Kyle earned ten Ms. Olympia championships and seven Ms. International titles, and some believe she might have won even more if she had tried more.
If not the greatest bodybuilder in the history of the sport, Iris Kyle is certainly one of the best. That is a significant assertion, to be sure, but it is one that can be supported. As an example, Kyle is the only bodybuilder in any class — male or female — to have won a total of ten Olympia championships. Aside from that, she has seven Ms. International crowns to her name, which is regarded as the second most prestigious competition in the world after only Miss Olympia.
Women’s bodybuilding is characterized by dominating champions in the same way that men’s bodybuilding is. Kyle has won the title of Ms. Olympia ten times, Lenda Murray has won it eight times, and Cory Everson has won it six times. When competitors reach the pinnacle of their sport, it is typically tough to dethrone them — and Kyle proved to be an almost unstoppable force after overcoming Lenda Murray to claim her first Ms. Olympia title.
The Younger Years
Iris was the second youngest of six children when she was born in 1974 in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Kyle, a self-described sports fanatic, spent his early and high school years participating in a variety of sports, including softball, cross country, and basketball. She excelled in basketball as a point guard, similar to Phil Heath, the guy who has won seven Mr. Olympia championships. She was named to the All-American team in the sport, similar to Heath.
Kyle’s abilities were recognized when she was granted a number of college scholarships. She finally decided on Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi, where she would major in business administration with a minor in accounting. When she graduated, Kyle relocated to California, where she started her professional bodybuilding career.
Kyle did not start bodybuilding until she relocated to California in her early twenties, while she was still in college. Despite the fact that Kyle was athletic — in fact, she was a superb athlete – she joined the bodybuilding industry at a somewhat late age in comparison to her peers.
As a result of her relocation to Orange County and the purchase of a gym membership, Kyle started to devote more time and effort to weightlifting. From the standpoint of bodybuilding, there has never been a better moment to get started. It was not until the 1980s and 1990s that women’s bodybuilding began to gain traction.
Kyle entered the bodybuilding industry at a time when more and more women were joining the gym and, more crucially, when bodybuilding publications were specifically catering to and covering women’s bodybuilding on a regular basis, as was the case with Kyle. She began her fitness and bodybuilding adventure when she was crowned six-time Miss Olympia. Cory Everson and Lenda Murray were lauded for their strength and endurance on the field.
As a result, Kyle made the switch from being a casual gym-goer to being a serious trainer quite fast. Kyle said the following in an interview with FLEX magazine in 2018:
While living in California, my buddy and I quickly observed that everyone around us was in excellent shape… They all had toned, sculpted bodies, so my buddy and I decided to join a gym in an effort to get a similar shape. We devoured every book and magazine available to us in order to learn all we could about nutrition.
We suddenly realized that we had been spending so much time at the gym that we may as well both acquire a job there,” says the author.
From that point on, Iris became more engaged in training. Kyle “knew I wanted to sculpt a body like Lenda Murray’s after seeing a photograph of her in FLEX,” he says. As Kyle continued to train, more people started to take note. When Iris was in the gym, Butch Dennies, a local promoter, approached her and recommended she participate.
Iris competed in her first show, the NPC Long Beach Classic, in 1994, and took home first place. It was the first of many bodybuilding championships to come. Kyle participated in her first professional show in 1999. Kyle had made a reputation for herself in a very short amount of time.
Kyle’s bodybuilding career should be discussed in more detail later, but first it is necessary to explore some of the obstacles she experienced from a young age. Women bodybuilders are subjected to a number of stereotypes that are widely established. Kyle has received unfavorable remarks about her physical appearance as a result of her increasing size and training. Kyle isolated herself from friends and family in order to concentrate on her ambition of becoming Ms. Olympia. She trained three to four hours away (by vehicle) in order to achieve her goal.
Mrs. Olympia’s battles and triumphs
Writing In the November 1996 issue of Women’s Physique World, women’s bodybuilding writer and historian Steve Wennerstrom identified Iris Kyle as the sport’s next rising star. “Keep an eye on Iris Kyle,” Wennerstrom warned his readers in a recent letter. He was not completely incorrect. Kyle participated in a succession of regional and national events from 1996 to 1999, winning some of them.
Kyle, on the other hand, started participating in big bodybuilding competitions for the first time only in 1999. This was her first year competing in the IFBB Ms. International show, which was the second most important event in women’s bodybuilding at the time. She finished 15th that year. Even more significantly, she participated in her first Ms. Olympia competition, where she placed an outstanding fourth.
Following that, the year 2000, represented a low point in Kyle’s professional career. When it was determined that she had taken diuretics, she was disqualified from competing in the Ms. International competition that year. Kyle and Tazzie Colomb were the only ones that did not pass their testing methods. She went on to place sixth in the Ms. Olympia competition the following year.
Kyle’s performance at the Olympia was not without its share of criticism. Bill Dobbins, a women’s bodybuilding writer, photographer, and enthusiast, subsequently alleged that Kyle was discriminated against by the Olympia judges because of her size and muscularity. Kyle denied this assertion. According to Dobbins, the Olympia judges were hesitant to laud Kyle’s physique because they believed she was too muscular for women’s bodybuilding competitions.
This claimed critique occurred at a time when the Ms. Olympia pageant was trying to garner enough financing and enthusiasm from fans in order to remain in operation for another year. Both the 1999 and 2000 concerts were on the verge of being cancelled unless more financing could be secured.
Kyle made a comeback the following year, winning the heavyweight class of the Ms. Olympia, but she was defeated by Juliette Bergmann in the overall competition. Despite the fact that Kyle felt she had won the overall, it was evident to fans inside the sport that Kyle would be a contender, if not an undisputed winner, in the following years.
The Years of Murray and Kyle
In the world of bodybuilding, comebacks are quite unusual. It is true that some people refer to Arnold Schwarzenneger’s triumph in the 1980 Mr. Olympia, Franco Columbu’s victory in the 1981 event, or Jay Cutler’s recapture of the title in 2009. Nonetheless, these returns are often the exception rather than the norm.
Lenda Murray was a prominent exception in the world of female bodybuilding. The eight-time Miss Olympia is the bodybuilder who was the inspiration for Kyle’s initial foray into the world of show business.
Murray was also the bodybuilder that blocked Kyle from being the first woman to win the Ms. Olympia competition in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Murray, a six-time Ms. Olympia winner, first announced her retirement from bodybuilding in 1997. During her comeback from 2002 to 2004, she gained two more Olympias to her illustrious career record (2002 and 2003, placing second in 2004).
Though they look to be friends or at the very least have mutual regard for one another today, this was not the case when they first met back in the early 2000s. When addressing her competition with Kyle during this time period, Murray was often reported in fitness publications and interviews as criticizing Kyle’s attitude to the sport as well as her body.
Murray was not the only one who felt this way; there were others as well. While Bill Dobbins, who was unquestionably an admirer of Kyle’s bodybuilding career, subsequently said that one of Kyle’s physical limitations as a bodybuilder was her use of cosmetics and hairstyling on stage, rather than her athleticism. Dobbins said that Kyle’s muscularity and symmetry were not insignificant, but that intelligent aesthetic application assisted Kyle in reaching the top.
Murray and Kyle’s on-stage rivalry, on the other hand, rekindled interest in the sport among the general public. It was a rematch between an old legend and a promising newcomer. Murray was successful in the years 2002 and 2003. Kyle had the upper hand in the year 2004. What happened to make things different?
To put it another way, Kyle delivered the ideal bundle. As the following points out in the 2004 Olympia report from Ironman:
In the heavyweight division of the Ms. Olympia competition, they predicted that the IFBB pro judging panel would never choose Iris Kyle over the reigning champion and eight-time champion Lenda Murray. Murray’s better intangibles, such as his lines and appearance, as well as his ability to ooze charm even while just standing in the lineup, would win the day, despite the fact that Kyle had, arguably, the more complete physique. They seem to have forgotten that the traditional cliché about Olympia champions needing to be knocked out cold in order to lose their titles does not apply to women. Alternatively, it is possible that you-know-what has finally frozen over. Kyle defeated Murray in the IFBB Ms. O competition in 2004 with a convincing win in their respective classes.”
Murray, an eight-time Ms. Olympia, announced her retirement from competition in 2004. Kyle earned her first overall Olympian title, which she hopes will be the beginning of many.
It is hard not to assume that Kyle has been unfairly attacked by the bodybuilding community due to her physical characteristics. Everyone has their own bodybuilding philosophy, which may be found here. Some people feel that both mental and physical health must be cultivated in equal amounts. Others are more concerned with muscularity and beauty than anything else.
In addition to receiving criticism for ushering in the “mass monster” period of bodybuilding, six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates also received negative feedback. The distinction between Yates and Kyle is that Kyle’s division actively sought to halt contestants’ desire for muscularity. Yates’ division did not do so.
The International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) issued the “20 percent rule” in 2005, which required female competitors to reduce their muscularity “by a factor of 20 percent.” A seemingly impossible request, especially when paired with the announcement that the Ms. Olympia competition would no longer be divided into a heavyweight and a lightweight category but would instead be one enormous division.
Kyle was defeated by fellow heavyweight Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia in the 2005 battle (who won her sole Ms. Olympia title). Bill Dobbins said in his contest report that, although Kyle was remarkable, Oriquen-Garcia was just superior. The downside of Kyle’s performance, according to Dobbins, was not her physical strength or training, but rather her lack of stage presence. Kyle’s posture and presentation might have been better, though.
A bodybuilding champion’s capacity to take defeat and move on is ingrained in his or her character. Bodybuilding is a subjective sport in its own right. It is possible that the judges would like someone else to win, and it makes no difference what the person accomplishes. Kyle accepted the choice made in 2005 and came back even stronger the next year, according to the report.
Kyle was the undisputed queen of women’s bodybuilding from 2006 until 2014. Although organizers and judges are increasingly calling for change in women’s bodybuilding, she has won nine straight Ms. Olympia championships and has carried herself like a champion throughout her career.
Kyle was a prodigy at the conclusion of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Every part of her game, from her stage appearance to her posing, was precisely planned and well performed, and she deserves to win. Many people were curious as to what would finally put an end to Kyle’s domination.
The response was not the addition of a new competitor, but rather the elimination of women’s bodybuilding from the Olympia. Kyle’s last and tenth Ms. Olympia title occurred in 2014, when the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) stated that they would no longer organize a Ms. Olympia event. Because of rising apathy among viewers as well as dissatisfaction among organizers and judges over the muscularity being shown on stage, the Olympia was forced to terminate the competition.
As a result, Kyle did not retire by choice, but rather by necessity. Female bodybuilding found relief in the Wings of Strength events held between 2014 and 2020, which in effect served as a very popular replacement for the Ms. Olympia pageant among both spectators and contestants during this time period. Kyle made a short announcement that she will compete in the 2016 event, however she later withdrew from the competition due to disagreements with the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) and contest organizers.
Kyle withdrew from the 2020 Ms. Olympia competition the night before the competition because of sickness, despite the fact that her return was much anticipated by fans. This is not to argue that Kyle’s career came to an end with a bang — after all, her final competition was her 10th Olympia — but it did not come to an end on her terms.
Kyle in bodybuilding
The time of this writing, Andrea Shaw had recently won her second Ms. Olympia title, making her the youngest woman to do so. Despite the fact that Kyle’s muscularity has been mocked throughout her professional career, it is not only prevalent in Women’s Bodybuilding, but it is the industry standard.
Kyle will be recognized as one of the most influential figures in the history of women’s bodybuilding for many years to come. The fact that Kyle was very controversial owing to her muscularity did not prevent her from achieving unprecedented levels of dominance in the women’s division.
With 10 Ms. Olympia titles to her name, Kyle also held numerous more IFBB championships to her name. Her physical characteristics were as follows: she was slim, powerful, symmetrical, and above all, committed. Few other athletes had to cope with, much alone overcome, the disappointments, difficulties, and critiques that she faced and overcame throughout her professional athletic career. The fact that she survived and performed well as an athlete says something about her as a person, but it says far more about her as an athlete as a whole.