currency? That’s fine, but wouldn’t it be better if I could also enjoy orgasmic-loaded murder sprees at the same time? That was Xenia’s self-indulgent outlook on life.

Famke Janssen was (and still is) one of the most beautiful women in the world.

Famke Janssen was (and still is) one of the most beautiful women in the world.

As a character, she was a perfect specimen for young hormone-raging boys like me. Strong, beautiful, sexy, and not afraid to have fun while killing people. How awesome is that? The rebel in me loved that she could play by her own rules (I somehow doubt her superiors specifically sanctioned her sexually-charged assassination techniques) and enjoy the ride while it lasted. It came to an end, of course (“she always did enjoy a good squeeze”). But what a glorious ride it was, huh?

Later Famke Janssen would continue her fame in the X-Men movies. But no matter how many additional film and television appearances she would make, her role in GoldenEye continues to be her signature piece of work. I don’t know what she’s up to today, but Ms. Janssen will always be my top celebrity crush. Right next to Monica Bellucci and Rena Mero, Famke forever claims a special place in my heart. No matter how old I get (and how old she gets), my whole body might start to convulse in uncontrollable tremors if I were to ever see her in person.

Obviously, the character is a chief reason why I love female bodybuilders so much. Like I said before, Xenia is not an exceedingly muscular woman, but for the sake of enjoying the movie, I suspended my disbelief momentarily and subconsciously thought of her as the strongest woman in the world. As a boy, I secretly fantasized about what it would be like to be wrapped around her strong legs and for her to squeeze as hard as she possibly could. My neck would crack for sure. Breathing would become increasingly more difficult. I might pass out or even meet my Maker right then and there. Either way, I’d be one happy camper. I didn’t know it explicitly at the time, but as a young boy I started to develop my exquisite taste for strong women.

Oddly enough, I don’t get too excited about the prospects of being crushed by a muscular woman. I’ve written before that wrestling, beat downs, and other BDSM-related activities don’t appeal to me all that much. I have nothing against these fetishes, but they just aren’t my cup of tea. I don’t judge anyone who is into that sort of thing, of course. But it’s not for me. So it’s a bit strange why my first foray into the world of muscular women would include a fictional character who kills men with her pure brute strength. Rather odd, indeed.

Other than Wai Lin in "Tomorrow Never Dies," Xenia was the only Bond girl who could match Bond in a fist fight.

Other than Wai Lin in “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Xenia was the only Bond girl who could match Bond in a fist fight.

Maybe I don’t entirely understand myself. Perhaps I do in fact fetishize being trampled upon by a woman but I just don’t know it yet. Or maybe I’m not actually into that and it’s by happy accident that my universe turned upside down the moment I discovered Miss Onatopp and her sexually wicked ways.

Outside of my own narrow perspective, Xenia Onatopp probably isn’t a character the general public will remember all that much, Bond aficionados notwithstanding. What makes her stand out above most cinematic villains is how hypersexual she is during every waking moment of her life. Violence gives her an erotic thrill. Whether she’s shooting up a room full of Russian computer programmers or asphyxiating unsuspecting male victims with her powerful legs, committing violent acts turns her on. In her own sick mind, violence may be the only thing that truly turns her on.

The world of cinema is definitely not shy from mixing sex with violence, but GoldenEye introduced us to a character who took it to the next level: Murder isn’t just an activity that gives her an orgasm; murder is the only activity that gives her an orgasm.

In books, movies and TV shows, we’re accustomed to seeing villains commit crimes for more or less “traditional” reasons: greed, vengeance, ego, hunger for power, etc. Xenia, and to an extent Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, commits acts of violence because it thrills her. I never got the impression that she ever felt any passion for Alec Trevelyan’s personal vendetta against M-16. She went along with it because it gave her an excuse to assassinate powerful men, attack innocent civilians, cook up mayhem and be a “bad girl.”

Symbolically, Xenia throws up her proverbial middle finger at society and then proceeds to masturbate with it just because she feels like it. She’ll stick it to the human race and climax over and over again while they helplessly watch – just for the hell of it.

Violence is orgasmic, a mantra I don't recommend anyone live by!

Violence is orgasmic, a mantra I don’t recommend anyone live by!

In that respect, it’s rather refreshing to see a villain commit crimes not as a means to an end but as an end unto itself. Xenia ushered in a new class of criminal; one who isn’t after anything tangible like money, power, or fame, but instead steals because she thinks it’s good sport. Alfred Pennyworth may have said something similar to Bruce Wayne, but that’s beside the point. From a storytelling perspective, Xenia exists outside of the plot. She was definitely working with the bad guys, but she really had her own agenda. She wanted to have fun. If collaborating with the Janus crime syndicate could provide her with the enough excuses to have fun, so be it.

Obviously, I do not advocate for anyone to follow Ms. Onatopp’s example and kill people for the heck of it. But her character undeniably left an impression on me. My love for female bodybuilders is the most palpable. But it’s not because of the fantasy of being crushed, squeezed and incapacitated by a strong sexy woman. That doesn’t appeal to me nearly as much as you’d think. Instead, I was drawn to her because she did what she did for reasons that are her own and hers alone. She never had to justify herself. She didn’t squeeze men to death because she wanted to prove that she could do it. She did it because she enjoyed it.

In a perverted kind of way, Xenia is one of the greatest feminist characters modern cinema has churned out in recent decades. She exists purely for her own sake. She doesn’t hate men or hold a grudge against them; she uses them for her own pleasure. Xenia is a hedonist in every sense of the word. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Whether she’s conspiring with evil forces to plot an international terrorist attack or she’s screeching in delight from an earth-shattering orgasm seconds after killing a man, everything she did could be summarized in one simple line:

The pleasure was all hers.