Lisa Lyon, a remarkable figure in bodybuilding, left an indelible mark as a pioneer in the sport. Her journey from a dancer and competitive sword fighter to becoming the inaugural champion of the Women’s World Pro Bodybuilding Championships is a testament to her dedication and strength.
Early Life and Achievements:
Lisa Lyon, standing at just 160 centimeters and weighing 47.6 kilograms, defied stereotypes when she claimed the title in 1979. She possessed the ability to deadlift 120 kilograms and even hoisted Arnold Schwarzenegger, the legendary “Austrian Oak,” on her shoulders, showcasing her incredible strength and determination.
A Bodybuilding Artist:
While Lyon achieved fame in bodybuilding, she considered herself more of an artist than an athlete. She transformed her body into a living sculpture, captivating audiences at art galleries and museums. Renowned photographers like Marcus Leatherdale, Helmut Newton, and Robert Mapplethorpe captured her unique blend of strength and grace.
Through her photographs and performances, Lisa Lyon aimed to redefine beauty standards. She believed in a new ideal where a woman’s body was neither entirely masculine nor feminine but possessed a feline grace.
Following her victory, Lisa Lyon chose not to compete in bodybuilding again. However, in the early 1980s, she became a prominent spokesperson for the sport.
She worked as a commentator for NBC, appeared on popular talk shows, and performed internationally in cities like Paris, Munich, and Stockholm. Her presence graced the pages of prestigious magazines such as Vogue and Esquire.
Playboy and Femininity:
In 1980, Lyon posed for Playboy, marking a departure from muscle magazines. She aimed to introduce Playboy’s readers to a different form of femininity, one that celebrated health, strength, and beauty.
Inspiration from Schwarzenegger:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, a luminary in the bodybuilding world, served as Lisa Lyon’s inspiration. A meeting with Schwarzenegger led her to Gold’s Gym in Santa Monica, California, where she dedicated herself to rigorous workouts. Initially met with skepticism from male bodybuilders, Lyon eventually earned their respect.
Lisa Lyon’s talents extended beyond bodybuilding. She had a background in dance, having studied ballet, flamenco, and jazz. Lyon graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in ethnic arts and interdisciplinary studies in 1974. She authored an instructional book titled “Lisa Lyon’s Body Magic” in 1981.
Film and Advertising:
Lyon also ventured into acting, appearing in movies such as “Vamp” (1986) alongside Grace Jones. She succeeded in Japan, becoming a prominent figure in advertising campaigns for The Seibu Department Stores.
Personal Life and Legacy:
Lisa Lyon had a colorful personal life, with marriages to Richard Keeling and French singer-songwriter Bernard Lavilliers. She died from cancer at her home in Westlake Village, California, leaving a lasting legacy as a trailblazer in bodybuilding.
Honors and Recognition:
In 2000, Lisa Lyon was inducted into the International Fitness and Bodybuilding Federation Hall of Fame, acknowledging her role in elevating bodybuilding to the status of fine art. The sport transformed her physique and self-image, as she once shared with The Baltimore Sun.
Lisa Lyon’s life and legacy remain an inspiring testament to breaking boundaries and redefining beauty and strength. From her groundbreaking achievements in bodybuilding to her artistic pursuits and advocacy for a more inclusive concept of femininity, Lyon blazed a trail that continues to inspire.
Her indomitable spirit, dedication to her craft, and willingness to challenge conventions have left an enduring mark on the world of sports, art, and culture. Lisa Lyon’s journey serves as a reminder that true empowerment comes from embracing one’s unique qualities and pursuing one’s passions with unwavering determination, regardless of societal expectations.