Audrie Allwood: Female bodybuilder, fitness expert with a firm body and attitude
A udrie Allwood has proven that muscles aren’t only for men.
The three-time Caribbean Lightweight Champion, three-time Miss Jamaica Bodybuilding and Fitness Champion, and two-time Miss Florida Champion has been at the helm of the Jamaica Amateur Bodybuilding and Fitness Association (JABBFA) for more than five years, but has dedicated her life to flexing fiercely in her various roles as a bodybuilder, fitness expert, consultant, chief executive officer of her 15-year-old company, Fit Farm Fitness Club, and as a mother of two girls.
Of small stature – five feet, two inches to be exact – she is stronger than she looks and is a force to be reckoned with.
In 1987, when Allwood was introduced to the competition circuit, jaws dropped. At that time, there were only a handful of women who were interested in bodybuilding and fitness at the professional level.
“I was a very tiny woman, and of course when I became interested in bodybuilding everyone thought it was because I wanted to become bigger. There were even some persons who questioned why I liked the sport. It then transcended into comments about me resembling a man, because of how muscular I became for competition,” Allwood told Flair.
She emerged, fit and powerful, and with a transformed body. For a while, she was the only Jamaican female competing at the international level. She was invited to the World Games in 1997, With more titles and awards than can be counted on two hands, she has been a beacon in the strength community over the past 35 years.
She laughs about her trophy stand. “I haven’t counted the amount of trophies I have, it’s a large trophy stand, let’s say approximately 50 trophies. My first competition in 1987 was Miss Powerline and I won it on first entry. In 1991, I had my first daughter and took a long break from bodybuilding but re-emerged stronger to win several competitions four years in a row between 1997 to 2000. I was also invited to the World Games in 1997, was the only Caribbean person to represent in that year, and placed sixth in the entire world and I was so proud to be representing Jamaica on that global stage.”
Allwood credits her success to the support she has received from family and friends, as well as her discipline.
“Once I set the goal, I chart the path to getting to it and I will not be done until I get there. Being fit is also a relaxing release for me. It is embedded in my daily routine; I think because I’ve always loved it and I wanted to be successful in it.”
Reminiscing on one of the last competitions in 2000, the Caribbean Championships, Allwood admitted that she has taken some risks to walk away with the winning titles. “We know what kind of sacrifices competitors make. I needed to be 114 pound, but weighed 117 lbs. I was traveling to Trinidad and Tobago. I couldn’t have too much water to bloat me and I could only have certain types of foods (so) for nine hours I had half of an icy mint and small sips of water. I ended up meeting my weight class and won that competition, but trust me, I don’t recommend anyone tries this at home.”
Within the last decade, the growth of bodybuilding and the number of women in the sport has been tremendous she said. Some women are now doing it as a full-time profession and there is a climbing percentage of others, having only fallen in love with lifting weights, who are participating in competitions. The number of women competing has doubled in five years.
“To see so many women, from various gyms across Jamaica and placing in the top six internationally is such a joy. This contributes to building the profile of Jamaica as a sports country,” Allwood shared.
Beyond the sexy, and sparkling bikinis and lucite pumps is an example of the power of the human body, and femininity.
“Amid the muscles, I always maintained my feminine edge in my walk, my routines on stage, my costumes, and my overall life. After all, I am a woman, just a physically strong one packed with muscles,” she said, noting that there is a lot that defines femininity. Being a female bodybuilder and a fitness expert has influenced the way males respond or treat her. “I think sometimes they are intimidated because I may be able to lift heavier than them or to be honest that I could lift them up, but for the most part, still found me physically appealing.”
She added, “I’m actually a very empathetic person. So I have what some may term a hard body, but I’m a very “soft” character, who is also extremely shy. My comfort space is when I am exercising or on stage competing, outside of that, I’m very reserved.”
Allwood said that one of the greatest challenges she has faced as JABBFA’s president is garnering sustainable funding for the organisation because there are still entities which don’t see bodybuilding in the same regard as some other more popular sporting disciplines. She has even been told that “it is not a sport but a hobby.”
“I, along with my team, also had to address the need for a more structured and professional outlook for the sport and the organisation in addition to securing funding for our athletes to compete internationally. Embracing equity for me has meant getting the same recognition, promotion and compensation in sports as our male counterparts do,” she said.
“Also being a bodybuilder from Jamaica from back in the 1980s, it has also meant getting the same recognition as the women who participate in the same sport who live in countries that are more advanced in the sport. However, I’m happy to be a part of a movement that over 30 years have shown so much growth especially for female participants. The pandemic really pushed us to the limit to stay relevant and serve the persons within the sport the best we could when competitions got cancelled and yet the athletes still had to train and stay fit for when the competition scene reopened.”
The future of bodybuilding as a sport is very promising for both females and males, and in particular, the females because there are many Jamaicans who have now gone pro, notably, a female bodybuilder received the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in the Sports in 2021, which shows that young females are not only interested in the sport, they are excelling, Allwood said. And females who enter the “beauty queen” competitions are now also entering the bodybuilding competitions. We also have females in all categories and bodybuilding is being seen as a legitimate sport; fit for funding.