The First Ms. America!
October 19, 1953 – October 4,
Laura Combes will forever be remembered in the annals of
female bodybuilding history because she was the first female
national bodybuilding champion by winning the AAU Ms.
America in 1980.
A former water skier and rugby player, Laura was urged by
friends to compete in the new local bodybuilding contests
for women that were emerging. After winning the Ms.
Tampa and Ms. Northwest Florida contest, Laura decided to go
all out to win the Ms. Florida, the first statewide
bodybuilding contest for women. She placed fifth.
She decided to enroll my help since I was Florida's top
bodybuilder at that time. I agreed to train
her only if she agreed to follow my instructions explicitly.
"Richard, I promise," smiled Laura, and she moved to Tallahassee
to began training for the 1980 Ms. Florida.
She was the perfect student and did everything I
demanded, which included training twice a day and following
a strict low carbohydrate diet. To understand how her
body responded to food and our intense training, I forced
her to write down everything that passed through her lips
other than water. Then I would analyze her diet and
adjust it to increase her muscle mass.
What shocked Laura was my demand that she increase her
calories! She was not losing fat or gaining muscle at
the rate I thought she should, and I determined that her
calorie level was so low that the "adaptation to starvation"
system had kicked in and her body's metabolism had slowed
down. So in order to regain the momentum of
fat-burning while gaining muscle, more calories had to be
ingested and those calories came in the form of grilled
Needless to say, it worked and Laura easily won the 1980
Ms. Florida. She then decided to try her hand at the
first ever American national bodybuilding championship to be held in
Los Angeles. I agreed to continue training her
as long as she agreed to continue training and eating
exactly as I prescribed.
decided she wanted to enter the USA championships. I
told her she wasn't ready and to just wait for the Ms.
America. She insisted and I warned her that the only way
she could do well was to immediately and totally change her
entire diet and training to force the peaking out of her
physique. Well, she entered and came in 7th.
After the contest I told her that I just couldn't understand
how she could look that bad. I was sure that if she
did everything I told her she would look much better than
she did. I must not know what I'm doing. I told
her to just leave town and find someone who could train her.
I obviously couldn't.
She then admitted that she had not followed my advice.
Furious, I told her to get away from me. I couldn't believe she
could waste my time like that. Eventually she talked
me into continuing the training routine for the Ms. America,
only after she had promised to do everything I said, exactly
as I prescribed it. To make a long story short, she
did and became the first Ms. America.
Laura came back the next year asking me to train her for
the Ms. Olympia. I took a look at her and told her
that she had gotten in such bad shape that there was no way I could
get her in peak condition to win the Ms. Olympia that year and that she should set
her sites on the following year. She didn't want to
wait and talked Frank Zane into training her. Needless
to say, she didn't win. After another attempt she
dropped out of competition.
We remained friends, but our busy lives left little time
for much contact. She would call from time to time but she
did not seem very happy.
She just didn't seem to be able to find meaning in life.
She began drinking too much.
I received some encouraging news in the Spring of 1989
when she called and said she had stopped
drinking (alcohol had become a problem), was working out
again, and actually couldn't believe how great she felt when
she woke up in the morning. Later that year I
received news that she had died of alcohol toxicity on
I still miss Laura. She died too young and before
we, her friends, could really tell her all the things we
would have like to before she was gone. We miss her
wonderful smile, her caring for us, and she remains a legend
as a true pioneer of women's bodybuilding.
||Laura and Richard ate,
trained, tanned and posed together as he helped her
prepare for the first Ms. America contest.
|1979 Ms. Tampa||1979 Ms. Northwest Florida |
|1980 Ms. FLorida||1980 Ms. America|
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