While not the most common demographic in the bodybuilding area, there are plenty of physically strong black women who we can look to for inspiration.
Here’s some of the top black female bodybuilders of all time.
1. Iris Kyle
Iris Kyle is one of the world’s most successful black female bodybuilders, having won 10 Ms. Olympia titles, including two heavyweight titles. Her impressive resume also includes seven Ms. International titles.
Kylie began her journey as a bodybuilder after her family’s relocation to California. She drew inspiration from being around people in good shape and told herself that she, too, could have such a fine physique if she put in the effort.
Due to her outstanding performance, she tops IFBB’s (International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness) list of the best female bodybuilders. Kyle’s hard work and dedication to the craft have allowed her to break barriers and achieve greatness in a once male-dominated sport.
She is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 167 pounds. She holds a record of bench pressing 375 pounds. The typical American male has a body mass index of 197.9 pounds. That implies she can lift a man who is 30 pounds heavier than her.
2. Monique Jones
A lifelong fitness enthusiast, Monique began training at a young age and had her first achievement when she was only 16 years old. She won the overall title in the 2001 SNBF show. During this time, she could not choose between figure and bodybuilding. She would only join figure competitions, but the bodybuilder’s look became more apparent as her body grew.
When visiting Charleston, South Carolina, for nationals in 2007, the judges successfully convinced her to adopt bodybuilding as a full-time career. Since then, she has been in multiple competitions, with her best win being the 2013 IFBB WOS Chicago Pro-Am Extravaganza.
She weighs 190 pounds and stands 5 feet, 9 inches tall. She was a participant in the Ms. Olympia return competition in 2020. Monique hasn’t dealt with intense negativity in her years as a professional bodybuilder. Of course, there will always be trolls and haters, but she’s gotten better at ignoring them.
3. Nancy Lewis
Nancy Lewis is an accomplished female bodybuilder from the US. She began competing in 1985, with her most notable win being the IFBB Jan Tana Pro Classic middleweight and overall champion in 2002.
She was a fierce competitor and an advocate for gender equality within the IFBB. Whenever she felt that the IFBB or a particular publication was disrespectful to women, she would not hesitate to send them letters.
She was even proposing a women-only sports federation operating independently of the IFBB. Most players are reluctant to voice their opinions because they worry it’ll affect their standings, but Nancy is an exception.
4. Roxie Beckles
Roxie Beckles is a successful American female bodybuilder who competes in the IFBB Pro League. She began professionally competing in bodybuilding in 2013, earning IFBB’s Pro Card the same year.
She then made multiple appearances, winning a place in the 2014 Ms. Olympia competition. Emerging among the best 16 participants, her lifelong goal of becoming an Olympian came true. Her most notable successes include the Team Universe, NPC Sacramento, and NPC Tournament of Champions.
Nowadays, she’s a contest preparation coach, working with ladies worldwide to prepare them for bodybuilding competitions. Roxie is also known for strongly advocating women’s health and fitness.
She has made appearances on numerous talk shows to promote her women’s empowerment agenda. She owns RoxStar Fitness, whose mission is to equip women with the resources they require to change their bodies and accomplish their objectives.
5. Yvette Bova
Yvette Bova became a professional bodybuilder when she was 31. Prior to her first competition, which took place in 1996, she had been training for 4 good years. Unsurprisingly she spent thirteen and a half years in the American military. She was actively competing while still serving and began making appearances on NPC shows after leaving the army.
She has won many honors throughout her career as a professional bodybuilder due to her outstanding muscular figure. She was at her peak between the years 1993 and 2006. Yvette Bova is active on social media and continues to train.
6. Alana Shipp
Alana Shipp has had incredible success as a bodybuilder. She began training in 2011 with the hopes of shedding the excess weight she had gained when pregnant and getting in good shape for a forthcoming Marine Corps ball. She met with Meny Elbaz and Lia Finkelberg Elbaz, who saw her potential as a bodybuilder the same year.
She was set to participate in the 2012 Ms. Universe as a figure competitor, but her muscles had grown too big. Since then, she has been in multiple competitions as a professional bodybuilder. The NPC National Championship middleweight champion in 2013 is her most notable win. Alana came in fourth place at her very first Ms. Olympia competition.
7. Carla Dunlap
She is considered one of the most influential and inspirational black female bodybuilders in history, having won the 1983 IFBB Ms. Olympia competition. Her other best wins include Pro World Champion 1982, IFFB Caesars World Cup 1983, Swedish Grand Prix 1982, and Night of Champions 1981.
Dunlap began participating in gymnastic sports at a young age. After Steve Wennerstrom recommended that she take part in the “Best in the World” bodybuilding contest in 1979, Dunlap took the opportunity.
Even though she hadn’t had any bodybuilding training before, she did emerge among the top 45 participants. That’s when she made a decision to become a professional bodybuilder, successfully participating in high-level beginner competitions. Over the years, she worked hard to hone her skills and become the best bodybuilder she could be.
She was the first female bodybuilder to compete in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. She got induction into the AOBS Hall Of Fame in 2009. She has made appearances in bodybuilding documentaries such as “Pumping Iron II: The Women” and “Women of Iron.”
She was chosen as ABC’s women’s bodybuilding representative in the 1984 Superstars competition, finishing at number seven out of eleven. She was a frequent contributor to ESPN’s BodyShaping series. She also appeared as a color commentator on fitness and bodybuilding shows for ESPN, US, and NBC.
8. Ernestine Shepherd
Ernestine Shepherd is an iconic competitive bodybuilder. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1936, she’s particularly famous for holding the Guinness Book Record of the oldest bodybuilder. She’s currently 86 years and still in good form.
Before joining the sport, Shepherd was overweight and didn’t like her appearance. However, she made a decision to put her health first by hitting the gym. Whereas she thinks big, she believes a steady rise in exercise intensity is the key to success. Shepherd says that the idea of being a professional bodybuilder was a suggestion from her gym’s trainer.
She eats numerous modest meals per day per her trainers’ diet plan. Her diet primarily consists of veggies, chicken, boiled egg whites, and a liquid egg white drink, which adds up to 1,700 calories. She insists that besides vitamin D, she doesn’t use performance-boosting supplements.
9. Dayana Cadeau
Dayana Cadeau is among the greatest bodybuilders worldwide because she’s the only Canadian to ever bag the Ms. Olympia lightweight in 2004. She’s also the most successful Haitian-descent bodybuilder. After winning Canada’s Cup overall title, she won her Pro Card in 1997.
When the IFBB first brought weight classes in 2000, she was a heavyweight competitor at Ms. International. Since then, Dayana has won numerous titles.
Furthermore, she is a personal trainer, adult model, NPC judge, and legal assistant promoter. Her emphasis on beauty over excessive muscle size sets her apart from other female bodybuilders. She believes that a woman’s physical beauty also needs to shine. She follows a strict diet plan and trains ceremoniously.
10. Heather Foster
Heather Foster has been competing in bodybuilding for over twenty years, achieving great success. Heather admits that she didn’t want to do anything with bodybuilding. Her career’s launch was due to a friend’s suggestion that she participate in the City College of New York competition.
Heather did end up agreeing to be on the show and came in second without any prior heavy weight training. She began competing professionally in the 2000 NPC Nationals in New York. She then won the heavyweight and overall titles at the Women’s Pro Extravaganza. In 2006, she won the Europa Super Show as her second professional competition.
Heather was fighting osteitis pubis, forcing her to remain out of competition in 2008 and 2009. She came back in 2010, finishing at number six in Ms. Olympia. In addition to her bodybuilding accomplishments, Heather is a successful author, voice-over artist, and personal trainer. She also serves as a regional judge.
Her commitment to health and fitness is evident in her work. Whether through her books, training sessions, or online videos, Heather Foster is a good example of what a black female bodybuilder can accomplish.
11. Yolanda Hughes
Yolanda Hughes is a professional female bodybuilder from the U.S. Yolanda is known for her muscular physique and has been in many competitions since 1984. Her best wins include the 1992 IFBB World Amateur and IFBB Ms. International of 1997 and 1998.
Yolanda was a big fan of sports and exercise as a teenager. She had already won multiple titles in state-level events such as the 400-meter relay, long jump, and 100-meter while in high school.
She took gymnastics seriously, training for and participating in competitions at the regional and statewide levels. Her long-term goal was to compete nationally as a top Olympic gymnast.Wrestler Hillbillie Jim saw her potential as a bodybuilder and made a suggestion of participating in a forthcoming local women’s bodybuilding competition.
She was adamant but eventually gave in after realizing she had the power to set the trend for other women in this sport. Despite the approaching event being barely four weeks away, she came at number two. She began competing professionally in 1997.
Yolanda is also a fitness model and trainer. She works with clients to help them reach their fitness goals and teaches them how to stay on track with their nutrition and exercise plans.
12. Th-resa Bostick
Th-resa Bostick is a renowned bodybuilder, powerlifter, and fitness competitor. She has been competing since 1991, with her most notable win being the IFBB Jan Tana Classic in 2000. She won her IFBB pro card in 1999 after finishing at number 1 in the NPC USA Championships for both the heavyweight class and overall.
Bostick won the NPC Battle of Championship in 1995 and has placed in the top ten of the NPC Nationals competition multiple times. Her strength, dedication, and commitment to her sport are unmatched. She inspires all female bodybuilders worldwide and continues to push herself beyond limits despite retiring from active competitions.
13. Ondrea Gates
Ondrea Gates is among the few female bodybuilders who fell in love with the sport in their teenage years. She began lifting weights in 1983 and has an impressive record of accomplishments to show for it.
She has been a participant in different competitions, including the NPC Nationals, the IFBB Pro League, and Jan Tana Classic. Her biggest accomplishment was the IFBB Ms. International Champion of 1999, 2000, and 2001.
Her first competition was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1983. She then gradually rose through the amateur levels, getting her pro card in 1993 after emerging as the NPC Nationals middleweight class winner.
She works as a personal trainer and coach at a private gym in Irving, Texas. In addition to helping her clients reach their fitness goals, Ondrea provides useful tips on diet and practical advice on how to become successful in the fitness industry.
14. Sha-ri Pendleton
Sha-ri Pendleton is a professional bodybuilder and a former javelin thrower and hurdler. As a fast learner, she had a special interest in track as a teenager. She began with the 220 and 440 before gradually transitioning to the 200 and 400-meter competitions.
She fell in love with weight training when she was only 16. She began training for the 1992 Summer Olympics while participating in various competitions.
However, she made a decision to step away from competition after realizing that she had to devote her full attention to bodybuilding to achieve success. Her obsession with competing in the Olympics didn’t permit her to afford bodybuilding the attention it deserved.
In 1989, she became part of the American Gladiators under the alias Blaze, competing for three years and ending her career in 1992. She lifts weights six days a week to stay in shape. She employs powerlifting moves like shoulder presses, deadlifts, and squats to increase her muscle mass rapidly.
15. Laura Creavalle
Laura Creavalle is arguably the most successful bodybuilder from Guyana, gaining induction to the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2007. She drew inspiration to become a professional bodybuilder from a women’s bodybuilding competition in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1992. She was impressed that the third-place finisher had a body type similar to hers.
She began training immediately after getting back to Toronto. Six months later, she won the lightweight division at the Novice Ontario Championships. She came first in the 1988 IFBB World Amateur Championships, earning her pro card.
Her most notable accomplishment is the IFBB Ms. International Champion of 1990, 1994, and 1995. She currently runs her own company, which deals with healthy meals.
Top Black Female Bodybuilders, Final Thoughts
The rise of black female bodybuilding has been an incredible phenomenon. They demonstrate that the sport is for everyone, regardless of race or gender. They also disprove the stereotype that only males can be muscular.
However, getting those impressive physiques necessitates discipline and learning how to deal with discomfort. We hope you had fun reading our list of the best 15 black female bodybuilders.