Sexy: We lens three muscular women in Singapore

Out of the gym

  • 29.11.2021

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While the fitness scene in Singapore has evolved to a common ground for both men and women to dominate and flourish, muscular definition has been intrinsically linked to masculinity ever since David Hasselhoff strode on the beach shirtless on the TV screen in Baywatch. And it still is, a default trait we conjure whenever we think of a manly person. Some modern cases in point: Chris Hemsworth, Dwayne Johnson, and John Cena. Their physiques have sort of attributed to the stereotypes they carry today.

Naturally, females who have made headway in the body building industry would be associated with masculinity, rather than femininity. We dub men with bulging biceps and lats as sexy, but can’t seem to say the same for women sporting the same body frames. Perhaps it’s because muscles have been deemed as a natural by-product of men, but not women. Hence the disconnect.

That should change in today’s 21st century. Where women can strive to build up muscles while still retaining every bit of their femininity. We explore and lens this with three individuals out of their typical gym fit, who each tell a story of their own.

Clara Tan, Content Editor

Tell us about your fitness journey.

Honestly I started working out because I used to be really skinny and was picked on for that a lot, so I wanted to put on some muscle to pack on some size. On top of that I was also sick of being the smallest girl in the room — so I decided to change that.

What is your workout regime like? And do you make sure you keep to a certain diet as well?

I train four times a week with an upper/lower body split, and I combine both strength and hypertrophy training. I don’t really keep to a certain diet per se, I just eat as much whole foods and clean protein as much as I can. Carbs too — there’s a misconception that you should avoid carbs when trying to sculpt your body, but carbs are actually as important when trying to build muscle and they fuel your workouts!

How does your frame make you feel, mentally and physically?

I feel great! Just knowing that I built this body with hard work and discipline. That itself has a tremendous impact on my self confidence and I find that the mentality I have towards training is definitely transferable to other aspects of my life, such as my career. Working out is so much more than looking good — it’s about wanting the best for yourself and developing a winner’s mentality in the process.

Can muscles be sexy on a woman? Tell us in your own words.

Yes of course, muscles don’t make you look bulky, they actually make you look really curvy. Any woman who lifts is sexy.

Clara wears wool tube dress, by Kimhekim from Society A; tights, stylist’s own; booties, by H&M.

Nazharia Schifra, Fitness Trainer

Tell us about your fitness journey.

I have always been into sports my whole life, as I grew up with my big brother who was an athlete. When I was 15, I started working out in the gym, and learnt about building muscle and strength. It was something new and always a challenge, so since, my love for health and fitness kept on growing. Then, I came across bikini bodybuilding and that’s how I started to follow people like Amanda Latona and Brittany Tacy. This got me learning how to improve my aesthetics and body composition. And the answer was pretty much: lift weights! After doing my one and only bikini bodybuilding show, I got into the sport of CrossFit and weighlitfting and have competed internationally too so my workout routines have been a hybrid. Currently I’m focusing more on building my strength, whilst improving my aesthetics and maintaining my fitness level.

What is your workout regime like? And do you make sure you keep to a certain diet as well?

I do a blend of workouts comprising of snatches, clean and jerk, back squats, Romanian deadlifts, just to name a few. My diet depends on where my priorities are at that point of time. If I’m preparing for a competition, I do track and make sure I have enough carbohydrates, protein and fats to help me recover between sessions and keep my weight on track. If I’m not prepping, then I am more ‘relaxed’ and don’t track food religiously. However, I’ve done tracking for so long, I can easily eyeball my food and know if I am eating enough, too little or too much.

How does your frame make you feel, mentally and physically?

This question really got me to reflect. It’s crazy to think that I woke up the day before the shoot feeling super conscious about myself. We all have these moments of anxiety especially when it comes to body image. But when I stop and think about what I really feel… I remember all the mentally and physically tough training sessions my body has gone through. And that makes me incredibly proud of every bit of my muscle. Weight/strength training can be intimidating for a lot of people out there. I don’t blame them, as the ‘media’ always have a way to show extreme sides of sports, which creates fear. But the truth is, us females, do not have the same amount of testosterone as males, hence we literally cannot achieve that fast growth of muscle gain like men do. It took me so many years to get to where I am physically today — 11 years to be exact. People will have different goals of how they want to look like. But at the end of the day, it’s super important for us females to take care of our bodies by being strong, fit, and additionally, achieve longevity. In order to do that, women ought to lift weights and gain some muscle!

Can muscles be sexy on a woman? Tell us in your own words.

The purpose of muscle is movement. Without it, we don’t have the ability to move. To be able to dance with your loved ones, walk your dog, bike with your kids, run, sprint, swim, or climb. Without muscles, we’re not going to experience these things for long. We won’t be able to “live”. And that’s why I think muscles are sexy. Because to see a strong independent woman giving birth to her kids, raising her kids, dancing with them, playing, running, swimming, hiking with them, and being as active as possible — that is living, and that is sexy and beautiful.

Nazharia wears feather coat, silk bra, silk skirt, and leather mules, all by Gucci.

Melissa Sarah Wee, Entrepreneur of G̶u̶i̶l̶t̶y̶ Pleasure

Tell us about your fitness journey.

I started working out when I was 18. I was hospitalised for bulimia and depression. That was my turning point. When I first started going to the gym, all I wanted was to be slim. The more I trained and saw results, the better I felt — I felt strong, physically and mentally. I decided that when my physique was ready, I was going to compete on stage in the US. I had to have a certain amount of muscles if I wanted a chance at winning. That was my goal and when I was 30, I flew to LA and did my debut Women’s Physique competition.

What is your workout regime like? And do you make sure you keep to a certain diet as well?

Right now, I train four days a week. I do mostly heavy lifting at the gym and hike in the outdoors on weekends. I practice the cyclical ketogenic diet, which is a diet that contains higher fats, moderate proteins and very low carbs. I have a carb/cheat day once every two weeks. Till today, I still count my calories and macros. I’m a lot more strict on my calories consumption when I’m preparing for a show.

How does your frame make you feel, mentally and physically?

I feel strong and whenever I beat a personal record, it empowers me and I feel like I can achieve anything if I put in the time, dedication, commitment and hard work. A woman can be whatever she wants to be. I have received a lot of hate, rude and negative comments on my Instagram because of my physique. But I’ve also learnt that if you start catering or pandering to other people, you’ll eventually lose yourself.

Can muscles be sexy on a woman? Tell us in your own words.

I think being sexy is more than a mere physical state. To me, it is also a mindset.  I definitely think that women who carry more muscle can be attractive and sexy. A lot of it comes from self confidence, knowing who you are, and not being afraid to own. You are in charge of your self-worth and you get to be your own validation.

Melissa wears recycled viscose knit dress, by PH5 from Society A.

Deputy Editor: Janice Sim
Photography: Vanessa Caitlin
Style Director: Asri Jasman
Hair and Makeup Artist: Fiona Bennett
Production Assistants: Andy Leow and David Bay