Andrea Shaw discusses her rise to Ms. Olympia and the ups and downs of the Women’s Bodybuilding division.

For the past two years, Andrea Shaw has proven herself to be the new standout and reigning Ms. Olympia champion in Women’s Bodybuilding. After a five year gap of the division no longer appearing at the Olympia weekend – Shaw exploded onto the scene with Ms. Olympia’s return in 2020. Since then she has been the star to beat in the prestigious but often criticized division. In our latest GI Exclusive, Andrea Shaw discusses her rise in Women’s Bodybuilding and responds to the criticism and struggles of the division.

Before Andrea Shaw, Iris Kyle was the unstoppable Women’s Bodybuilding competitor. She earned 10 Ms. Olympia victories during her career – before the division itself was dropped from the Olympia weekend. There was a five year gap where Women’s Bodybuilding was no longer supported by the Arnold Classic or the Olympia weekend. During this time – competitors in the division had little to work towards. With one exception – the Wings of Strength Women’s Bodybuilding competition.

It was during this strange time in Women’s Bodybuilding that Andrea Shaw rose up through the ranks and became an all-star competitor. Starting out in Women’s Physique, she eventually moved up to Women’s Bodybuilding. Of course, there was no Ms. Olympia to work towards. Thankfully – she found support at Wings of Strength. This allowed her to continue to find motivation and improve into a challenging competitor in the league.

Fast forward to 2020, Jake Wood now owns the Olympia event (he is also the man who ran the Wings of Strength competitions) and brought Women’s Bodybuilding and Ms. Olympia back into the fold. Andrea Shaw now had a new goal to work towards – which she earned both in 2020 and 2021 with two Ms. Olympia victories.

We connected with Andrea Shaw for a video interview to recap her rise through the years from Women’s Physique, into Women’s Bodybuilding, and through to the champion she is today. As mentioned above, her career grew during one of the most tumultuous times for Women’s Bodybuilding. We asked Shaw for her thoughts on the lack of support over the years at major shows such as the Olympia weekend and Arnold Classic.

The common reasoning behind dropping Women’s Bodybuilding from competition was simply that there was not enough popularity to keep it running. We asked for Andrea Shaw’s reaction to that kind of mentality. Did that excuse ever make sense to her?

“No. Only because it’s always been popular. Because without Women’s Bodybuilding there are no other female divisions. None,” Andrea Shaw stated in our interview. She continued:

“So it doesn’t matter if you’re in Figure, whether you’re in Fitness – it all started with Women’s Bodybuilding. I firmly believe that was just a call AMI made. Because Jim Manion, the NPC, the IFBB, they kept the contests going. There were so many contests that still had Women’s Bodybuilding. But that was a direct call from Arnold’s staff. You know, and I’m speculating because I wasn’t competing at that time but again Arnold pulled it first and then AMI followed suit. Whether it was unpopular – I think it was unpopular to them.”

Andrea Shaw goes on to also comment on the concept of “femininity” in Women’s Bodybuilding vs the pure athleticism of the sport. She’s well aware of the history behind the division. With athletes like Bev Francis being pulled back in forth for either being too masculine or not muscular enough.

“A lot of it are usually men. They are usually men. When you break most of it down, some of these men are insecure because they don’t have muscle and they wish they could. So then the target becomes the woman… but it’s bodybuilding. What difference does it make if it’s a man or a woman?”

You can watch Andrea Shaw’s full comments in our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above!

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Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.