Most women get into bodybuilding because they are unhappy with their bodies. Perhaps they are overweight and long to resemble the Twiggy-like models they see in Vogue or in TV commercials. Or perhaps they are in poor health and want more energy and vitality. Or maybe they are anorexic-looking and shapeless and want to add some bodyweight to fill out their clothes and have more sex appeal. In any case, it’s unusual that a beautiful woman, who is already a successful model, part-time actress and a cheerleader for a professional football team, turns in her pompons and heads to the gym to become a bodybuilder, but such is the case for Astrid Falcon, the 1991 Canadian national heavyweight and overall bodybuilding champion.
Most women who go to the gym would be thrilled to have the body of Astrid before she ever touched a weight, but inside Astrid was unhappy with her body. Although already considered exceptionally attractive, the blonde-haired, green-eyed beauty wanted more muscle tone, rounder glutes and bigger legs. Once she started to achieve this from weightlifting, she realized that she wanted more overall muscle size too. She wanted to look like a bodybuilder, more like Cory Everson and Anja Langer, her first bodybuilding idols.
That was in 1987. At the time she never dreamed she could ever actually enter a bodybuilding contest, let alone win the Canadian championships one day. But enter a contest she did, on a whim really, at the encouragement of her husband, Pat (whom she married in 1987), a successful amateur bodybuilder himself. They had trained and dieted together to get in shape to do a print ad for a supplement company. Since the 1988 Toronto Bodybuilding Championships were only one week after the photo shoot, Pat suggested she continue to diet and train for another week and enter the show and took third in her class.
She remembers it as a wild and hectic week. She didn’t even own a posing suit, so she had to buy one, pick out posing music and put together a posing routine in one week’s time. Getting ready for a show is nerve-racking enough even when you’ve had months to prepare. To do it all in one week, with no prior experience, must have been an incredible roller coaster ride of emotions for Astrid. Perhaps it was made easier because she didn’t know what to anticipate, and had no expectations of winning or even doing well. She was amazed to place third.
She discovered, though, this she felt exhilarated onstage and couldn’t wait to compete again. The competitive bug had bitten quickly and deeply. Astrid was hooked. She intensified her training to acquire more muscle mass. She intensified her training to acquire more mass.
She improved rapidly and quickly moved up the competitive ladder, winning the 1989 central Ontario championships and also the middleweight class at the Ontario championships. then in 1990 she won the middleweight class and the overall Eastern Canadian championship. Shortly afterwards she also won her class at the Canadian nationals in Toronto. Heavyweight Rita Boehm defeated her to win the overall national title that year, but in 1991 she could not be denied and roared back to win both her class and the overall title.
She had done it. After only four years of hard and intense training Astrid had gone from a 107-pound lightweight to a 140-pound heavyweight and had won the Canadian nationals. She has since been granted her pro card and plans to make her IFBB pro debut at the Jan Tana Classic this July. The fact that Astrid was able to win the Canadian nationals after only four years’ serious training it testament to her derive and determination. If you witness Astrid going through a super intense workout in the gym, you know she is all business when it comes to training and bodybuilding. She is doing everything she can to make her new pro career a successful one.
It’s a fascinating story, from model, actress and cheerleader to bodybuilding champ. the best way to tell it is to start at the beginning. Be ready to meet Astrid Falconi, the new IFBB pro who is fulfilling her dream of becoming a professional bodybuilder.
IT ALL STARTED WHEN…
She was born Astrid Oliva (how’s that for a bodybuilding name?) Brandt, in Munich, West Germany (now Germany), March 27, 1962. Her family moved to Toronto, Canada when she was only a few months old so she had no memories of living in Germany, although she has visited there many times and speaks fluent German. “My parents sent me to Germany every summer vacation when I was growing up,” smiles Astrid sweetly, “because they wanted me to know about my culture and to learn to speak the language. Actually, most of my relatives are still in Germany. Only my mother, father and brother are here in Canada.”
Interestingly, although Astrid has lived all but a few months of her life in Canada, she still is a German citizen. She has never become a Canadian citizen, and retains her landed immigrant status. “I just felt I wanted to keep some part of my heritage.” explains Astrid. “I ‘m proud of being German, and having a German passport.whle living in Canada doesn’t prevent me from traveling or give me any problems. If it were possible I would have dual German-Canadian citizenship, but it isn’t. In Germany you’re either German or Canadian. You can’t be both.”
Growing up Toronto, Astrid insists she was a tomboy and was always playing sports with the next-door neighbor’s kids — everything from hockey to baseball to soccer. “I wasn’t into dolls or any of that sort of thing, “laughs Astrid “I preferred playing with boys.”
Her mother wanted her to become a prima ballerina, so Astrid began taking ballet lessons at age four. She studied for 12 years. You might say she inherited her mother’s love of ballet and eventually her mother’s dream became her own. she wanted to be a ballet dancer, and along with her love for ballet grew a desire to perform. Her aptitude for dance and movement and her flair for performing were natural inclinations that would definitely be an asset as she later became an actress, cheerleader and, of course, a bodybuilder.
At age 16 she also began taking jazz lessons, because she wanted to learn anther form of dance and to branch out artistically. Increasingly body conscious, Astrid developed an interest in fitness, which led to a job as an aerobics instructor. when she was 18, her mother suggested she try out as a cheerleader for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (now well known even by many in the USA because the Argos are owned by Bruce Mc Nail, who also owns the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, comedian John Candy, and hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky. US fans will also recognize the name of Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, the number one NCAA college draft pick form Notre Dame, who spurned the NFL to sign an $18 million-dollar contract with he Argos to become their marquee player). Astrid was an Argo cheerleader for four years, and was named Miss Toronto Argonaut in 1985.
Being an Argonaut cheer leader had its perks, and gave her exposure. This naturally led to modeling. She became an Argo Sunshine girl, a cheesecake photo section in the Toronto Sun newspaper. Her mother was against Astrid’s going into modeling. When she asked if she could go to modeling school, her mother told her it was a waste of money because modeling was a very competitive business and it would be difficult to be successful with so many young, beautiful girls trying to make it. She discouraged Astrid and told her to stick with ballet: however, Astrid was determined to become a model, and one day she talked her mother into going with her to a modeling agency.
To her mom’s surprise, not only did the agency accept Astrid as a client, but she was also kept fairly busy. She did mostly print ads because her height (5’6″) prevented her from doing runway work at fashion shows. About the same time Astrid started taking acting classes at Second City Improv workshops. She actually appeared on SCTV five or six times, and was on “Bizarre” with John Byner and Bob Einstein (Super Dave Osborne ) may times. She also did an HBO special with Martin Short and Don Harrison (best known as the character Charlie Farquharson on “Hee-Haw”), some episodes in “Night Heat”, a few forgettable films and a lot of television commercials. Once she started getting into fitness, she also did some Canadian talk shows, espousing the benefits of weight training to Canadian women of all ages.
At this time in her life modeling took a back seat to acting. “The people in modeling were very superficial and plastic,” recalls Astrid, “and I felt I could be more myself acting. But it was tough to get work. You’d to on ten auditions and you’d be lucky to get one.”
I asked Astrid what it was like to work on “SCTV” with such a hilarious cast, as each member had great comedic talent and among them they could impersonate any celebrity. It seemed that each had multiple characters.
“Marin Short was the most interesting person to watch,” confessed Astrid. “Even if I wasn’t in a scene I would go there to watch him. Just off the top of this head he was so witty and talented. Just incredible! But honestly, all of them ware so talented and in a class by themselves. I was in awe of them. When I see how well they are all dong today, I’m not at all surprised. They were incredibly creative and talented people, and it’s nice that so many of them are Canadians. I’m glad they’re all doing so well.”
What was it like to work with John Byner, Bob Einstein and the zany cast of “Bizarre”?
“The crew of “Bizarre was extremely talented too. I actually worked more on “Bizarre” than on “SCTV”. John Byner, Bob Einstein and Billy Bardy (the short person) were all funny people. It was actually John Binder who got me my ACTRA card. Billy Van helped me out a lot. He took time to help me in reading scripts and learning my lines. It was a great learning experience to be around such professional and talented people.”
Today Astrid is so consumed by her desire to become a professional bodybuilder that she has lost interest in acting. It’s ironic because most bodybuilders want to use their bodybuilding careers as a stepping stone to an acting career, but Astrid is giving up acting t concentrate on being a bodybuilder.
It was during her last year of cheerleading that Astrid really became interested in weight training . Her girlfriend and a fellow cheerleader won a free membership to the new Gold’s gym that had opened up in Mississauga, just west of Toronto. As fate would have it, the friend already belonged to another gym so she gave her free membership to Astrid.
“I went to the gym and started fiddling around with weights,” remembers Astrid. “this was in 1987. I was always very body conscious. when I began cheerleading I weighted only 105 pounds. I wanted to have this perfect shape, and once I got into training with weights I noticed a drastic change to my body. It got tighter. It got a nicer shape. And I wanted to keep changing it and making it better.
“Then after I did my first show it turned into a sport for me, and athletic endeavor, and I developed a real passion for bodybuilding. By the time I first competed I 1988 I weighted 111 pounds. When I entered the Central Ontarios in ’89, I weighted 117. For the Ontarios I weighted 122. I won the Eastern Canadians and my class at the Canadas in 1990 at a bodyweight of 125-1/2. Last year, when I won the overall show I should be overall Canadians, I weighted 139. For my first pro show I should be over 140 pounds, so I’ve gained more than 35 pounds of pure muscle in the past four years.
Astrid has also gained a lot of strength. During her initial year of weight training she could barely squat with 75-80 pounds because of bad knees. No she can 365 for a triple. Back in 1987 she didn’t even bench press. She did flat dumbbell presses with 30-pound dumbbells At the Women’s Strength Extravaganza in New Jersey a few months ago she did a bench press with 255 pounds. Whereas she used 55 pounds for barbell curls in ’87, she now uses as much as 130 pounds for six reps!
A lot of men would have a hard time keeping up with Astrid in the gym, as she prides herself on training intensely. She definitely doesn’t baby herself, that’s for sure. Astrid is driven to become the best bodybuilder she can. Now that she’s made it to the pro ranks, she doesn’t want to blow the opportunity.
“It was a dream for me to win the Nationals. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get this far,” admits Astrid candidly, “but I’m not at my peak or anywhere near my potential yet, so I hope I can continue to improve as I turn pro. In some ways it will be like starting over again. I’ll have to prove myself to show I belong. I’ve had lots of encouragement and positive comments form people such as Steve Wennerstrom, Kenny Kasel and Wayne DeMilia, so I’, going to give it everything I’ve got and see what happens.
“Turning pro for me is scary, I didn’t see myself doing my first pro show until I had completed another solid year of training, but I’m going to do the Jan Tana in July. It will be a chance to test the waters. I’m my harshest critic. In some ways I don’t feel I’m ready to compete against established pros yet, but at the same time I’m excited by it. I love a challenge.”
AS the legendary Vince Lombardi said, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I can’t predict how Astrid will do at her first pro show, but if sheer effort, determination and desire count for anything, she should make a strong impression. Like the little engine that could, Astrid is the woman who won’t be denied. Watch for her and remember the name “Astrid Falconi”.