Lisa Lyon (May 13, 1953 – September 8, 2023) was a prominent figure in the world of bodybuilding and modeling. She’s celebrated for her pioneering role in female bodybuilding, breaking stereotypes and challenging norms.
Early Life and Education
Born in Los Angeles, California on May 13, 1953, Lisa’s journey into bodybuilding began at the University of California at Los Angeles. While she was highly skilled in the Japanese art of kendo, she realized she needed to develop her upper body strength. This need led her to the world of weight training, paving her way into bodybuilding.
Her foray into the professional bodybuilding scene was marked with triumph when she clinched victory at the International Federation of BodyBuilders Women’s World Pro Bodybuilding Championship in Los Angeles on June 16, 1979. What’s notable is that this was her only bodybuilding competition.
After this win, she became a popular figure, gracing various magazines and television talk shows to promote bodybuilding for women. She also penned down her insights and experience in the book “Lisa Lyon’s Body Magic” (ISBN 0-553-01296-7) in 1981.
A snapshot of her stats from October 1980:
- Bust: 37A
- Waist: 24″
- Hips: 35″
- Height: 5′ 4″
- Weight: 120 lbs
- Hair Color: Brunette
In terms of her strength, she could deadlift 225 pounds, bench press 120 pounds, and squat 265 pounds.
Although many believe that Lisa Lyon was the first female bodybuilder to appear in Playboy in October 1980, this title actually goes to stripper and bodybuilder Kellie Everts, who featured in a May 1977 pictorial named “Humping Iron”.
Lyon collaborated with several renowned photographers including Helmut Newton, Joel-Peter Witkin, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Marcus Leatherdale. Particularly notable is her work with Mapplethorpe between 1980 and 1983. Mapplethorpe created over 150 photographs of her, culminating in the 1983 book “Lady: Lisa Lyon”. Mapplethorpe’s portrayal of Lyon stood out for juxtaposing her traditionally feminine aspects with her conventionally masculine strength.
Apart from bodybuilding and modeling, Lisa Lyon dabbled in acting with roles including:
- Mathilde in Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983)
- Pilar Jones in Getting Physical (1984)
- Cimmaron in Vamp (1986) alongside Grace Jones.
Legacy and Achievements
In recognition of her tremendous contributions to bodybuilding, she was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2000. She was honored for her efforts in elevating bodybuilding to the stature of fine art.
Comic enthusiasts would be intrigued to know that when creating the Marvel Comics character Elektra, Frank Miller took inspiration from Lyon for the character’s appearance.
Lisa Lyon’s life was a testament to the power of breaking boundaries and redefining what’s possible. She remains an icon and an inspiration in the world of bodybuilding and beyond.