MS. OLYMPIA LENDA MURRAY:
Her Career As A Promoter
By Bill Dobbins
Eight Time Ms. Olympia Lenda Murray was a competitive track athlete before she became a professional bodybuilder. So she is highly aware that the nature of sport is that it is progressive – that is, records are made to be broken, performances will eventually be surpassed, the athletes of today wil be better than those of the past.
If it is not progressive it is a skill, not a sport. Like horseshoes, darts or billiards.
“Even when I was winning,” says Lenda, “I knew my career as a bodybuilding champion would be finite. This would all end sooner or later. So every early on I thought about what I would do when I was no longer competing for titles and trophies.”
Of course, Lenda worked as a personal trainer as so many other bodybuilders do – although nowadays she accepts only the highest-end clients. For a few years she and husband Urel McGill owned and operated a gym in Virginia Beach, VA – which she ultimately decided was just too much of a headache. Lenda was sought after as a commentator for contests and videos. But fairly early on she set her sights on a different kind of enterprise – becoming a contest promoter.
“As an experienced competitor,” Lenda explains, “I am very aware to the degree the way a contest is organized and promoted can affect the experience of the competitors involved. You can have a great time at a show and sometimes not so great a time. Since it is the competitors who actually make a contest possible, I believe promoters have an obligation and responsibility to create as positive experience for them as possible. That is the mindset I had when I undertook to promote my first competition.”
Lenda and husband Urel McGill promoted their first NPC contest in Norfolk, Va in 2002, This was not far from where her gym had been located so the area was familiar. To date she and Urel have promoted the Lenda Murray Pro/Am Bodybuilding, Figure and Bikini Competition for a total of 15 years – now the show includes a pro divisions sponsored by the Wings of Strength organization.
“There were a lot of challenges to learning how to promote,” Lenda admits. “There is finding the right venue. I wanted to use a theater with excellent facilities. Then there is the question of dates – what contests might be held elsewhere too soon or after the competition date. Even what appears to be a straight forward task like getting trophies can be deceptively complex. You have to order the trophies, have plates made to indicate which award they represent, get them to the venue and arrange for them to be awarded without making any mistakes. Then there are things like arranging for hotel accommodations, officials, dealing with ticket sales and prize awards. Promoting a contest involves a great deal of work and effort.”
Lenda also promotes an annual competition in her native Detroit and has plans to do even more shows elsewhere in the near future.
Lenda has been working with Wings of Strength for a number of years but in 2014 became their official spokesperson. “Wings of Strength has been a godsend to pro female bodybuilding. For some reason, the IFBB has eliminated bodybuilding for women from the Ms. Olympia and the Arnold. Wings is currently promoting seven official pro bodybuilding events. This has provided a great opportunity for the female pros to compete, promote themselves and make some income.
Wings of Strength also helps to support other competitions other than their own. For example, Lenda was able to add pro female bodybuilding, figure and men’s physique divisions to her Norfolk show due to the sponsorship of the Wings organization. Her pro division is a qualifier for the Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix Competition in September, which has become the de facto replacement for the Ms. Olympia.
“As a Ms. Olympia winner, I am very disappointed that the IFBB no longer supports this event. But as a pro bodybuilder and a fan of female bodybuilding, I am very encouraged by the fact that Jake Wood and Kristal Wood and their Wings of Strength organization are stepping in to fill the gap.
Bill Dobbins is a pro photographer located in Los Angeles. He is a veteran photographer and videographer who has exhibited his fine art in two museums and a number of galleries and who has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:
The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Tashen)
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