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Rachel McLish: 1958—: Bodybuilder Biography

Exchanged Ballet Shoes For Barbells, Became The First Ms. Olympia, Produced Books, Videos, And Clothing

Rachel McLish: 1958—: Bodybuilder.

When Rachel McLish earned the inaugural Ms. Olympia bodybuilding title in 1980 she brought the much-misunderstood sport of women's bodybuilding to the international spotlight. Her physique was well-defined, muscle-packed, and yet still very feminine. A 1981 Muscle & Fitness article describing the competition noted that up until that point female bodybuilders had "been accused of being masculine, androgynous, or even grotesque." McLish was none of those things. Blessed with olive-skinned natural beauty due in part to her Native American ancestry, she looked as much fashion model as she did bodybuilder. Combined with her passion for the sport, McLish's physical appeal made her a role model for women's fitness. Though she only spent four years competing, according to a 2001 Muscle & Fitness article, "Rachel redefined the rules of the feminine physique." In the process she helped make physical fitness as much the domain of women as it had always been for men. "See, my whole philosophy at the very beginning was to share this great secret with women," she told Muscle & Fitness, "if you put forth some effort, good eating habits combined with weight training, you can really have control over your body. You don't have to say, 'I'm doomed to look like my mother when I'm older.' Having both strength and beauty is attainable."

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