Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Barbara Barbieri McGrath (1953–) Biography - Personal to Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930) Biography » Rachel McLish: 1958—: Bodybuilder Biography - Exchanged Ballet Shoes For Barbells, Became The First Ms. Olympia, Produced Books, Videos, And Clothing

Rachel McLish: 1958—: Bodybuilder - Exchanged Ballet Shoes For Barbells

center soon angeles times


McLish was born Rachel Livia Elizondo on June 21, 1958, to Rafael and Rachel Elizondo. Raised in Harlingen, Texas in the Rio Grande border country, a career in bodybuilding was not in her plans. Instead she dreamt of ballet. She began taking ballet classes when she was seven and continued until high school, when she chose the popularity of being a cheerleader over the solitary rehearsals of a budding ballerina. By the time she entered Pan American University in Edinburg, Texas, she regretted her decision, fearing that at 17 she was too old to begin dancing again. Without ballet and cheerleading to provide an outlet for her high energy, McLish sought out the only other sport she knew—weightlifting. As a child she often watched her father spend hours lifting weights and remembered being awed by his strength and muscularity. She soon found the Shape Center. An interviewer writing for the Los Angeles Times noted that when McLish discovered the fitness center, "she felt it was almost a mystical experience." However, as a poor student paying her own way through college, she could not afford to pay the center's membership fees. Fortunately fate stepped in pointing her towards her future career. She was offered a job at the center. She started out giving exercise classes and eventually moved up to become a manager.

At a Glance . . .


Born on June 21, 1958, in Harlingen, TX; daughter of Rafael and Rachel Elizondo; married John McLish (divorced); married Ron Samuels, 1990. Education: Pan American University, Edinburg, TX, BA, health and physical education, 1978.


Career: Sports Palace, founder, 1978; professional bodybuilder, 1980-84; author, 1984-87; actress, 1984-96; Rachel McLish for The Body Company (sportswear line), founder/designer, 1990; lecturer and model, 1984-00.


Awards: Ms. Olympia, International Federation of Bodybuilding, 1980, 1982; US Women's Bodybuilding Champion, 1980.





When McLish began working at Shape Center she was far from muscular. "I didn't exude a fit quality," she told the Los Angeles Times. "I was what I call 'skinny fat.'"—meaning that, although she was thin from years of ballet and cheerleading, she was not firm. That soon changed as she began to spend hours working out with weights. "I used hard work as a chisel," she told the Los Angeles Times. Soon she had sculpted a Ms. Olympia-worthy body. Along the way, she found her calling. She graduated in 1978 with a degree in health and physical education and went on to found South Texas's first health club. The Sports Palace opened in 1978 to great success, and soon there were branches in Brownsville and Corpus Christi.


During this time she was briefly married to her school sweetheart, John McLish, whose name she retained after they divorced. She also continued working out with a passion. She explained her dedication to the Los Angeles Times, "The point of physical fitness is not narcissism or egotism. It's well-being. Most people have no idea what it's like to feel good all over. All the time. People unfortunately take drugs to do it part of the time. But the ultimate rush is the feeling you can get from intelligent exercise. It's addictive. In the best way." McLish was a very happy addict and her commitment soon paid off.

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