In the world of women's bodybuilding, fitness, and figure contests, the competitive journeys taken by female contestants can vary wildly as it relates to their placements at any given progression of events. The most fortunate individuals can make a steady climb from contest to contest and reach their original goals over a relatively short period of time, while some whisk along at supersonic speed reaching the highest levels of the pro ranks in a matter of months.
Others find a startling, albeit welcome, level of success early on in their careers, only to experience an equally unwelcome downward spiral that can be devastating in the preservation of the important motivational levels needed to persevere.
For every competitor who aspires to reach the national amateur level and beyond, a major regional contest can pave the way for many women who, as they progress, will become the stars of the future. Among the numerous regional competitions a few stand out as premier annual events that have a level of prestige that produce overall champions who show a predictable level of future success.
In the Pacific Northwest, the annual NPC Emerald Cup has been a hugely popular contest that had its beginnings in Everett, Washington, under the dedicated promotion of Brad and Elaine Craig.
Considering the fact that prize money has been offered at bodybuilding contests for women since 1979, the question remains as to who - among the hundreds and hundreds of women who have reached the pro level of the IFBB - found themselves atop the award's stand in their pro debut.
In the earliest days of women's bodybuilding competitions, several of the events were designated as ‘pro/am' - meaning women who placed in a position where prize money was available, could retain their amateur status by simply refusing the prize money. And surprisingly, a number of women elected to remain amateur due to the fewer number of pro events that were being held at the time. Many women simply enjoyed the opportunity to compete without the pressures that existed in a pro event.
The date was May 26, 1979, and the Ms. Florida Physique contest held in Miami at the Gusman Cultural Center became the nation’s first state bodybuilding championship for women. The event was ground zero for what would become an explosion of state championship events that, by 1980, had spread from coast to coast.
As the enthusiastic promoter and pioneering founder of the women’s bodybuilding movement in Florida, Doris Barrilleaux had already formed the Southeastern Physique Association (SPA) and was actively encouraging women to enter upcoming contests that her organization had planned for the immediate future.
In the March 2010 issue of Ironman Magazine I penned an article entitled ‘The North American Championships - An Easy Path to the Pros? NOT! If by chance you missed it, the gist of the story was that there are competitors who assume that because the North American Championships have not traditionally had the numbers of entries enjoyed by contests such as an NPC USA or NPC National Championships, it may be a quicker path to qualifying for the IFBB pro ranks. Well, the fact is, year in and year out, that has not proven to be the case with outstanding women earning pro status in this event.