|By Big Jeff Pearce|
Joanne Williams has overcome a lot in the years that she has been bodybuilding to reach her goal of becoming an IFBB Pro. Before she reached the heights of the Canadian bodybuilding world, Joanne was faced with the very grim reality of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
She overcame that.
Then as she was planning her 2012 competitive season, her trainer/mentor/friend Darren Oliver passed suddenly. Her world was awash with sorrow; many of us were left as shocked as Joanne to Darren’s tragic departure. But, Joanne is a warrior; she overcame the loss and put together a package that won the overall title at the 2012 Canadian Nationals. This is an interview with a truly Strong Athlete in mind, body and soul: Joanne Williams.
Big Jeff: Joanne, not everyone is totally familiar with you and your history. Can you give us a quick overview of the events that led to you picking up a set of dumbbells?
Joanne: It all started back in the spring of 2000 when I wanted to drop a few pounds and tone up. I hired a personal trainer and was told that I had a great ability to pack on muscle very quickly. Also, that I had great symmetry and genetics for Bodybuilding or some sort of fitness competing.
Big Jeff: From there, what led you to competing?
Joanne: I didn’t really know too much about the sport so I didn’t think much of it. I started picking up magazines like Muscle & Fitness, Muscle Mag and started to follow people like Cory Everson, and Lenda Murray. I found that they were still feminine but they had muscle. I continued to train, eventually deciding to compete in 2008.
Big Jeff: You overcame breast cancer on the road of your life thus far. How has that changed you as a person?
Joanne: It has shown me that when you dig down deep you can achieve anything that you want to in life. Health, money, relationships and the list goes on. It also makes you live life to the fullest and not take anything for granted because we can be here today and gone tomorrow. I love to live life! The world is a beautiful place and all the people in it are beautiful too. It has also changed me in the aspect that I love to be happy and positive all the time. Why be negative, it just causes stress.
Big Jeff: Even in the depths of your contest dieting, I’ve never seen you upset. You literally always have a big smile on your face. Can you run down your competitive history?
- 2010 Mississauga Lucka/O’brien 1st place Heavyweight Class, Overall Winner, 2nd place Masters Heavyweight,
- 2010 Ontarios 1st place Heavyweight, 1st place Masters Heavyweight
- 2011 Canadian Nationals 2nd place Masters Heavyweight, 3rd place Heavyweight
- 2012 Canadian Nationals 1st place Heavyweight, Overall Winner earning IFBB pro status
Big Jeff: It’s unbelievable that you’ve only been competing since 2010 and you’ve already turned pro. I’m going to steal a term from Gregg Valentino. I ain’t “greasing your weezer” when I’m saying that’s uncommon. My momma always told me never to ask a woman her weight… So, I’ll ask you what your stage weight is instead! What is it?
Joanne: Hahaha!! That doesn’t bother me at all. I earned every pound!
- Contest: 150lbs
- Off-Season: 162lbs
Big Jeff: People criticize female bodybuilding for being too masculine. You bring a level of femininity to female bodybuilding that is refreshing. What are your main goals for your physique going forward?
Joanne: Moving forward I don’t want to get any bigger. My team and I have discussed this and we want to improve the structure and density of my physique. Also, get sharper and work on a better conditioning. This year, working with IFBB Pro Bob Weatherill and Hany Rambod, I only was a half pound heavier than the last years Nationals. However, we changed the structure of my muscle. This year, I had fuller and rounder muscle bellies – so, I did look bigger. But, my main goal is to stay feminine and marketable.
Big Jeff: Going into the 2012 Canadian Nationals, what were you thinking about where you would place? I know you trained with Darren Oliver, how much of this win was for him?
Joanne: I was training for first place there is no other option, that’s what Darren always told me. I trained solid for 9 ½ months; I lived and breathed it every second. This was my show to take and I was taking nothing less. I dedicated that night to Darren, he was with me everyday. Bob refers to some movements in the gym as Darren Style all the time. He was still a part of my journey even though he wasn’t there physically.
I know he would have been the loudest guy in the crowd yelling out “BOOM!!” He always referred to me as “his prize.” I miss him every day and he will always live in my heart.
Big Jeff: He was a great friend to many of us. Even I can still hear him in my head when I’m training sometimes, badgering me to set up for incline presses properly. Who did you work with going into the 2012 CBBF Nationals?
Joanne: IFBB Pro Bob Weatherill and Hany Rambod.
Big Jeff: There is a picture of you almost collapsing on stage; if a picture could ever say a thousand words, it was that one. What did it feel like to win your pro card?
Joanne: That moment is frozen in time for me, I’ll never forget it. I looked at the judges and behind them were all these cameras. I was thinking, that this is all for me. I looked up to Darren and said “We did it!” Even thinking about this is getting me choked up. Hearing the crowd, seeing the judges smile and clap was overwhelming. It was the best night of my life!
Big Jeff: Did you know that you would win going into the night show?
Joanne: I had no idea. From the prejudging, Bob couldn’t figure out how the judges were making the callouts. He told me I could be anywhere from 2nd to 4th and didn’t even give me 1st. But, he said you gotta fight for 2nd because they are giving out two pro cards. I was confused. I went back to my hotel room and cried. But, as each moment went on I started thinking in my head and was like the fat lady is not singing and it’s not over. I called Hany and he said “Suck it up! This is what competing is like. You’re going to carb up for three hours and go fight for your life!” So, this was my lesson learned because I always believe we can learn from every situation. I learned the meaning of fighting to be the best bodybuilder in the show. The pro card was an added benefit but I wanted to be the best in Canada. Now I am.
Big Jeff: Does it concern you that people talk about Women’s Physique taking the place of Female Bodybuilding?
Joanne: No, not all. I am going to set a new standard in bodybuilding. A standard that women can be feminine and weight train.
Big Jeff: Would you ever compete in Women’s Physique?
Joanne: I have thought about it, Hany and Bob think I’m a bit too big but we will see where they go with it. Girls from show to show look different so when they figure out what they want maybe I would consider it. But, I love the work ethic of being a bodybuilder and I don’t think I would ever want to give that up.
Big Jeff: What was your diet like? Are you very carbohydrate sensitive? What about cardio?
Joanne: I have a huge appetite! Hany was my nutritionist and he is all about getting back to the basics and growing from food. I was eating 7 ounces of protein & 6 ounces of carbohydrates, 6 times a day. Eventually, we tapered off as we got closer to the show. I’m not carb sensitive and that is a good thing! When we started doing cardio, I was doing 20 minutes of morning cardio daily. As Hany saw me every week, he adjusted it. I got up to 1 hour, twice a day. It was mostly Step-Mill and doing high intensity interval training. It worked wonders for me.
Big Jeff: Now that you’re a big fancy IFBB Pro, what are your competitive plans in the future?
Joanne: Nothing is set in stone at the moment. Hany needs to evaluate how I looked from the show and decide. We discussed potentially going for the Tampa Pro next year but, it’s only been discussion so far. We want to make sure that my first show makes a huge statement and really puts me on the map as an IFBB pro.
Big Jeff: Are there any people you would like to thank?
Joanne: Oh gosh, Where do I start?!?
Bob Weatherill for all his hard work and putting up with me at home, haha! I’m not that bad, I just get really quiet. Hany Rambod, he is amazing! Although he is in San Jose, California, he was with me every step of the way, guiding me (I just love him!). Alvin Brown, my Osteopath and Motivational Coach. He kept me grounded and free from pain (when I wasn’t there, I called it the house of pain). And of course, Darren Oliver. My heart is heavy when I speak/think of him. He taught me so many great things about training and life. He also taught me how to hold my head high and be a humble champion. Especially, I would like to thank my family who have been so supportive.
Big Jeff: Where can people get in contact with you?
Joanne: I am working on a website to be up soon! At this time they can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Big Jeff: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Joanne. And, congratulations on the brand new IFBB Pro Card from everyone at Strong-Athlete.com!