Fitness Women as Role Models for Society at Large? by Kenny Kassel
As someone who has been around top women bodybuilders and fitness athletes since women have been competing in this arena, I can attest to how inspiring they can be. I have worked with them in many different areas. I have been their trainer, their mentor, their manager, their agent, and mostly their motivator. I will also tell you that so many of them have inspired me to help other fitness role models make their lives better through their work in the fitness industry.
As an example, one woman who dropped out of high school when she became pregnant at 15, got into bodybuilding in her early 20s. I started training her not really for competitions, but to elevate her self esteem. She and I had many sessions where we talked about life in general, and how important it is to have goals to accomplish. We talked about the importance of being a productive human being who contributes to the benefit of society. I could not have been more proud, the moment when she graduated from medical school at the age of 40, and she is training harder than ever while enjoying a newly thriving medical practice. There are hundreds of athletes just like her, whose stories could inspire the mainstream public to achieve their own particular goals.
One of the ideas that I have had since I started my fitness agency in 1990 is that fitness models are potentially great role models for society at large. Many of them are personal trainers who are role models by setting examples by how they take care of themselves and teach others to follow their example. The advertising industry has not taken advantage of the opportunities to utilize the wholesome looks and talent of these people. Why is it that media executives are afraid of showing any model who has a physique in commercials, even for products related to health and fitness?
If their thinking is that developing a muscular physique is not attainable by the mainstream public, I have a question to direct at them. Do they think that using a supermodel in these ads is the answer? The answer to that question is that the average woman has a much better chance of looking more like our fitness role model than they ever do looking like a supermodel.
I am encouraged by the fact that there are more infomercials on television these days that are using fitness athletes. Those of us who are involved in the fitness industry, particularly those who are in the multi-media areas need to work together to get as much exposure to our fitness heroes and the benefits of their lifestyle to the mainstream world. The media still uses people whose looks and bodies are unattainable to the mainstream public, and rewards looks that are unhealthy.
It is no secret that there is a world-wide epidemic of obesity and diabetes that is inflicting people in almost every part of the world. We live in a world where convenience has made us lazy and out of shape. Children don't get physical activity any more. In the United States, education boards are cutting the budgets for physical education in school curricula, and even inter-scholastic sports programs are being cut at alarming rates.
Participating in organized sports is something that teaches so many valuable life lessons, such as how important it is to be able to work as teams to accomplish goals. Children are playing computer and video games instead of doing any physical activity. We also consume more sugar and refined carbohydrates than ever before and we compound the problem by not getting enough activity to burn off what we are consuming. Since the mainstream media is not helping to expose the world to these problems, those of us in the fitness industry really have our work cut out for us.
Have you ever been with a high level fitness model or bodybuilder in a mall or in a grocery store? What was the reaction of the mainstream public to their appearance? My experience has been that most of the reaction was positive. Both men and women who meet our fitness heroes want to ask questions such as how can they achieve a flat, hard set of abs, or how can they tone up their legs and glutes. I have found that most of the negative comments have been from people who are extremely overweight and out of shape.
Unfortunately we don't get any help from the medical profession who are only trained how to treat illness once it happens, rather than to help people to prevent illness from happening in the first place. This is especially a problem in the United States where the medical organizations are controlled by the drug companies, who don't want people to be healthy, because if they are healthy, then they won't need to buy drugs or spend as much time in the doctor's office.
I am here to warn all of us who love the fitness industry, that we are going to have to take it upon ourselves to educate the world about the benefits of fitness and we are going to have to expose the world to our role models because that is the only way that we are going to get our message out to the public.
Kenny Kassel, December 2003
Kenny Kassel is the owner of Beauti-Fit Talent Agency which is based out of Closter, New Jersey (A suburb of NY City) The e-mail address is Beautifit@aol.com Phone number is (201) 767-1444.
Kenny has also been an IFBB official since 1985 and has done voiceovers for television for 15 years. He is the business manager of kickboxing legend and action film star Don "The Dragon" Wilson and is a consultant to the fitness and entertainment industries.