Sharon Bruneau legendary female muscle by Bill Dobbins
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Sharon Bruneau pro bodybuilding competitor
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Sharon Bruneau muscle woman training
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Sharon Bruneau 2011 images and video

Sharon Bruneau is originally from Canada and ethnically is what we often call in the United States a "Native American" - in her case a Metis, which is a kind of French/Cherokee heritage. Of course, no humans are actually native to North or South America. American Indians were simply the first immigrants, although they seem to have beaten Europeans to the New World (at least in terms of being permanent settlers) by at least 10,000 years.

Sharon is 5'9" and early on had a slender physique that allowed her to work successfully as a model. After contracting pneumonia and losing a lot of body weight, she started weight training to get back in shape. She put on muscle so relatively easily that within a short time was too buff to work as a model and she turned to bodybuilding instead.

Sharon was only moderately successful in pro contests - the same long, lean lines that made her so popular and appealing made it difficult to get the fullness of shape necessary to win IFBB pro bodybuilding shows. But her appeal was so great and widespread in the fitness world that she quickly became one of the most popular and frequently photographed of all the women in the sport.

But Sharon Bruneau is a great example of how we frequently do not see ourselves as others see us. From the beginning, Sharon was highly ambivalent about having muscle. Born in Timmins, Ontario and raised in Toronto, after developing her physique she was working as a waitress in a club in Vancouver and somebody would occasionally something negative about her muscles. This made her extremely self-conscious - in spite of the fact that this kind of criticism was rare and admiration for her beauty and body was by far the most common reaction.

"At that point," Sharon admits, "I didn't even want to go to the beach in a bathing suit. I couldn't help feeling that everyone was looking at me with disapproval."

During the early 1990s, when Sharon was one of the most famous and admired of all pro female bodybuilders, despite getting so much positive attention (and doing very well financially), Sharon continued to be very ambivalent about having what she felt was "so much muscle." In 1995, she decided to lose weight and switch from bodybuilding to fitness (there was no figure competition at that point). But in addition to having problems in the performance round competitng against so many elfin gymnasts, Sharon discovered what many female bodybuiders have had to learn (and still continue to have to learn) the hard way: women with genuine bodybuilding genetics cannot legitimately switch to fitness or figure and truly be competitive. The kinds of bodies involved in these three types of events are simply not the same.

After 1995, Sharon retired from competition and eventually lost enough body weight to work fairly successfully as a model. But in recent years a funny thing happened: Sharon began looking back at photographs of herself from her bodybuilding competition days and thinking, "You know, I wasn't really all that big after all." From the perspective of some 12 to 15 years later, given a sport in which the reigning champion Iris Kyle is so relatively hard and muscular and other women on stage are the size of Yaxeni Oriquen or Heather (Policky) Armbrust, Sharon has realized that, even at her biggest, she was still lean, aesthertic and very sexy in the eyes of her fans. In fact, it was this very lack of "massiveness" that made it easy for her to be promotable and popular while difficult to win major championships.

"It's one of those 'What was I thinking?' situations," admits Sharon. "Looking back, I can hardly believe I was convinced I was too big or too muscular. When I look at my photos from that period, I like my physique. I just wish I could have felt this way back then."

Given this change of attitude, Sharon has decided to go "back to the future" - at least to some degree. "I'll never have the same amount of muscle I did when I was competing," says Sharon, "but I have come to realize that there is still a lot of opportunity for me in the fitness industry - so I'm back in the gym working to put build back at least some of the mass I had back then."

There is no doubt that Sharon's fans - of which there are still many - can't wait to see the outcome of this new effort.