Ashley Kaltwasser. She has a sprinter’s body and a pageant girl’s good
looks. Her teeth are bleach-white, nails French-manicured, hair dyed
black and Keratin-treated so it falls in a glossy curtain down her back.
When we meet in her fifth-floor room at The Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas,
she’s in her stage makeup — fake lashes, heavy powder. It’s a late
September afternoon, the day before the 2014 Bikini Olympia competition,
and Kaltwasser is already dark from her first layer of spray tan.
She’ll get another layer before bed and one more the next morning. The
contest rules call for “a natural and healthy tan,” but Kaltwasser
always goes for Boehner orange because it looks better onstage. The
table, the bed, and the bathroom are strewn with what can best be
described as product: bottles of serums, sprays, powders, glosses, and
emporium and a Budget car rental. This weekend it’s the site of Joe Weider’s Olympia,
the biggest bodybuilding event of the year. The place teems with
thousands of bodybuilding fans: men with arms like vine-choked tree
trunks, women whose skirts reveal remarkable quads. They come from
Southern California and Florida, the coastal epicenters of the sport,
but also from Sydney, Seoul, Oslo, and all across the midsection of
America. To them, Kaltwasser is something of a celebrity. Whenever she
walks through the lobby, at least three people ask to take her picture.
Sometimes it’s gawking men who smell like Axe body spray, but more often
it’s those guys’ girlfriends. “My coach says I have the same body type
as you,” says one starry-eyed woman. The elevators are decorated with
life-size photos of the top competitors. Kaltwasser is thrilled when she
discovers this. For the rest of the weekend, she takes “her” elevator
almost every time.
Kaltwasser is quickly becoming the LeBron James of the bikini
division, a new, more accessible and relatable category of bodybuilding.
Long the provenance of MTV Spring Breakers and a close relative of the
wet T-shirt contest, these competitions are gaining legitimacy as a
sport and attracting legions of participants and fans. The number of
professional competitions has more than doubled since 2010, when the
professional arm of the International Federation of Bodybuilding and
Fitness added bikini to its roster of female divisions. (Those
divisions, in order from most to least jacked: bodybuilding, physique,
fitness, figure, and now bikini).
The addition is part of the
IFBB’s effort to change bodybuilding’s image from freakishly strapped
ectomorphs to something sleeker, more modern, and, well, sexier. On a
broader scale, bikini competition culture is changing the conversation
about what health and fitness should look like. It’s a conversation
that’s taking place largely on Instagram, where women like Kaltwasser —
and women who want to be like Kaltwasser — get advice, give support, and
pose in their underwear.
Advocates of this “bikini body” say it’s
opening up the world of weightlifting to women who wouldn’t otherwise
think of approaching a squat rack. “They’ll come and they don’t even
know how to pick up a weight,” says Shannon Dey, who goes by Momma
Bombshell. Her company, Bombshell Fitness,
is one of the largest professional fitness coaching businesses in the
country, and 80% of her competing clients are in the bikini division.
“This type of body is gorgeous and fit, yet it’s attainable,” she says.
word “attainable” comes up a lot when people in the industry talk about
the bikini fitness trend. It’s being offered up as an antidote to
thinspo culture — instead of thigh gaps, it’s “strong not skinny”;
instead of pro-ana, it’s “eat to grow.” Kaltwasser, a former all-state
athlete who professes her love for steak and pizza, is the poster woman
for this trend.
But another story is playing out on social media. A
search for #BikiniCompetitor on Instagram brings up endless reels of
selfies at the gym, food weighed to the gram, quotes like “fail to plan,
plan to fail,” and memes about not being able to walk after “leg day.”
They chant their mantras in hashtags: #BeastMode, #NoExcuses,
#RiseAndGrind. In profile after profile, women describe themselves as
“recovered” from disorders like bulimia and compulsive exercising. All
of it raises the question: Is the lifestyle that Kaltwasser literally
embodies really a new and healthier attitude toward the female body, or
is it a new expression of sexist old ideas and dangerous standards of
go to the gym; they’re athletes who train. Or, as Kaltwasser says on
more than one occasion, “This isn’t just some bar contest. It’s a
sport.” The 26-year-old from Akron, Ohio, has always competed in sports
that were about individual performance — gymnastics, swimming, running.
In high school they called her AK-47; she broke six track and
cross-country records and qualified for state championships in both
sports. Another thing she likes to say to reporters: “I worked for this
body my whole life.”
deciding that college wasn’t for her. She found Summer Montabone, a
personal trainer and the owner of a local gym who runs Team VIP
(Very Impressive Physique), a coaching group for bikini competitors.
“You knew she was an athlete,” says Montabone, who is still Kaltwasser’s
competition coach. These days Kaltwasser works out six days a week,
doing an hour of weightlifting and a half-hour on a cardio machine when
she’s preparing for a show. Sometimes she’ll do another session of
cardio in the evenings.
Kaltwasser doesn’t have a boyfriend. In
high school, boys were intimidated by her. “You could just feel the
atmosphere change when she was around,” her former running coach tells
me. “She’s so hardworking and so dominant in whatever she does.” This is
the part of Kaltwasser that made her a track star, and it’s what makes
her a bikini competitor now.
Even on the amateur level, a lot of
competitors are like Kaltwasser. They have the mind-sets of CEOs; they
push themselves to extremes in all aspects of their lives. Bikini
competitions are seductive to these kinds of women: They seem to promise
that perfection is possible if you put in the work. As Liz Ortiz, an
Army soldier, bikini competitor, and mother of three told me, “I set my
standards so high, and [competing] is just part of that.”
competitive drive has propelled her to the top in very little time. She
was a rookie when she won last year’s Olympia, an event that has grown
from a three-man competition at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1965 to
become the fitness industry’s Super Bowl, a four-day event in Las Vegas
that draws more than 55,000 fans. Since last year’s Olympia, Kaltwasser
has entered six shows and won five. She estimates that she’s earned
over $100,000 in prize money, along with endorsement deals, modeling
gigs, and paid appearances. She has the forgivable egotism of a
small-town girl who’s still a little starstruck by her own life.
“Winning the Olympia changed everything for me,” she says. “Who goes to
seven countries in a year?” She liked Sweden the most because there were
no “trashy areas, no homeless people.” She’s still learning how to talk
to the press. “When I don’t know what else to do, I smile,” she says.
This year she’s trying for something that no bikini competitor has
done yet: win the Olympia twice. Her biggest threat is Yeshaira Robles,
another relative newcomer. On paper, the two women couldn’t be more
different. Kaltwasser curls her eyelashes and wears matching workout
clothes. She loves cats and calls her father “Daddy.” She doesn’t curse
and she only likes the kind of rap that plays on the radio. Robles is a
35-year-old Puerto Rican from the Bronx. She’s got a husband and a
daughter and a smoldering gaze that makes her opponents look like
they’re posing for elementary school portraits. If Kaltwasser is Hannah
Montana, Robles is Miley with a sledgehammer in hand.
is starting the weekend with 80,000 followers on Instagram, the
majority of whom came after last year’s Olympia. She’s hoping to break
100,000 this time, which will likely only happen if she wins. Many
bikini competitors use Instagram like a high school cafeteria, chatting,
bragging, stirring up drama, gushing about their “swolemates,” all with
plenty of emojis and exclamation points. But Kaltwasser and her fellow
Olympia competitors are pros. They’re building brands, not making
friends. Their images are more polished, the self-promotion more
blatant. They have endorsement deals that require them to post about
their sponsors. Kaltwasser, for example, has agreements with Gaspari
supplements, Muscle Egg liquid egg whites, Liquid Sun Rayz spray
tanning, FitnessRx for Women magazine, and Better Bodies fitness apparel.
exposure, but they’ve brought critics too. Those followers can determine
whether she gets a sponsorship or modeling gig; they can determine the
future of her career. “I try not to go out in public without my makeup
on because you never know when someone’s going to ask for a picture, and
then it’ll be on Instagram,” she says. Her Instagram has plenty of
beauty shots, most of which feature her prominent glutes. Recently she’s
been hard-selling Fuel Meals, a food service that ships premade meals
tailored to bodybuilders’ diets. Still she tries not to come across as
an adbot in a bikini. Her account also features dogs in sweaters and a
photo of herself in a pepperoni-pizza-print onesie.
It makes sense
that bikini competitors and wannabes would flock to Instagram, a
female-dominated social media platform where image matters most. Their
presence there is hard to ignore; it’s turned the site into a 24-7 forum
for tips and tricks. Competitors’ accounts are littered with questions,
some from girls as young as 14: “How many calories and carbs do you eat
and stay this lean?” “How can you get veins on your abs?” “What does
your typical diet consist of?” “What moves are you doing to get all that
hammie definition?” “How do you dry ure stomache out like that????”
“What sorts of things do you eat? And how many meals a day?” “What are
your butt workouts??”
In her hotel room that afternoon, Kaltwasser
opens the mini-fridge and plucks a doggie bag of mush from a mound of
other bags. She brought enough meals for the whole trip, divided and
frozen. There’s little variation: chicken, sweet potato, asparagus,
broccoli. Ground oats and egg whites cooked into patties. She often eats
things cold right out of the bag. “I like the taste of simple food,”
she says. “I never really want to eat crap.”
“Abs are made in the
kitchen” is another much-repeated Instagram line. Bikini competitors’
feeds showcase elaborate meal preps, and debates rage on about the
etiquette of taking your food scale to a restaurant. Some competitors
stick to strict quantities of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, which
they tweak obsessively in the weeks leading up to a show. Kaltwasser
doesn’t track her calories or grams. She follows a meal plan that she
writes herself with Montabone’s help. She eats six or seven small meals a
day and drinks two gallons of water. She cuts out sodium the week
before her shows and drinks cups of dandelion root tea, a natural
diuretic. She “eats clean” but doesn’t worry about things like
pesticides or artificial sweeteners. She likes the blue packets more
than the pink. The yellow ones are just OK. Real sugar is not a concept
she knows. After every show, she allows herself to have a cheat meal.
Right now she’s craving salad, one with the works: apples, cranberries,
walnuts, and blue cheese dressing. “A real salad,” she says.
that it’s between 10 and 12% — well below the 21 to 32% that experts
recommend for women her age, though not unheard of for a competitive
athlete. She gains a few pounds in the off-season but emphasizes that
the bikini body is supposed to be maintainable. “It’s a livable
lifestyle,” she likes to say.
Not everyone agrees. “People see photos of competitors and think that’s how they look year-round,” says Layne Norton, a bodybuilding coach
in Florida. Norton has a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and considers
himself a renegade for his less restrictive approach to dieting.
According to him, “stage-lean” is a fleeting state, one that women peak
for just like any athlete peaks for a competition. The idea that anyone
can maintain that kind of physique has created a black market of sorts
in the coaching industry. It can seem like every bikini competitor on
Instagram sells a “bikini body” diet and workout plan. Some of these
women have certifications but most probably don’t. “It’s gotten really
terrible,” says Norton. “A girl goes and wins a show and has abs and so
now she’s a coach to make money.”
These coaches can wreak havoc on their clients’ lives. Ruthie
Harrison is 5-foot-10, blonde-haired and blue-eyed with a disturbingly
symmetrical face. She looks like a fitness model because she is. For
nearly a year and a half, she was also a client of Momma Bombshell, aka
Shannon Dey of Bombshell Fitness. Harrison, who is 25 now and works as a
mechanical engineer, signed up with Team Bombshell in 2011. “I saw all
these photos of women in bikinis on her website and thought, Wow, if I could be a part of that, that would be really cool.”
meal plan took some getting used to — she had never measured cups of
rice or counted asparagus spears before, and she didn’t understand why
salt and seasonings were forbidden (spices cause cravings, she was later
told). “[Dey] would always tell everyone, ‘Follow the plan, stick to
the plan,’ and if you asked why she’d say, ‘Why are you asking why; just
do it. Your mind’s in the wrong place if you’re asking why.’”
training plan had her doing an hour and a half of cardio six days a
week on top of weight training five days a week. All told, each day she
was spending three to five hours at the gym and eating an estimated
1,500 calories. Sometimes she’d fall asleep at the table in front of her
last meal of the night — a tiny steak and salad greens.
says Dey had her clients wear rubber corsets called Squeems, meant to
narrow women’s waists. “We wore them all day,” she says.
that if Harrison was spending that much time in the gym, it was “due to
her own physical limitations, not our recommended plans.” (The Bombshell website
refers to a workout program of one and a half to three hours a day of
gym time, five to six days per week.) Dey doesn’t recall Harrison’s meal
plan, but says that a 1,500-calorie-a-day diet was not uncommon during
prep. She recommends Squeems to clients, she says, because “they have
proven very effective in creating the hourglass shape competitors
Harrison went pro within a year of joining Dey’s team.
She lived for the trophies and for Dey’s positive feedback week after
week. But she also developed a secret habit of binging and purging,
which only got worse the better she performed. After one show, she spent
a week in total isolation, eating and throwing up seven times a day.
When Harrison qualified for the Olympia in 2012, she realized she
couldn’t survive another prep. She confessed everything to Dey, who told
her she was having a reaction to “a self-imagined stress.” Harrison
competed in the 2012 Olympia in the midst of a full-blown eating
disorder and didn’t place.
Dey confirms that she and Harrison spoke “at length” about Harrison’s
eating disorder, and that she may have told Harrison that she was
putting too much pressure on herself. When asked about the prevalence of
eating disorders among her other clients, Dey wrote: “Several studies
have shown that eating disorders are not a result of calorie
restriction, rather they are often triggered by trauma and stress … In a
sport where much of the emphasis is on food manipulation, individuals
who have such issues to begin with may find dealing with these issues
while manipulating food to prove difficult.” But Layne Norton, the coach
from Florida, says he’s seen “an enormous amount of women who had
normal relationships with food before fitness start to have eating
disorders.” He estimates that up to 70% of the women who come to him
have had an eating disorder in the past.
competing after the 2012 Olympia, and things got worse for a while. “I
had no idea how to eat on my own,” she says. Eventually she found a
therapist who helped her see how much she’d let competing affect her
self-image. Last year she wrote a blog post
about her experience on Team Bombshell. “Competing brought out a savage
underlying weakness,” she wrote, “to sacrifice all happiness and reason
for the sake of succeeding.” According to Harrison, Dey asked her to
take it down. Harrison refused, though she did remove some details about
her time as a Bombshell.
that their physiques reflect their morals, their work ethic, and
ultimately their self-worth. It’s a notion that’s as old as the Greeks
and that crops up everywhere from Bible verses to Renaissance philosophy
to the weight room — and now social media. The semi-naked selfies on
Instagram mean more than “Look at my body.” They mean, “Look at my
dedication. Look at my discipline. I am a better person for this.” It’s
common for these women to testify about booze, partying, and bad
relationships forsaken for the morality of the gym. “The only bar I’m
hitting,” says the caption under a photo of a squat rack. “Getting
wheysted,” says the label on the protein shake.
physique is her product and her livelihood, and she’s under enormous
pressure to maintain it. Despite this, she says she doesn’t have a
history of eating disorders and that she’s indebted to her coach for all
she’s done. She talks about starting her own training and nutrition
business when her career on the stage is over. “Right now I feel like
I’m building up credentials,” she says. “When the time comes and I can’t
compete anymore, they’ll look at my resume and it will make me seem
Kaltwasser eats her second-to-last meal of the night before the final
avocado mashed together. There’s a steady flow of visitors to her table,
but nothing like the crowds who line up to meet reigning Mr. Olympia Phil “The Gift” Heath and his rival
Kai Greene. The hours wear on and Kaltwasser is clearly ready to go.
Still, she smiles, signs photos, applies and reapplies lip gloss.
past 10 at night by the time she gets to the ninth-floor hotel room,
where the illicit spray tanners have set up shop. Kaltwasser’s face is
bare and freckled, and in her track suit she looks like the high-school
runner she once was. Hotel management strictly forbids tanning in the
rooms, so one woman keeps her eye on the peephole while another hoses a
naked Kaltwasser with a spray gun attached to a turbine while she stands
in a tent-like pod. In the room next door, a half-dozen women in
bathrobes wait their turn. They eat out of Tupperwares and scroll on
their phones. The Biggest Loser blares on TV, and it’s hard not
to see a parallel world: the dieting, their exercise regimens, the
obsession we seem to have with watching bodies transform.
To walk through the Olympia Expo, which sprawls
across the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, is to do
battle with an army of broad shoulders, tens of thousands strong. Women
in tight-fitting fitness garb stand with trays of protein bites. Ice
cream machines churn out protein soft-serve; Sylvester Stallone promotes
protein candy chews. This is maybe the only place in the world where
you will ever sidestep someone throwing up from too many protein
samples. Bodybuilding forums are full of complaints about “protein
farts,” and, in the crush of the expo floor, the problem is clear.
Stallone is whisked around by bodyguards and hidden behind sunglasses
and a frozen smirk, but miraculously Jen Selter (@jenselter),
the “Butt Selfie (or #belfie) Queen” of Instagram, is standing alone,
almost blending into the crowd with her velvet sweatpants and her Louis
Vuitton bag. Selter, who has more Instagram followers than all the
bikini pros at the Olympia combined — 5.1 million — says that she has a
lot of respect for the bikini division and wouldn’t rule out the
possibility of competing one day. “I love that clean, healthy
lifestyle,” she explains. According to Kaltwasser, Selter would probably
not do well in a bikini competition. “Symmetry is important,” she tells
Prejudging for the women’s divisions happens on
Friday morning, on a makeshift stage near a booth selling Isobags, which
are the most intense lunch boxes
you’ve ever seen. Kaltwasser has been up since 5, doing the tanning,
the makeup, the hair routine. She’s eaten mostly carbs today — rice
cakes, oats. The glycogen from the sugar will fill out her muscles in
these last crucial hours. She’s in a silk bathrobe with her name
embroidered across the back above the words “IFBB Pro.” She opens the
bathrobe to reveal a tanned, waxed body and the bikini: emerald, her
trademark color, and studded with first-cut Swarovski crystals.
Kaltwasser says it’s worth about $3,000 but the company gave it to her
for free, along with some serious bling for her fingers and wrists.
is jittery as she puts the final touches on her makeup. For her and the
other bikini competitors, prejudging is the most important part of the
day. It’s when the judges make their decisions, and those decisions
rarely change at the finals show. The women are judged on their bodies,
of course, but also on their walks, their smiles, their skin tones, and
how they interact with the judges. “Hooker makeup” will detract from the
score, they tell me. Kaltwasser’s weakness is her presentation.
Sometimes her legs shake or she forgets to smile. “I get nervous because
I care so much,” she says.
The competitors strut out one by one
and pose to a frenetic mash-up of club songs. They’re allowed to pose
however they want to show off their figures, and the results are
sometimes bizarre to the untrained eye — hips popped out, waists
dramatically torqued, backs arched and legs spread like a farm animal
doing its business. Butt-wiggling and shoulder-shimmying are frowned
upon, one judge tells me, but they happen a lot.
at the Olympia. If you’ve only seen these women on Instagram, the most
remarkable thing about seeing them onstage is how small they are in real
life. Kaltwasser is one of the tallest at 5-foot-5. Onstage they all
wear clear, sky-high heels.
Yeshaira Robles comes out toward the
end in a pink suit with gold-highlighted hair. She looks ripped and
gorgeous, of course, but maybe a teensy bit bored. Her gaze doesn’t
smolder so much as say, “Just give me the trophy and let’s get this over
Because she’s the defending champion, Kaltwasser goes
last. She looks poised and confident. Her legs stay steady, even when
she crosses them for the back pose. There’s something refreshing about
her routine; she doesn’t wink or pout at the judges but keeps her smile
wide. The judges bring six women to the center, including Kaltwasser and
Robles. This is first callouts, and it means these are the six women in
the running for a top spot. The judges move the women around to compare
them. Robles gets moved to the far end — that means she’s out of the
running for first. Kaltwasser gets moved to the middle. They move a
first-time Olympia competitor named Janet Layug next to her. The thing
everyone seems to know about Layug is that she won a Hooters pageant
of some kind earlier this year. She’s stunning in a Victoria’s Secret
runway model-type way, long and lean with a face that one webcast
commentator described as “a pillar of beauty.” She poses with a winner’s
cockiness, smiling just enough to show she’s having a good time. Here,
next to Layug, Kaltwasser looks almost (almost) stocky, her smile like Miss Ohio’s at the state fair.
had the stage presence that I didn’t have,” Kaltwasser tells me later.
Based on prejudging, Kaltwasser thinks she has a spot in the top two,
but second won’t make history. She spends the afternoon glued to her
iPhone, reading comments and predictions on social media. All the events
are live-streaming, and people are weighing in from around the world. A
popular bodybuilding Twitter account @musclephone thinks Kaltwasser “won it from the back,” but will the judges agree?
Kaltwasser’s manager is J.M. Manion, owner of the Fitness Management Group
and a man whose influence in the bodybuilding world is both obvious and
hard to quantify. His father, Jim Manion, is president of the IFBB Pro
League in the U.S. The younger Manion manages not only Kaltwasser but
also Robles, Layug, and every other top contender at the Bikini Olympia.
Every Bikini Olympia winner since the division began was managed by
Manion at some point in her career. It seems like an unspoken rule that
no one has a shot at the top spot until they sign with FMG.
email address is also registered as the owner of two active porn sites
devoted to IFBB competitors. One, called “Lacey D.” (tagline: “For All
Of You To See”), features Lacey DeLuca, an FMG client who competed
alongside Kaltwasser on the Bikini Olympia stage. According to DeLuca,
26, Manion photographed her for his porn site in 2012, soon after she
became a bikini pro. “Everything that J.M. does with me like that is
very classy,” she says. She adds that, as a manager, Manion “always
steers us in the right direction,” telling them which shows to enter and
which to avoid. DeLuca declined to comment on whether she’s seen any
profits from “Lacey D.” Manion did not respond for comment about the
relationship between his bikini competition endeavors and his
The bikini division is a blatant attempt to
revive the sex appeal that women’s bodybuilding had in its early days,
before a steroid-fueled arms race turned the division into a carnival
show of the impossibly huge. Back then, most female bodybuilders looked
like the women in the bikini division today. For evidence, look no
further than 1985’s Pumping Iron II: The Women, hornball sequel to Pumping Iron,
the film that helped make Arnold Schwarzenegger a star. For over an
hour and a half, the camera ogles them up and down: in spandex at the
gym, in bikinis by the pool, naked in a communal shower, all set to a
synth-pop soundtrack. “Well I’ve always considered myself a powder puff,
but I consider myself a really strong powder puff,” says one woman who
looks like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. “Got to get that fat
off,” says a male trainer to another competitor. He pushes her through
some T-bar rows, then they make out.
Iris Kyle, the 10-time Ms. Olympia whose quads are thicker than most horses’, is not going to get a GQ
spread anytime soon, but Ashley Kaltwasser very well could. (Standing
behind her at the podium, the male emcee jokes about having “the best
seat in the house.”) Kaltwasser got breast implants in 2011, not long
after she started competing. Most women at the pro level do, because, as
Kaltwasser put it, “when your body fat gets down, your boobs go.”
Kaltwasser wanted to stay athletic-looking and she was aware that the
judges don’t go for the “bimbo look,” so she went for a sensible D-cup.
But she also says she’s not interested in being a sex symbol for guys.
“What are boys? I’m all about the Olympia,” she jokes. The posing, the
getup, the hour-long makeup routine: She treats it as seriously as the
training and the diet. She treats it all like a job, because it is. When
I ask if there’s a hookup scene at the Olympia, she gives me a strange
look. “Probably [among] the fans,” she says.
arena for the bikini finals. Tonight’s show feels a bit like a warm-up
to Saturday, when Phil Heath and rival Kai Greene will pack the arena
with fans paying over $200 a seat. But the arena still sparkles with
smartphone flashes, and the TV cameras swoop and soar. NBC’s sports
channel is planning to air two 90-minute specials about this year’s Mr.
Olympia, the competition’s first major television coverage in 30 years.
the bikini competitors parade out one by one under the bright lights, I
can see why Kaltwasser calls these competitions “Miss America for the
fit girl.” It is a pageant in its purest form, a beauty contest without
any of that fuss over saving sea lions and tap dancing. And the women
are lovely, but the whole thing is a little mind-numbing. Twenty-seven
pairs of breasts, round and high, twenty-seven flat bellies,
twenty-seven winning smiles. Say what you will about
performance-enhancing drugs; the most arresting moment of the night was
watching a strapping, square-jawed female bodybuilder lip-synch to Cat
Power’s cover of “Sea of Love.”
Kaltwasser looks relaxed onstage,
strutting and posing to the brassy beat of “Timber” and working her
All-American, girl-next-door vibe. When it comes time to award the top
six, Robles takes fourth, smiling gamely. Layug and Kaltwasser are the
final two. When the emcee names Layug as the runner-up, Kaltwasser gasps
and starts clapping just a second too soon.
Commentators on Bodybuilding.com’s live wrap-up remark that the
judges went for the athlete over the model, that Kaltwasser’s body is
setting an attainable standard, and that this is a good thing for the
sport. But they’re wrong. There will never be a truly mainstream
physique on a professional bodybuilding stage, because there’s simply no
place for “maintainable” in a world where bodies must be built,
sculpted, and improved. It’s the bodybuilding mind-set, the body
reflecting the inner self, that’s gone mainstream, not the other way
From the smoking balcony of The Orleans Arena you can see
the whole Strip, all that sparkle and sex laid out from head to toe.
Inside, Kaltwasser will stand for the next two hours in her green bikini
and heels, giving interviews to NBC and the muscle press. Tomorrow
she’ll work all day at her sponsors’ expo booths; she’ll go to the
Victory Gala and eat her real salad and some rolls with butter too.
Sunday she’ll get back in her bikini and pose for a Norwegian magazine,
then she’ll drive to a Gold’s Gym and do hamstring exercises for another
photo shoot. This year she may not have an off-season at all. From
Vegas she flies straight to South Korea for the Korea Pro. Then there’s a
competition in Russia in November. (She will win them both.) The 2015
season starts three months later with the Arnold Classic.
now, all Kaltwasser has to do is raise her arms up and smile. Stars
glitter on the screen behind her as another pop song plays. She’ll get
$25,000 for her win, the most ever awarded to a bikini competitor. In a
Bodybuilding.com wrap-up video, Kaltwasser will say that her goal is to
prove that the bikini division is about more than “genetics and diet and
“I know firsthand we’re athletes,” she’ll say. “I’ve
worked for this body my whole life.” By this time tomorrow, her
Instagram followers will hit 100,000.