Does bodybuilding really have a place in Jamaican culture?
Andrene Wells was a bodybuilder. She participated in the bikini fitness category. She doesn’t miss it one bit.
Andrene started bodybuilding in 2014. At the time, she frequented the gym with her older brother. Back then, working out was serious business for the duo but they tried to have fun while they did it.
The two started posting videos of themselves working out together but little did they know the videos would gain traction, lots of traction.
“My brother and I would always post videos of us working out together and the owner of a very popular gym approached us and asked us to represent her gym.”
Andrene grabbed the opportunity and started training early that year.
In July, she entered her first competition. Specifically in the bikini fitness category. Her coy stage presence and well-defined muscles clearly captured the judges. She won the bikini fitness category and best legs in that first competition.
The exposure from the competition was good. She had major companies offering to sponsor her entrance to future competitions.
In a way, Andrene also became the poster child for the ultimate bikini body.
As expected, the messages from other women who wanted to improve their bodies kept coming in. They wanted Andrene’s advice and training in hopes of getting nicely toned legs like hers. Though Andrene had the attention of the bodybuilding community, she didn’t like what she saw in the mirror- abs and a toned body.
Andrene hated being skinny and muscular. I would too. Culturally, Jamaican women are expected to be a little more on the plump side of affairs. And many of us strive to fulfil that.
A Vice documentary titled, ‘Caribbean Fashion Week- Dancehall and Skin Bleaching’, talks about a trend that barely gets to see the light of day. Girls consuming chicken feed to get curvier bodies. The host visited a poultry farmer in the hopes of getting to the bottom of the sub-culture.
In the video, the farmer of 90 chickens said, “we buy them when they are just two days old. When they reach one month old, we give them ‘the finisher’. The finisher is what we give them to make them fatter.”
He continued to explain his understanding of the chicken pill.
“The pill that you give the chickens looks like this. The ladies (when they want to get fatter) take it and make porridge. When they make the porridge, they drop it in the porridge.”
Though there is no evidence to say if the chicken pill works, women, in a bid to attract men smitten by these body types, buy them in droves.
The farmer confessed, “I don’t like slim girls…I would never live with a slim girl- no matter what she has.”
When the host (who is obviously slim) asked what he likes about fat he said, “I like it when a woman has a big bottom, big fat legs, big hands. I like it when my girl holds me and I feel her. When I lie down in the bed and go on top of her… I feel flesh. That’s what I love about my fat girls.”
The sentiment doesn’t only come from men, many women like the look too.
On social media, there’s an obvious obsession with the curvier body types. It’s proven in the way women pose for photos.
Photographers play with angles to boost the composition and creativity of a photo, but on social media, those angles are used to make certain body features look bigger/smaller than they actually are.
Now there’s an expectation for women to be ‘thick’. If I had to give it a definition it would probably be a crossover between fat and fit. That is, your tummy is flat but your thighs and butt are fat. The best of both worlds I guess.
Either way, bodybuilding requires some women to have an image outside of what is culturally preferred, which can encourage insecurity.
As for Andrene, she has no desire to return to bodybuilding.
At most, she tries to work out three times a week. Whether it’s cycling for a few minutes or a quick 20-minute workout. Still, she does admit that “bodybuilding has kept my body in pretty good shape. I now have a two-year-old and a seven-month-old and because of the constant training over the years, I must say I’m not looking too shabby.”