Muscle Sport Magazine

Zoa Linsey: Theories on Why WPD Was On Shaky Ground at NY Pro

By IFBB Pro Zoa Linsey – Feels like a repeat of history to many of the muscled ladies of the IFBB. Although it was eventually reinstated, the New York Pro had in fact cancelled the Women’s Physique Division (WPD) Pro division competition in a surprise move that was just released last week. First reaction is to call ‘foul’ and repeat the conspiracy theory that “the IFBB just doesn’t want the women to succeed.” Surprisingly, as a former top ranked female pro bodybuilder and now a successful WPD athlete, I simply can’t agree with that position. Logically, there are too many reasons to think otherwise. Of course it’s much more fun to believe in conspiracy theories and back-door hush-hush meetings.

                RELATED: WPD BACK IN 2016 IFBB NY PRO

Here’s my position. As an athlete and a business woman, it’s important to consider the full story regarding the ‘why’ it was cancelled. Rationally speaking, there are two options:

  1. The WPD division didn’t make enough money and it got cancelled in a draw to pick the most profitable divisions.
  2. The WPD division made money (paid for itself plus a profit) and still got cancelled by the organizers (conspiracy theory).
    2016 NY Pro poster

For the promoter, promoting a show is a business. Bottom line, costs must be covered and a profit must be made. These events are huge projects to organize and they are definitely “FOR PROFIT!”  It’s not a part-time job and the reality is that losing money on these events is more common than most people may think. Many promoters have sunk tens of thousands of dollars only to never see their money again. Sure the poster looks slick, you may have a good line-up of competitors but the gloss on the outside doesn’t always show the true balance sheet. Losing money every year doesn’t sound like a good business plan, right?

So without knowing the full story there, we have to surmise that to a large extent it was a financial decision. Any promoter would keep a division in their show that was bringing in the cash! Other than the operating costs (facility, advertising, staff), each pro division costs the promoter sanctioning fees and that cost must be recouped. If not, it takes away from the overall profit.

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Despite many people ‘believing’ this division was popular at the New York Pro (after all it produced some of the best Olympian champions), that does not necessarily correlate to a large profit from the division or a REAL profit that would encourage a repeat the following year. Just because it ‘seems’ like its popular doesn’t mean the division brought in the ticket sales and publicity that the promoters had planned. If we set aside all our feelings about the sport, our passion to continue what we believe to be an amazing history…the bottom line is that the divisions that make the money will be the most popular to the promoters. Any other division is just a burden.

Having said this, the next scenario asks “Assuming the division DID make money, why did the promoters cancel it?”

No savvy business person would cancel a division that made a substantial profit. I simply don’t see a subversive plan to cut out the women; it’s just a reality of the market that some divisions are more generally accepted and things will not change overnight. A promoter will gravitate to the obvious choices to ensure show success. The best thing the athletes can do is to continue to market themselves effectively and demonstrate that our culture is changing; that muscular, fit women are more generally accepted and increasingly ‘normal’.

As social media, publications and media in general see this look as acceptable (which is slowly happening), the division may have more popularity. However, even in the past before WPD emerged, most female bodybuilders viewed their sport as a niche division and never viewed it as ever having  the capacity for full success among the general public. We’re talking about MUSCLES on WOMEN. Of course many of us get it, but most don’t! WPD 2015 Olympia AJ

To me this ‘reality check’ isn’t being negative, just pragmatism. We’re talking about a whole shift in cultural perspective. It’s happening but slowly. Women’s sports in general are far less popular than men’s. Creating a new division will not change this overnight. The expectation was that WPD would fulfill a more marketable version of female muscle (in comparison to the current female bodybuilding). This was an assumption based on a theory. The reality is that our culture in general finds the conditioning and muscularity of a figure pro undesirable or ‘too much.’ We’re not going to get a WPD athlete, no matter how poster-perfect on the pages of a general weight-loss magazine anytime soon. Bikini on the other hand…

When it comes to my reasons for competing, they have definitely evolved. However the best thing about being slightly distant from the sport (living overseas) is my independence in deciding the ‘why’ of what I want to do. Many people were doing a guessing game when I moved from FBB to WPD. The fact is that my reasons for doing so would have been the same even if FBB remained in the major shows and continued to have support from the IFBB.


I was ready for the shift regardless of what was happening in the industry so my choice to downsize 30 pounds was my own. In the same way my decision to create a new look (153# versus 180# on stage) is definitely of my own creation. So as far as the fear that WPD may be heading the same direction that FBB? Well, let’s just put it this way – I’m still going to do my thing. I have no expectations of profit or fame, I simply put out my best every season, enjoy the ride and use my experiences to motivate others to pursue their dreams and I’ll do that as long as it makes me happy.

It’s too bad things are usually an uphill battle for women in this sport, but if each of us focus on doing things for our own reasons, finding meaning in our own personal goals then the sport will continue. WPD is an extremely popular division within the IFBB; it’s diverse and perplexing to judge and offers many of the same unique challenges the FBB faced in the past.




Instagram: @zoalinseyifbbpro

Youtube Channel: zoalinseyIFBBPRO

Main Photo: Courtesy of Zoa Linsey Instagram page

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