Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Bev Francis was born February 15, 1955 in Geelong, Australia. Her list of athletic achievements is impressive, including breaking more than 40 powerlifter records, and winning six powerlifting world championships. She is best known for her career as a professional bodybuilder. In 1985 she was catapulted to fame through her role in the movie directed by George Butler, who was drawn to Bev for her reputation as "history's strongest woman." The film casts her in a controversial role within the ongoing debate over femininity and female muscularity, with her naturally massive size and muscular development challenging preconceived notions about the limits of female bodybuilding.
Her career is also illustrative of the struggle with engaging in the sport “for one’s self” as opposed to for the satisfaction of the judges, who are required to judge women bodybuilders on a vague and constantly shifting criteria of femininity. While her 1985 debut received much attention for pushing the sport in a more extreme direction (she was clearly the largest most muscular woman in the sport’s history), the fact that she placed 8th led her to spend years changing her look in a more "feminine" direction. Interestingly, after years of beautifying herself (getting a nose job, lightening her hair) and slimming down her naturally bulky physique, she still failed to win first at the major competitions — incredibly, the sport had moved on. Finally, she changed her mind back and decided to work for the body type that she wanted – one with larger, more extreme muscularity – for her final competition (the 1991 Ms. Olympia , the first televised women’s bodybuilding competition). Prior to the contest, Bev said, "I'm gonna show what my concept of a woman bodybuilder is. I'm as muscular and as hard as possible with the best symmetry attainable. If my physique doesn't win, it doesn't matter, because…This time I'm just pleasing myself." In a decision as controversial as in 1983 (and that some surmise to be handed down from above), Bev took second place to Lenda Murray. Some felt the decision was made because upper level officials decided that TV viewers were not ready to see someone with Bev's physique win first place.
Francis is currently married with two daughters, and owns her own gym in Long Island, the Bev Francis Gold's Gym. She is also a judge for the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB).
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