She’s 86 and collecting bodybuilding prizes

PHILADELPHIA, USA, August 30, 2006 – “I don’t understand all the fuss … I’m a retired nurse, so health has always been important to me … I just do what I can to stay healthy,” said second generation Barbadian, Morjorie Newlin, who has inspired the world with her body building feats the last 14 years.

Morjorie whose parents are Barbadians was born in Philadelphia in 1920. Her father died when she was four years old and she and her sister were left to be raised by her Barbadian mother.

In 1992, at age 72, she stepped onto a body building stage for the first time. The audience was baffled and bewildered wondering if she got lost on her way to the senior citizen’s bingo game at the church hall and somehow wound up half naked on a show posing for them.

However, the mother of four, grandmother of another four, and great grand mother of two, said it was a healthy choice.

“I began lifting at 72, after doctors had found that weight-bearing exercise could offset osteoporosis. I didn’t want my children to have to take care of me. I weight-train so I can be strong and do the things I want to do. The more I worked out, the more I enjoyed it. Then my trainer talked me into competing … I like doing my routine to `Respect’ by Aretha Franklin. I really feel that song when I’m out there. Now I have 25 trophies! When I go onstage, the crowd goes wild,” she said in a 2000 interview with Ylonda Gault Caviness of Essence Magazine.

It was in 1992 that she went to the gym and her first trainer, Robert Rivers, coaxed her into her first bodybuilding contest after he recognised her tenacity.

“When the judge announced her age, the audience went haywire”, recalls Rivers in a Jean-Noel Bassior interview.  Newlin on the other hand said: “I thought they were applauding because the old lady made it onto the stage.”

Soon after she started working out at the Rivers Gym, a Mecca for serious bodybuilders, then owner Robert Rivers spotted her potential and took her under his personal tutorship.

“It was amazing to watch a 72-year-old body in that condition,” he noted.  Rivers decided that it was time for Newlin to compete, but when he showed her the teeny-weeny bikini she’d be wearing to display her muscles, she said, “No way!!”  Then she reconsidered.

“I knew the contest meant a lot to him,” said Newlin, “so I thought, ‘I’ll do this once – but I’m not going to do it again!'”  She won and has kept winning.

So well toned is her body that she said young men hit on her.

“Yeah, they do, but I can’t be bothered, they want you to take care of them and I don’t want anybody parked in my house,” she said in a Linda Swan interview on the NBC TV programme MOMS ON THE MOVE.

Newlin, who turned 86 in August that she has eased off the competition for the time being but still works out at Bally Total Fitness.

“I could bench-press 90 pounds with a spotter. I can dead lift 95 pounds. I can squat 135 pounds,” Newlin told Tasha Ho-Sang of the Philadelphia’s City Paper newspaper in an interview earlier this month.

Over the years she’s always been asked the secret to such a gorgeous body.

She told Linda Swan: “My advice is to first of all, I think they need to exercise, find out what kind of exercise you can do and what you like to do, because if you like what you’re doing, you’re more likely to continue doing it, and it’s not all about losing weight, it’s about gaining strength and being able to do what you have to do.”

On the question of “remaining young” Newlin pointedly said: “I can’t do anything to be young, I don’t wanna be young. I’ve been young, I feel good just the way I am.”