Yolanda Hughes Heying, 45, is a former professional bodybuilder. Retired from competitive bodybuilding, the former Ms.Universe, two-time winner of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic and second-place finisher in the Ms. Olympia competition, is now a personal trainer and proprietor of a pole-dancing exercise studio called Fitness Exotica in Bellingham.
Here is her story, in her own words:
"I worked as a personal trainer, still do, at Goldís Gym. I also competed as a professional bodybuilder. I did that for 20 years. I havenít been onstage for 10 years as a bodybuilder. I won the Ms.Universe. I won the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic two years in a row. Arnold is a pretty funny guy. He is all about business.
"I was in the movie 'Rollerball,' the remake. That was in 2001. That was a great experience. Had a blast! Thought that I wanted to pursue that career. But I went out to L.A. and changed my mind. It was just being that I was so different. Being muscular, a woman of color. They were saying 'you're way too big.' Just dealing with the superficialness, I decided I didn't want to do that.
"I got into bodybuilding by a pro wrestler named Hillbilly Jim back in Kentucky. He spotted me practicing gymnastics and asked me if I would to be interested in competing in bodybuilding. I trained for four weeks and I placed second. I thought that was good for not knowing what I was doing, I just kind of fooled around with it until I started winning the national championships and then I took it serious.
"Pole dancingÖ is a way for women to get fit. It is more about the fitness and athletic part of pole dancing. In '05 I was getting ready to go back onstage. I was working out and I tore my Achilles tendon. I had to have surgery. In that time of being still I came up with the idea. I had tried pole dancing once. It was a lot of fun.
"And I saw something on ĎOprah.í I thought thatís it. I didnít know anything about it. IĎve only been on the pole once, for a whole maybe 10 minutes. I got on the internet and started to do research. I found a gal up in Canada who has a pole dancing studio. She is my mentor. Her name is Tammy Morris. She has helped me from A to Z.
"It is a great way to have fun, get fit. Also explore the sensual side of yourself. For me coming from a bodybuilder and now going into pole dancing, it is kind of the opposite ends of the spectrum. The bodybuilder part zeroes in the building of the body, whereas the pole dancing is more sensual and very athletic. It is like Circ De Soleil.
"The poles are two inches in diameter; the ones here are 11Ĺ feet. They are bolted in. The girls learn how to do tricks on the poles, which is lifting your own body weight, which is a great way to get fit, because it is dead weight. It is like doing pull-ups. You learn how to dance.
"You put the combination of dancing and the pole together. Five minutes of dancing and doing pole tricks is a real cardio workout.
"It takes a lot of core strength and upper back and arms. It's really a good workout. It's fun, a sense of freedom. Liberating! For women to really just own their own power I've seen a few men do it. They can do the pole tricks, but sometimes the dance movement in between doesnít quite have that aesthetic.
"(Women) donít have to be athletic, they donít have to be fit. That's what it is all about: getting them fit, getting them in touch with their bodies. Taking the time for themselves. Learning to appreciate their femininity in an environment where they donít have to worry about guys.
"It came to the mainstream as a workout for women. There was an actress named Sheila Kelly who was training for a part in a movie. She danced on the pole. Afterwards she saw that she was getting in shape. So after she finished shooting this movie, she started dancing in her garage and her girlfriends would come over and join her. Thatís how it became a mainstream thing. She has a studio called the S Factor.
"There is nothing like seeing women who come in who are inhibited, seeing them blossoming. Seeing the confidence they gain. That's rewarding for me." http://www.bellinghamherald.com/entertainmentnews/story/723513.html