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Laura Combs

The First Ms. America!

October 19, 1953 October 4, 1989

Laura Combs Legends Page!


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 chicken.

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.  

Unfortunately Laura 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 October 4.

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.

 wpeC.jpg (30683 bytes) Laura and Richard ate, trained, tanned and posed together as he helped her prepare for the first Ms. America contest. 

Laura's Contest Wins:

1979 Ms. Tampa1979 Ms. Northwest Florida
1980 Ms. FLorida1980 Ms. America

Magazine Covers:   

Strength & Health 7/81


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