J.M. Manion Interview
Article care of www.star-interviews.com
those of you who do not know what NPC and IFBB are,
here is a brief. Joe Weider basically put bodybuilding
on the map and made it a professional sport. He did
this by founding the International Federation of Body
Building. Thus, the IFBB. That is the pro division
of bodybuilding. Like in baseball, there is an amateur
division, and a minor league, the NPC. Also known
as, AKA, The National Physique Committee. Joe Weider
is the final voice in all there is in the IFBB. Jim
Manion is the final voice in the NPC. (And VP of the
IFBB... These letters are making me dizzy.) Jim Manion
is J.M. Manion's father. Now you can understand the
rest of the interview. I met J.M Manion around the
time my Grandfather passed away back in 1996. Right,
I know, great way to start off a presentation. Anyhow.
I knew a few of the athletes he managed and wanted
to somehow work them into a video project I was doing
for QVC. Considering I was in Ohio visiting at the
time I figured it only made sense to drive down to
Pittsburgh for a few hours and meet the guy. I was
almost late. Went out with the boys the night before
(hey, I was on vacation). I think I showed up in a
trucker's hat my dad gave me, a tank top, old shoes
and even older jeans. I couldn't have made a better
impression...? Laughs, I think the first thing I asked
was if I could buy a Metrx bar from him (you KNOW
I must have been starving)! Metrx is a junk food passed
off in the fitness industry as a health food). But
we hit it off nonetheless. Next thing I knew I was
off meeting his dad and uncle over at the NPC warehouse
and was scheduling to film a series of exercise videos
in Jim Manion's private gym! Cool for me! So, I called
Las Vegas and said I wasn't coming back for a while,
Pittsburgh is where we were filming. Soon after that
I was following his lead and doing conventions and
circulating in the fitness industry. So either way.
You can thank him, or send him hate mail, but it is
all his fault I am here today! Let me introduce you
to a great guy, J.M. Manion.
Many people know you just as Jim Manion's kid. Let me
ask you, how long have you been Jim Manion's son? Just
kidding. You're a photographer. When did you make the
decision to become one?
JM: I started out by taking a photography class in high
school as a blow off to just goof around. But
I really got into it & started taking pictures of
any thing & anybody. After I graduated, my
dad gave me an option. He said I could either
have a graduation party or he'd buy me a camera system.
As probably the only smart decision I made as a teenager,
I figured that regardless of whether I had a party or
not, my relatives would buy me gifts & I knew that
I didn't have the money for a camera system, so I opted
for the latter! I loved that camera. It
was the latest technology at the time, a Canon AE-1!
Since my dad was already the President
of the NPC at the time, I was constantly traveling with
him to attend many NPC & IFBB bodybuilding events.
This was in the early 1980's, well before women's fitness.
And it was at the 1985 IFBB Night Of The Champions that
the editor of FLEX Magazine, Rick Wayne, approached
me. I had become friends with his son Kevin, who,
of course, was working for his father at FLEX.
He said to the affect of, "Look, you're at all these
contests as it is & you have the same camera system
as Kevin & you seem to know what you're doing.
How would you like to work for FLEX?" How could
I refuse? My first assignment was to travel with the
NPC/American Team to Wembly, England & shoot all
the candid photos for the 1985 IFBB World Games.
Chris Lund was the contest photographer, shooting all
the stage shots. That was July, 1985, & I
have worked for FLEX since then.
I contributed to Rick's infamous
"Muscleaneous" column, with Kevin for a while.
I even had my own photo features. It was great.
I was only 22 years old then, so it was a real kick
to be able to have my hobby become my job! Later, in
1986, I was set to photograph the NPC Collegiate USA
Championships in Miami Beach when the writer FLEX had
hired didn't show up because he was caught in a storm
somewhere. My dad & I called up Rick in California
& explained the situation. I offered my services
as a journalist. Initially Rick was skeptical
until I explained to him that I had a Minor in Writing
from the University Of Pittsburgh. He told me
to give it a shot & he liked it. After that,
FLEX felt confident they could send out just 1 person
to do the job instead of both a writer & photographer.
Once Rick left, the new Editor-In-Chief, the late Bill
Reynolds, offered me two of my own monthly columns.
The first was called "One-On-One With J.M. Manion" &
the second was "Rising Stars". I still contributed
contest reports & to the "Muscleaneous" section
that they continued after Rick left.
That's all pretty cool stuff. I honestly didn't know
Rick Wayne was the editor. About fitness, not bodybuilding,
I have worked with most of the women you represent at
one point or another on either a video or whatever.
Who was the first to sign with you? What was the process
that got you into management?
JM: The first fitness competitor
to sign with me was a former bodybuilder named Michelle
Talboo from Ohio. She was making the switch to
NPC Fitness when the NPC & IFBB were starting fitness
in 1995. She was basically an unknown commodity
until we started promoting her. How I got into management
was because of my wife Debbie. As a photographer,
I had many company's calling me for photographic assignments
& they would inevitably ask if I knew of any fitness
models that could be used for the various shoots.
I would ask the basic questions of how long, how much,
what to wear, etc. I was already brokering for them
& all I was getting in return was "Hey, thanks."
Debbie suggested that if these women wanted to get work,
that they should sign with me since I was doing all
the ground work any way. So that's how we started
JMP Management. Once the NPC & IFBB started
fitness, it became my policy that I would only work
with the NPC and IFBB athlete's & not any other
organization's fitness women.
Especially seeing as to who your dad is. The other organizations
are competition so to speak with the IFBB and NPC. But
I bet that working with fitness women has it's perks
and querks too.
JM: Well, contrary to popular belief,
JMP Management is a team of Debbie & myself.
Just because she doesn't travel to all the contests
with me, she still has a grasp on the industry, plus
she comes from a marketing background. Unless
we both agree on something, it doesn't happen. So she
puts them place when necessary.
Of the women not signed with you, who is the best to
JM: Tough question. There have
been so many. Off the top of my head, I have worked
great with IFBB pro Min Yung Kim. Most recently,
I would have to say competitors DJ Wallis & Kelly
Ryan. For fitness models, without a doubt, it's
Did you know Grace Grimes is my sister? Tell me without
mentioning names a horror story about any particular
shoot that comes to mind.
JM: Many bad shoots occur when a
person that I'm photographing has a friend or significant
other there with them telling them how to pose, telling
them what to wear, and even telling me how to shoot
them because "this is when he/she looks good."
Usually, I prefer to have the model leave their significant
other somewhere else, unless I invite them to help on
an outdoor shoot by holding a light reflector disk or
something. But if I'm shooting in the studio,
especially if it's a woman, I always have a woman make-up
artist present, so it's never just me & the model
any ways. If it's a man, there's usually no worry.
Their girlfriends either never come or wont talk when
they do. In speaking with many other photographers,
they've run into the same problems.
Good tip. I was hoping for some dirt, but that's cool.
The best shoot ever was ____ and why?
JM: There are 3 that immediately
stick out in my mind. The day after the 1988 NPC
USA Championships in Las Vegas when I shot overall winner
John DeFendis in front of Caesar's Palace between 7
- 8 a.m. Everything just gelled perfectly.
The sky, the clouds, the Greek architecture & DeFendis'
physique. He hit the classic 'archer' pose &
I have that photo blown up to a 30"x40" print in my
office. The DeFendis photos ended up in a 2 page
spread in FLEX.
The next was in San Juan, Puerto
Rico at the 1988 IFBB Women's World Amateur Bodybuilding
Championships. Again, the ocean & weather
were just perfect & I took competitor's Janet Tech
& Lisa Lorio over to an old castle on the ocean
& we got some of the most awesome photos.
The Tech photo became a cover of the NPC News.
The third was New Orleans in 1995,
with Michelle Bellini. This was the first time
we had worked together & I had just signed her a
month prior to JMP Management. She was a natural
& we got this unbelievable array of photos.
The most famous became her first poster of her against
a mirrored sculpture wearing an American Flag print
sling-shot bathing suit where you could see every angle
of Michelle - front & back.
And those are nice angles. I remember seeing all those
pictures. Here is what I know. Your father used to body
build. What was that like as a kid?
JM: I didn't know any differently.
It's what I grew up around. I do remember that
when he used to compete, it wasn't until 11 or 12 at
night, after the power lifting events. I was usually
asleep by that time. Bodybuilding didn't have
any respect back then. I didn't know that until
I got older. I remember meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger
when I was 11 years old though. Of course, nobody
outside of bodybuilding knew who he was back then.
But I did! I used to think my Dad was big, until
I saw Arnold's arms. (Sorry Dad!) Did you
know that since 1976, I have seen every Mr. Olympia
except for the contests in 1980, 1982 & 1983?
I have seen every Ms. Olympia from 1983 until 1997 too.
Why did you miss these shows?
JM: The 1980 Mr. Olympia was in Australia,
which just happened to be Arnold's comeback. I
was still in high school & my dad just wasn't about
to fly me down there for the heck of it, although I
did miss a piece of history. I wasn't doing
this full time either. The 1982 Mr. Olympia & 1983
Mr. Olympia (Chris Dickerson & Samir Bannout
were the winner's respectively), were both in Europe
& I was attending the University Of Pittsburgh at
that time & couldn't take the time off from
college to attend & again, I wasn't into this full
time. Both of the Ms Olympias conflicted with NPC contests
I was scheduled to cover. The NPC contests are
my priority except when it comes to the Arnold Classic,
the Mr. Olympia & especially now the Fitness Olympia.
Plus, it was just easier for the NPC News to buy photos
from a photographer that was there instead of flying
me in & paying for my travel expenses.
Now, JM! That basically says that you don't consider
the Ms. Olympia a priority contest, or it looks like
you don't care for it.
JM: Not true. But, after watching
the sport of women's bodybuilding progress over the
years, the current Ms. Olympia's have just lost that
certain something that made me anticipate watching them
before. The years when Cory & Lenda competed &
won - those were exciting years. There always seemed
to be somebody chasing after those 2. Although they
were the odds-on favorites, it wasn't a guarantee that
they'd win. Now, it just seems like nobody can catch
up to Kim Chizevsky. I was there the year she beat Lenda
& it was one hell of an exciting contest. The following
year, the rematch, which turned out to be Lenda's final
outing, was also very, very exciting.
I haven't seen the Ms Olympia since Atlanta 94 when
Lenda was looking beautiful but Laura should have won.
Sorry. That ended it for me. Plus there is something
wrong when the women stop looking like women. I am not
talking for beauty, I mean, they stop looking even like
'the living' anymore. They get so withdrawn in the face.
I dunno. But I see your point in the excitement. At
least with Yates competing, as great as he was, you
never knew how big Levrone, Nasser or even Shawnie Ray
would come in. With the women.... Kim's just too B.I.G.
JM: I don't see that excitement in
the Ms. Olympia any more. That's all. To me, there's
plenty more excitement at NPC national-level women's
Back to your dad.
As for my Dad, he competed in &
won many titles. Back then, it wasn't uncommon
for him to compete 4 weekends in a row. That's
unheard of today. But it wasn't back then. Many
people don't realize that in my father's next to last
contest, in 1974, he was the favorite to win.
It was some National title who's name I have forgotten.
Anyway, he went there & came home with the 2nd place
trophy. It turns out there was this new bodybuilder
that came up from Florida to compete that nobody had
ever heard of. Even my Dad told us how impressive
this guy was & that he deserved to win the contest.
That competitor's name? Robby Robinson.
That's great. Your uncle told me that once. Then, correct
me if I am wrong, he opened a gym and did a lot of personal
training too. Who were some of the cool people to flow
through that gym?
JM: The gym was only open from December,
1979 until he sold it in the summer of 1984. Lou Ferrigno
immediately comes to mind. Pete Grymkowski, Robby
Robinson, Mike Mentzer, John DeFendis, Lee Haney, Samir
Bannout, many of the 'older' bodybuilders. You
always knew when the WWF was in town because they always
came in to train. Jesse "The Body" Ventura used
to cut promo's wearing Manion's Gym t-shirts on t.v.!
He was always in to train. Older WWF wrestlers
like Ivan Putski, "Superstar" Billy Graham, Tony Atlas
& many others.
WOW! Next it turned into the NPC home office, right?
At what point did the clothing line come along? I know
when ever I talk to John Albert who runs it, the place
is a mad house. Did it take a while for it to progress
to being so busy?
JM: The NPC home office is actually
in the city of Pittsburgh. The clothing line was
actually started in 1986 with just a few t-shirts, sweat
pants, sweatshirts & spandex. It didn't move
back up into the space where my Dad's gym was until
1989. We've been there ever since.
OK. So where it is now is where the old timers used
to play. The equipment is all new there though. Mostly
Hammer Strength stuff. On to more JM stuff. With JM's
women taking 6 of the top 10 in many of the pro fitness
show finishes, some say it's because of who you and
your family are. Would you like to clear that up?
JM: Yes. First off, they are
NOT "J.M.'s girls". They're not girls, they're
women & they're athlete's. Secondly, their
not mine. My girls are Debbie & my daughter
Cassie. But I know that's how any competitor that
signs with us is referred to within the industry.
It's really a dig at them & me. In my opinion,
it's born more out of jealousy than anything else. As
far as our athlete's competitive records & who I
am & who my father is - that has no bearing on placing's.
If it did, let's use the 1999 IFBB Jan Tana Classic
Fitness for an example. It was a 2 way race between
Jenny Worth, whom JMP (my and my wife's company) manages
& Kelly Ryan, whom we do not. It turned out
that the 2 of them tied for 1st. Dead even!
If there was ever going to be favoritism, then when
the IFBB judges did their tie-breakers, Jenny would
have won. She didn't. Kelly did & Jenny
And Kelly actually crossed over from another competitive
organization, correct? So she really should have for
political reasons, definitely been nudged down instead
of placed ahead if it were 'all' politics.
JM: Exactly. In my opinion, like
I said before, a lot of it is just plain jealousy.
As I like to say, the reason our women do so well is
that Debbie & I have chosen to keep our clientele
exclusive. We try to chose athlete's whom we feel
are very, very good. I do stress to them that
if they don't win, that's O.K. It's not the be
all to end all. Publicity is the important thing
to sustained longevity in this industry. So, even
if a competitor only places in the top 5 of all her
events, that still keeps her in the magazines &
hopefully procures her some photo shoot's with the sport's
other photographers, gets the interest of some sponsor
who may want to use them in ads, at their booth's, or
even give them an endorsement contract. The fact
they are winning is just a bonus. We do take a
beating with the 'family name' thing because of some
of our current high profile athlete's like Mary Yockey,
Susie Curry & Mandy Blank & in the past, Carol
Semple, Karen Hulse & Theresa Hessler. All of whom
have won the high profile NPC and IFBB fitness events.
If you go to our web site & look
over the women's competitive history, there are quite
a few that have not won a contest for some time, or
not at all, but have come very close. Regardless of
what I do say though, people are still going to believe
whatever they want to believe. I'll just roll
with the punches as I've done the past 5 years and for
the next 25.
I know. I have had some headaches with other managers
as well. It's a joke. Seems these days everyone is a
model. Time for some of these girls to compete! Put
up or shut up! So, do you still keep Met-Rx bars in
your fridge? I haven't seen the new office since you
moved. How does it differ from the old? I don't think
many people realize you also run a prosperous photography
studio for family, wedding, senior portraits and the
JM: No, I don't keep MET-Rx bars
in my fridge any more. (Laughing) I lost my connection
for free product, that's why! (More laughter)
If you'd look in there now, you'd find Iron-Tek Cool
Vanilla Coconut bars & SportPharma Honey Peanut
& Lemon Chiffon Pro Max bars in there now.
Nothing but candy in other words. Laughs.
JM: Shut up Don! Laughs. In terms
of the studio, I actually have 2. One is my bodybuilding/fitness
studio, which also includes the NPC Photo Gym.
The 2nd studio is my portrait studio, or professional
studio, if you will. I had to separate them just
because of the negative stigma still attached to the
sport by the general public. Anyway, in my portrait
studio, we photograph high school senior portraits;
family & children's portraits; modeling portfolio's;
engagement & bridal portraits; weddings; passport
photos; sports leagues; pre-school's & glamour portraits.
We have a make-up artist/hair stylist available too.
I never met your new make up artist. How do you plan
weddings and bodybuilding events since they are both
JM: I have a team of photographers
that sometimes shoot the weddings. This is what
they specialize in & are a proud part of J.M. Productions
Since I am the current controversy in dieting, I must
ask. What diets have you used?
JM: Lots & lots of them.
It sometimes gets difficult to diet correctly being
on the road as much as I am. There's a lot of
not eating all day and very late night eating, just
because of time constraints. When I'm at a contest,
I live off of protein bars. I like the idea that as
long as you remember to eat, you can really pick and
choose whatever you want if you follow the guidelines
on this Know How system of yours. That's great.
Thanks. You didn't need to say that. Tip for the model:
What to do and NOT to do at a photo shoot OR what to
do to get you to shoot them. Besides paying of course.
JM: What to do? Come prepared
with plenty of outfits to choose from. Keep your
appointed time. Don't cancel at the last minute.
You wouldn't believe how many fitness competitors and/or
bodybuilders have just totally blown me and other photographers
off for scheduled photo shoots! At the 1999 NPC
USA Championships, I had scheduled to shoot from 8:30
a.m. until 4 p.m. (I had a late check-out of 5
p.m.) I had 7 people scheduled to shoot throughout
the day & only 4 of them showed up! I know darn
well they were there too.
No kidding. Did any of them ever explain?
JM: Of those that didn't show up,
at least 1 of them called to explain why they had to
cancel. The other's just didn't show up &
never called to say why they couldn't make it, or why
they didn't make it either. Even if they'd called
me a week later, that would've been O.K. Nothing!
Also, as I stated, leave the significant other back
at the hotel, or in the gym, unless they are invited
by the photographer. Especially with the women
fitness & bodybuilders, they get very stiff when
their significant other is around. There's no
creativity or freedom to try things. Not regarding nudity.
I am just talking about general relaxation. I like to
make the photo shoot's fun. I want both of us
to have fun & be able to create some great images.
To get me
to shoot them? Call me. Ask me. Schedule
an appointment at the studio in Pittsburgh, or call
me in advance of a contest I am going to be covering.
I can't guarantee I'll have time at the contest, but
if I can make the time, I will. If not, I'll work
on trying to find a time it at all possible. Sometimes
it doesn't work out because have specific shoot's to
do but we'll at least discuss it.
Since you manage the biggest names in fitness right
now, what does a girl have to show on her resume in
order to be considered as a potential client? There
are only a handful of pro shows each year and with a
dozen women to manage, they can't all win or benefit
can they? Not that they have to, but like you said,
being very, very good matters. What is that?
JM: Show me some professionalism
in your presentation. Send a video. Also, send
real photos or comp cards. No Xerox copies of
photos. If you want your stuff returned, put it
in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Otherwise,
we do not return the material. In answer to your second
question. No, they can't all win. Reference
above concerning my thoughts about winning. Talent is
the key. It is not what you have done but what you can
Well put. If you could change one thing about the industry,
what would it be?
JM: With my father's position in
both the NPC & IFBB I think I'll take the 5th Amendment
on that question.
Laughs. Without coming right out and busting on anyone,
what are some of the strangest characteristics it seems
ALL bodybuilders have in common? And fitness women?
JM: They're Nomads! Constantly
moving from 1 place to another & changing their
phone numbers. An address and/or phone number
you have this month might not work next month.
That is so true with all bodybuilding & fitness
Why hasn't men's fitness taken off? Is it because it
took so long for bodybuilding to shake the 'homosexual'
thing and they are afraid this will bring it back? Everyone
at one time thought if you body built, you had to be
gay. If you dance in your underwear on stage and train
hard, you're definitely gay?
JM: No. I just don't think that people
know much about it or what to make of it. I know
I have never seen a men's fitness competition. The NPC
sanctions a few of them though. Who knows.
What do you think mainstream America should know about
bodybuilding to take a second look at it? Steroids,
women with facial hair and deep voices turns us off.
All the silicon and posing turns women away. Men walking
around flaring their lats out acting like they weigh
50 pounds more than they do is embarrassing. What gives?
It's hard to take it seriously anymore. What could be
done so it is?
JM: Hmm. Another loaded question.
JM: Laughs. Here's where my last
name comes into play again. Many people will assume
& do assume that whatever I say or my feelings are,
that my father feels the same way. So, if I wanted
to make a constructive criticism of something or praise
something, it's assumed that's what my father thinks
too. Hey, we might agree on it or we might not,
but people tend to believe I am my father's mouthpiece,
which is so far from the truth. So again, with
my father's position in both the NPC & IFBB, I think
I'll take the 5th Amendment on that question.
You wuss! Laughs. What ever happened to some of the
women I worked with in my videos? Those nomads keep
moving and disppearing! After Teresa Hessler pulled
her stunt in Ohio at the one shoot, no matter how often
I tell her it's alright, she won't face up to it all.
Is this typical too? Tell me about their contracts?
JM: You're the wuss! Laughs. Whew.
You used them all.
Michele Ralabate: Personal problems
that she had to sort out. She quit competing after
the 1997 IFBB Fitness Olympia and let her contract ran
out. We're still on friendly terms & still
partners on her video project. She's living in
Florida doing personal training & consulting &
choreography. She was a great talent that never
fulfilled her potential in pro fitness.
Theresa Hessler: She was a problem
in Ohio and everywhere else. I've held back on this
for a couple of years, while she's told her side.
This time, I am going to set the record straight.
What it came down to was that she breached her contract
with us numerous times. She accepted quite a few
jobs behind our backs & didn't tell us. How I found
out was I saw the print & video work she did.
I don't know how she thought we'd never see this?
At the time, she was living in the Baltimore area, then
she met someone & moved out to L.A. While
she was in L.A., before she moved, she accepted these
jobs without consulting the management company.
Actually, from the time after the 1998 IFBB Fitness
International, she basically stopped communicating with
us. Right before that event, in December, 1997,
we had set it up where she was offered an endorsement
contract with a supplement company that would have made
her the highest paid fitness athlete in the industry
at the time!
No way? Theresa? No..... But, but, she was so... Innocent....
JM: I still have the contract to
prove it. Actually, the company wanted Michelle
Bellini first, but she was under contract to another
company at the time. So they came back wanting
Theresa. But she decided that she wanted to stay
a 'free agent' in that she could work for many company's.
That was her decision & that was fine. Trust
me, as I have the proof to back this up, this woman
made more money in 1997 through us via appearances,
not including her prize earnings, than any other fitness
athlete at the time. Once Theresa bailed out,
we set upon getting Bellini released from her other
contract & she got the contract since she was their
first choice anyway. After the Fitness International,
I tried contacting her via her pager, her work number,
via faxes (which I still have copies of too) but nothing.
Total silence for months. Next thing I know, she
finally calls & said she's engaged & moving
out to California. It was after this that the
work started to appear. So we consulted our attorney
& set up terminating her contract, but not without
getting our proper commission first. She immediately
had a small mention in MuscleMag where she stated something
to the effect that since she moved to California, JMP
Management "couldn't" promote her any more. Anybody
with any brains would know that Michelle Bellini lives
in California & we were managing her at the time
so why wouldn't we be able to manage Theresa?
That sounded like a desperate plea for work since she
was moving thinking everyone would jump at the chance
to work with her there. Most companies are NOT in California.
JM: Well. She & Michelle Bellini
were the first fitness competitors ever featured on
the cover of FLEX Magazine. TOGETHER. We even came out
with a successful video of her that still sells to this
day. Suffice it to say, Theresa had her most publicity
while signed with us.
Next, Karen Hulse. What a pleasure to work with. She
was cool. And had a real job outside of fitness, which
I think is a point of real character.
JM: Karen Hulse: She had an endorsement
contract for 1-1/2 years with Bodyonics Pinnacle, which
expired in 1999. Then, she became more involved
with a gym called Centrex Club in New Jersey with her
Carol Semple-Marzetta: Again,
another athlete I've held back on discussing that breached
What? Carol? Be honest. What did I tell you about her
when you first signed her? You said she was cool and
came to you, not you going to her. Wow. I only worked
with her because she had the Olympia title at the time.
Sorry. I jumped the gun. Tell me. What happened?
JM: As with Theresa, after Carol
won the 1997 IFBB Fitness Olympia again while still
being managed by us, she decided to do some appearances
on her own without consulting JMP Management.
I have every one of them documented & again we consulted
our attorney. Since her contract was about to
expire & she couldn't compete anymore due to a back
injury, we let her go. Just like Hessler, Carol
enjoyed her greatest publicity while signed with us.
It's a shame she injured her back. To me, I thought
we had a pretty good working relationship, as Carol
opened up to us about a lot of personal subjects.
I was wrong. But, she was good for JMP Management
& we were good for her at the time. You're
right. Carol had the reputation of not being easy to
work with at the time & after signing with us, I
think we helped to erase that stigma for some time.
And yes, contrary to belief, it was Carol who approached
me at the IFBB Jan Tana Classic about signing her &
she followed that up with numerous phone calls.
You can ask any number of IFBB officials who were at
that victory banquet how she basically cornered me to
speak with her. It's still a quite funny tale
to tell. Recently however she co-promoted her own successful
NPC fitness event. As far as I'm concerned, if
she can draw more women into NPC fitness via her name
and/or contest, then it's good for the sport - regardless
of any personal feelings. I wish her success in
Susie Curry. My favorite because she is a fantastic
at gymnastics! She makes fitness really look like a
JM: Susie Curry: Still going strong.
Besides Michelle Bellini, we have been managing Susie
the longest. She's one of our 2 veterans!
Her career speaks volumes. The only 2-time IFBB
Fitness International winner. NPC National Fitness
Champion. NPC Jr. USA Fitness Champion.
IFBB Pro World Fitness winner. Has placed 2nd
in the 1998 IFBB Fitness Olympia & was 3rd in 1999
by only 2 points. In my opinion, she really raised
the bar as far as fitness routine's were concerned.
Her routine's have always been innovative, high energy
& very well choreographed. Right now, we have
her under an endorsement contract with Champion Nutrition.
She's also the co-owner of a training facility with
her sister & brother-in-law called The Gym in Brenen,
Georgia, about an hour outside of Atlanta. She's
set her sights on the 2000 IFBB Fitness Olympia.
Michelle Talboo: As I stated earlier
in the interview, here was a competitor that was virtually
unknown. I knew that if I could get her known
nationally & in the major magazines such as FLEX,
IronMan & MuscleMag, then I had succeeded &
could probably do that with more athletes. I even
got her an endorsement contract with MET-Rx that was
renewed for a 2nd year. Basically, if it didn't
work with Michelle, then I don't think I would have
continued with JMP Management. Michelle didn't
have a classical look, but I think she had a very exotic
look that wasn't mainstream at the time. We took
her to the mainstream. How? We made her
the main subject of my first Alluring Fitness Women
Poster Series. There was a shot of her in black
lingerie from the back against a yellow wall.
She was in the classical police-up-against-the-wall-pose
& of course the lingerie was nothing more than a
string up her glutes. To date, I have sold over
2,000 of those posters! The only poster to rival
it is the Michelle Bellini mirror poster. Once she earned
her IFBB pro fitness card at the 1995 NPC National Fitness
Championships, she went on to place well in IFBB fitness
contests over the next couple of years. Where
she really succeeded was on the burgeoning Internet
scene. Back in 1996 & 1997, she was definitely
the queen of the Internet in terms of she was the first
fitness competitor that I know of that posed nude for
a web site. Nowadays, just about every fitness
competitor or fitness model has their own web site doing
the same thing. But back then, nobody else was
doing it. The company was willing to pay a handsome
amount for her to disrobe. They also wanted me
to shoot the photos, so it worked out perfectly.
Once the first set of images hit their site, people
were buying them like crazy. So we were contracted
again for a 2nd shoot & a 3rd shoot & so on.
Of course, I could see the potential in this form of
photography on the Internet & kept raising the price
for every shoot. And they kept paying! Michelle
made quite a bit for those photo sessions. Each
time, we tried to be more & more creative.
I literally have thousands of nude images of Michelle
Talboo on file. I even have an alternate version
of the 'yellow poster' with Michelle totally nude.
It was done at the request of the web site. She
attracted enough attention through those photos that
even a very respected gentlemen's magazine contacted
us to have her do a test shoot for them. There
was only 1 problem though. She never told her
husband about any of this. Whoa! Eventually
the popularity of the Internet became big enough &
of course more & more people were accessing these
images. Her husband eventually found out &
all hell broke loose with her personal life. That
was back in the beginning of 1998 & I haven't heard
from her since. We eventually dropped her when
she stopped communicating with us. I don't even
know if she actually got our paperwork or not. Regardless,
she worked out well for you in your video & she
got a lot of work in the industry & we have some
absolutely innovative & beautiful images of her
from all those photo shoots. As a matter of fact,
you can still see quite an array of those images on-line
even now at www.erotic-fitness.com.
You managed those women but the next two, you didn't.
They fell off the Earth. Where are they now? Dale Tomita
and Ericca Kern?
JM: Dale is back in Seattle
& has actually been judging NPC events up there.
Errica is living in Florida & working for World
Wide Sports Nutrition.
Wow. Nomads. How many web sites are you affiliated with
JM: Besides promoting the 4 individual
web sites of Mandy Blank, Melissa Frabbiele, Mary Yockey
& Timea Majorova, I promote the main JMP Management
site. I want to mention that site was started
in 1995, well before any of the other sport's agency's
or management firm's started theirs. We were the
1st! That all goes back to seeing the potential
& power of the Internet/web.
It took me two years later than you to get online. Listen.
We didn't touch on the NPC News. Tell me about that.
JM: The NPC News was started as a
4 page newsletter in 1986 & has now grown into an
80 page, bi-monthly publication.
When did you get involved with that? You were working
JM: How I came to be involved wasn't
late 1987/early 1988. Now I am the senior writer, official
photographer, copy editor & do the layout of every
issue myself. I write & photograph at least
80% of every issue too, in addition to my work with
FLEX Magazine, which now includes writing 2 columns
a month - the NPC column & the Talent Round-up column.
See, now, that's a lot of stuff. FLEX. The NPC News.
The portrait studio. The management company. A family.
That's a lot. Do you think bodybuilding would be better
accepted if the amateur ranks got mainstream coverage?
The NPC bodybuilding and fitness events of today do
not get t.v. coverage do they?
JM: We are on t.v. Every month in
fact & have been for years. All of the NPC
national events are featured on FOX SPORTS NET via the
program MuscleSport USA & anyone can find out when
the shows are airing in their particular area by accessing
the MuscleSport USA web site at www.musclesport.com.
The NPC USA Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships
& NPC Team Universe Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships
even have 2-one hour shows. 1 hour for men's &
women's bodybuilding and the following month, 1 hour
devoted just to the women's fitness event. The
NPC National Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships
have 3-one hour shows too. 1 hour each for men's
bodybuilding & women's bodybuilding and a 3rd hour
devoted solely to the NPC National Fitness Championships.
Speaking of trends. Aren't the fitness competitors just
getting a little too muscular?
JM: This past year, the NPC &
IFBB had decided that the fitness competitors were yes,
starting to get a little too muscular looking, almost
on the verge of looking like women bodybuilders did
about the mid-1980's. So they decided to inform
them via meetings & letters going out, that starting
in the year 2000, the look they are going for is to
be firm, with abdominal's but no deep striations in
the thighs & delts like these women were getting.
Becoming muscular is what happens when you lift weights,
I realize that. But I did notice some of the women started
getting 'softer' this year.
JM: Well, a few went into shows like
the Fitness International this year and their type of
physiques didn't place that well this year. They
ended up in the bottom half of the competitors.
Some entered the next couple pro events. Again,
placing low, but some better considering there were
more competitors in these events.
What if some of the athletes get frustrated with all
the politics and rule changes and decide to jump to
a competitive organization and compete there?
JM: They have spoke with several
about that. They all said, no, that they were
done for the year & were going to wait for the rule
changes on the women's fitness physique to come into
play next year (i.e., 2000). Many of the ladies
have some guest appearances lined up and wanted to wait
it out & complete. Seeing how the changes were going
to be, this would be smart as they have a chance to
place quite well in 2000, which would help especially
if their other downfall was their routines. 2000 will
be an excellent year for the IFBB.
Kind of like Carol and Theresa trying to take jobs without
consulting the manager. Who was it?
JM: No names. People will know soon
enough. About 1-1/2 months ago, there's rumors flying
around L.A. that someone is going to compete in another
organization in 1999. A bunch of NPC officials
asked her about it, even some that had her booked for
appearances in 2000, because if she's not an NPC/IFBB
athlete, they can't use her. She totally denies
all of this to their respective faces.
JM: Now, it's no secret our rival
competitors and NPC/IFBB doesn't get along with.
The other associations award cash prizes. If you
want to maintain your status as an amateur in NPC, you
can't compete in those other associations. Simple. So
sometimes a competitor moves over to NPC competition
because they haven't won. Once you crossover,
you can't go back. Since the person in reference
did compete in the finals of another organization in
97 while with the NPC first, she was promptly suspended
. She claimed she didn't know the rulings, wrote
a letter & was given a 6 month suspension anyhow
where she couldn't compete anywhere during that time.
She competed again in 1998 with us & won, then moved
on to turn pro in the IFBB. So, she was warned again
so there were no excuses in a letter that if she went
back to another organization, she would be suspended
yet again. Now that she was a pro however, there
would also be a fine attached.
Not unusual. Regulation in any professional sports organization.
JM: Back to 1999. The NPC officials
in Southern California who attended another organization's
event to check out the competition, low & behold,
saw her on stage competing after she out & out lied.
An IFBB Pro on-stage at another organization's contest
and she didn't even place in the top 3!
No way! BAD idea I guess. I think I know who you are
JM: She is now banned from competing
in the IFBB. No NPC promoter can hire her now
because she's a non-NPC/IFBB athlete & the promoters
that had hired her can sue her if they want for breaching
their contract. A notice was sent out to all the Weider
magazines as well stating she is no longer an IFBB athlete,
which means they'll stop using her, except for some
stock images they might have on hand.
I wonder what she was thinking & where her career
will go from here? The Fitness America champs I know
are Laurie Donnelly and Madonna Grimes. Good person.
There isn't much to offer in the other competitions
are there? Has anybody ever won another organization's
JM: Well the sad thing is, not only has nobody won twice,
but the person in reference has never won it at all
She placed better her first try though. So, she placed
worse this time than her last attempt. Also, as a side
note, if the NPC is so political, why didn't one of
my athelte's beat her for the overall at the show she
went IFBB pro at since they were both their 2 class
winners? If there was ever going to be politics,
as I stated before, that would have been another time.
Especially since it was NPC wear I write the News Mag
& not even IFBB. All it would have taken was
a nod or word from my dad, right? WRONG. Hell,
my step-mother was on the judging panel for goodness
sake! Well, she got what she deserved that day. The
overall crown. And it looks like she got it again. Good
for her! A lesson to be learned for all athletes.
MORE INFO: All Inquiries Visit J.M. Manion at www.jmpmanagement.com
Don Lemmon's Nutritional and Exercise Know How
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