It’s an early spring morning. As I sit on my porch meditating and enjoying my view of Los Angeles, I contemplate the journey of my life. I reflect with gratitude on what a blessed life I’ve lived. Combing through the memories of my career in bodybuilding, I ponder many things: the questions people ask me about my eight Ms. Olympia titles, what inspired me to pursue a career in bodybuilding, and what life as a champion is like after the applause ends.
I was introduced to the world of women’s bodybuilding when I found a copy of Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness magazine on a high school bus. Curiously flipping from page to page, I came across a picture of Carla Dunlap, the reigning Ms. Olympia champion. I had never seen such incredible upper-body muscularity on a woman. Interested and intrigued, I found this type of strength in a woman to be attractive. At that time in the late 1970s, female bodybuilders had the level of muscularity that we see on figure competitors today. My ambitious nature encouraged me to think outside the box, and my curiosity peaked as I contemplated how I would look if I were to train with weights. Little did I know that fate would soon intervene to answer that question.
As a young lady growing up in Detroit, education and athletics were my top priorities. My main goal in life was to graduate from college, and my second goal was to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. In 1984, I graduated from Western Michigan University, accomplishing my first goal. And when I made the cut as one of 45 girls selected for the upcoming Dallas Cowboys season, it appeared I was well on my way to my second goal. However, due to a conflict of interest between the NFL and the USFL Michigan Panthers, I was told to return the following year. I was also told to lose weight before returning for the next NFL season. The problem, however, was that I was athletic, not overweight. A bodybuilding analogy would be that I had the muscle mass of a physique competitor, versus a bikini competitor.
I was disappointed to see the door closing on my dreams of professional cheerleading—but a new and marvelous adventure was about to begin for me. I decided to embrace the physique I was given and enter the world of women’s bodybuilding. After a few years competing in local contests, I turned pro in 1989. I also had the fortunate opportunity to be introduced to Joe Weider, the man whose magazine I found on that bus back in high school. I went on to win six consecutive Ms. Olympia titles. I then retired from the sport for five years to pursue business and entrepreneurial interests. But in 2002, at age 40, I returned to the competitive arena to compete for and win the Ms. Olympia title two more times, making me an eight-time Ms. Olympia title winner.
Retirement from competition has been good to me. I currently produce two IFBB Pro League Olympia-qualifier shows and three NPC National-qualifier shows, being held on July 13 in Norfolk, VA, August 17 in Detroit, MI, and an exciting addition just announced for April 2020 in Savannah, GA. The most rewarding part of being a contest promoter is sending pro athletes to the Olympia stage and pro female bodybuilders to the IFBB Professional League Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix World Championship. As the main sponsor of my events, Wings of Strength has helped make them all great successes. And for the first time in 2019, Wings of Strength is sponsoring the Olympia Weekend.
Currently, I’m the owner of Crystal Planet Nutrition, the spokeswoman for Wings of Strength, and a senior editor at Digital Muscle. I am excited about what the future holds for the women of bodybuilding, and I’m embracing all the wonderful opportunities the sport has given me.
Lenda Murray – Vital Stats
BORN: February 22, 1962; Detroit, Michigan
HEIGHT: 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
WEIGHT: Contest: 150–153 lb (68–69 kg); Off-season: 158–164 lb (72–74 kg)
PRO DEBUT: IFBB Ms. Olympia, 1990
BEST WIN: Ms. Olympia champion (heavyweight and overall), 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2002, and 2003
This content is sponsored by Wings of Strength.