There were 10,000 people in the room, all there for the show. There were three divisions that competed on stage, there were people talking to the audience about their passion, their life’s work and near tears as they poured their hearts out about the sport they love. There were no poles on this stage but there were definitely fit bodies….. and muscles, lots and lots of muscles. It was the Mr. Olympia championships and it was intense! Where do I begin when talking about this weekend I had just a few days ago? I suppose I will start at the beginning.
My boyfriend, Ian, has been showing me body building videos as long as we have been together, six and a half years now. He loves going to the gym and, sometimes, we go together and he shows me how to lift weights. He’s always trying new supplements, he gets motivated by watching his favorite body builders like Jay Cutler and Kai Greene. He tells me their stories and shows me how they work out. Basically, he loves body building, the way I love pole dancing. I’ve come to know who some of these body builders are, just like I’ve taught him who Marlo Fisken and Alethea Austin are. For years he’s wanted to take me to Mr. Olympia, but it just never worked out, until last weekend.
First, we went to the expo, which had over 40,000 people in attendance over the weekend. All around me were fit, gorgeous people, with muscles. So, of course all I could think about was seeing them on a pole. While passing out my United Pole Artists business card I told some ladies they should try pole dancing! There was a booth that had hundreds of sparkly bikinis of all different colors, and once again, I thought of you, my pole dancing friends. All I kept saying in my head was, “Now this is a convention!” and imagining pole dancing having an event as big as this one. Already impressed and excited, I had no idea what was in store for us that evening, the main event.
Joe Weider’s Mr. Olympia was held in The Orleans Arena and it was sold out that night. This arena holds 10,000 people. I tried to do the math with my eyes and I guessed there were 3,000 people in that space, then they announced the show was sold out with the most people in attendance that they’ve had in the history of body building. There were people that talked about Joe Weider, the man who started it all. He walked into a gym at age 13 and never looked back. He dedicated his life to body building for the next 80 years, and was the reason body building is what it is today. There was a lot of talk on Joe as he passed away last March. Everyone seems to idolize this man and thanked him and his family all night for giving them the gift of body building. It was extremely moving and was the theme of the entire night.
The men that competed were also a theme of the night, especially, my favorite Kai Greene. Let me explain…. he wasn’t just my favorite, he was the crowd favorite by far. When he came on to the stage, I became giddy, excited and I cheered for him the way I would if I were watching Mina Mortezaie and Nadia Sharif competing. Kai Greene came from a life where he had nothing, he dedicated himself to body building and has made something of himself. Not only is he ripped, huge, muscles for days, he is a very unique poser and has changed the game. He poses while standing on his head and literally, slides his way into his next pose, using dynamic hand and arm positions. I think that may be why I like him so much, it’s the dancer in me that has connected with him. There were other men that I did appreciate as well, like Dennis Wolf, but Kai Greene is definitely my number one.
Phil Heath and Kai Greene
The entire audience, several times chanted his last name, “Greene! Greene! Greene! Greene!”. The reaction of the men on stage when this happened was particularly amusing. Three time gold medal winner of Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath would bulge his eyes out of his head and you could see that he was saying, “Wow!”. They called the top ten machine like men to the stage and began calling out the awards. The tension in the air was thick, and I was very anxious. We all wanted Kai to win. Last year he won second to Phil Heath and it was controversial, Ian told me. People thought Kai should have gotten first place and Phil, second place. They were down to the last two, just like the year before. Phil Heath and Kai Greene were standing side by side, the announcer knew this would be a dramatic moment and dragged it out. I never wanted someone to win something so badly in my life. I have watched tons of videos of this man, someone who I never met, unlike my life in the pole dancing world, where I know everyone. My phone was out, my video was on and the thought of capturing the joy of this person winning something he so deserved was engulfing me. I was literally, on the edge of my seat. And then he said the first place winner’s name… Phil Heath, and I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. Ian laughed as I stood up and demanded another pose off and our money back. I felt angry, sad, frustrated and surprised, I was surprised that it moved me that much, to have all these emotions running through me all at once. Even now, writing this and watching the video I took, I am back to those feelings from that night.
There is a reason for these emotions and thoughts. I learned that weekend, that body building took a long, long time to get to where it is and still a lot of people don’t fully grasp what goes into it, what it is like for the people who participate. I learned that these people travel the world doing what they love, many of them were from different countries including Kuwait, Poland, Iran, Germany, and were all brought together for the love of body building. Even though there were no poles, it took me back to thinking about pole dancing the entire time, how similar these two industries are. Both coming from a place where “main stream” doesn’t quite understand it, bringing worlds of people together, being extremly passionate about our activity, feeling the need to help other people “get it” and having an unexplainable driving force behind us, fueled by passion, empowerment and unconditional love for what we do.
I’m not sure what my point is. I suppose that just sharing this experience is the point. Leaving Las Vegas, my head was swimming with ideas and I felt motivated to keep on trucking, realizing that this ride I’m on will be lasting me a life time. Joe Weider, the God of body building is someone to look up to. From the first day he went to the gym til the day he died, his life was body building, and he created this world that I was able to peek into and it was amazing. Someday, I hope I will see a pole dancing event with 10,000 people in the crowd watching and cheering, and hope to see it before I die. The only reason why pole dancing can and will grow faster than body building is because we live in a digital age and information travels faster than it did back then. So, I guess it’s more likely for me than it was for Joe. Hope is what keeps me going, hope and belief in pole dancing. I hope you believe in it too, just as much, if not more than me. What keeps you going? What keeps your hope alive? Please tell me, please share with me. I want to be the Joe Weider of pole dancing, I want to die with pole dancing in my thoughts, but I can’t do it alone. His motivation were his body builders, and you, pole dancers are my motivation for life and the reason I do what I do every day. Thank you for being my inspiration, thank you for pole dancing, and thank you for this life you have given me.   ~ A.m. Davies