"When I was a freshman in college, I ended up taking weight training as a physical education course only because that was what was left when I went around to do my courses. I was a freshman, so I was one of the last ones to be allowed to register for courses and my last name began with Z, so I was really out of luck.
I took weight training and I took jogging, and I really liked it. I'd never done sports like that before. I was a cheerleader in high school. When I went to high school—I graduated in 1974—that was a time when you had women's sports but they were not what they are today. When I started the jogging, I really enjoyed it. And the weight lifting I really enjoyed. It was a coed class. There were maybe just a couple of girls, probably in the same position I was: They were freshmen and their last names started with W, X, Y, Z!
I'd heard about Nautilus, so I started doing that. Even when I would date, we'd go out and lift. Other people would go out to dinner but my dates would be going and working out. I loved it. The guys loved it. I met my husband at that time. He was a very good athlete.
[About two years ago] I met a woman who was a fitness model. She just assumed that I competed [in women's figure]. I said I had never competed. She said, 'You're gonna compete.' She talked me into it. She said, 'I'm going to do a competition. I want you to come out with me.' This particular competition was the bikini classic division, [in] the Fitness America Pageant. I was very reluctant and she insisted. I really did it just to shut her up more than anything!
So at the age of 50, I headed out to Hollywood for my very first competition. Here I was, sitting on the plane thinking, 'I'm 50 years old, a mother of three, and I'm going out for a national bikini competition co-sponsored by ESPN!' I never thought I'd be in this position. I went out and I enjoyed it and I didn't do too badly. I came in in the top 10. But I enjoyed being up on stage. So I thought, you know, 'I'm going to do the women's figure.' I just wanted to take it up a notch.
Women's figure is women's bodybuilding with a softer edge. I think what's interesting about women's figure is that it shows a very feminine side of the sport. Most of the women are very feminine looking but they're very defined. When you think about bodybuilding, you think of people who are just massive. Massive muscles and very masculine looking. Women's figure is far different.
People seem to be surprised when I say I've just started. I know at the shows I've competed at I'm pretty much the oldest. In bodybuilding, you see people who are older. But definitely when I do the bikini competition, I'm the oldest one up there. By many, many years.
One thing that makes me proud and makes me happy is when I have people—who also compete and are personal trainers and make their livelihood from the fitness industry—come up to me and say, 'You're my inspiration.' I've had more than a few people come to me and say that. People who are personal trainers will say, 'Let me take my picture with you. I want to put it in my gym.' And that makes me feel good, because I'm no one in this field.
I had one girl come up to me, someone I was competing with at the Fitness Universe Pageant last year. We became friendly as we were waiting in line to go onstage, and she came to me as we were leaving and said, 'I want you to know, I told my boyfriend, I met my idol. I told him that you were my idol.' I think she was 24.
I love challenges. I like to win. But it's really not so much the act of winning. It's just having that challenge and getting prepared. Whether I win or not, if I do really well, I'm satisfied. Right now, I'm enjoying what I'm doing and I'm going to do it until I don't enjoy it anymore."