Like the beauty, diet and cosmetic surgery industries, the competition world is becoming increasingly driven by profit. Costs to the competitor can be phenomenal, with one Bikini model commenting that her previous competition season totalled more than her wedding day.
Competition federations aim to profit directly through various methods. The first is via the entry fee, with some federations requiring an additional payment for annual membership. Competitors may also purchase spectator tickets, official photographs, a video of the show and must occasionally pay for judges’ feedback. In order to generate more revenue, competitors are encouraged to ‘enter as many categories as they want.’
New categories are often introduced in order to expand the demographic of competitor; and thereby increase the number of credit card payments. Pure Elite Competition has a staggering 32 categories, including ‘Model’ which has no fitness or bodybuilding specifications. Instead, the competitors themselves are invited to ‘pick a theme.’ All of these methods create huge profits for bodybuilding and fitness organisations.
Federations lead their competitors to believe that in order to achieve the prize-winning physique, they must consume. As well as spending money on the show itself, there are additional costs to the competitor who, like the average woman, spends thousands on beauty, diet and fitness products each year in order to meet the body ideal. These costs may include:
- teeth whitening
- hair extensions
- stage tan
- posing classes
- prep coach
- cosmetic procedures
The total can quickly amount to thousands of pounds for a single show.
Each season, the competitor’s goal is to step onstage with a more muscular and leaner physique, glossier hair and a wider smile. This is not merely owing to personal development, but because they are spurred on by competitions that promise bigger and better prizes. As more champions are created, the ideal is altered: it is made more unattainable by the creation of ‘Pro’ shows and national events in which the best compete against the best.
This is also the case within the general population: ‘as soon as enough women are altered and critical mass is reached so that too many women look like the “ideal”, the “ideal ” will always shift.’ Industries profit from a continually changing ideal that cannot be reached or sustained. If this was the case, then women would cease their consumption. As Wolf notes, ‘[a] woman is scarcely given the chance to think before she must take up her burden again, the journey growing more arduous each time.’
If you are considering entering a competition, please be aware of the potential costs: not only physiologically and mentally, but also FINANCIALLY!
 The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf (Vintage, London, 1991), p.253
 The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf (Vintage, London, 1991), p.102