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SNAPSHOTS PETER BIRTHDATE Aug. 6, 1976
BIRTHPLACE Dalton, Georgia
CURRENT RESIDENCE Knoxville, Tennessee
WEIGHT 193 pounds contest, 225—240 pounds off-season
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS 2007: NPC USA Championships, 1st, light heavyweight. 2006: NPC USA Championships, 2nd, light-heavyweight. 2004: Collegiate Nationals, 1st, light-heavyweight and overall.
TO CONTACT peterputnam.com
JESSICA BIRTHDATE March 7, 1983
BIRTHPLACE Centerville, Ohio
CURRENT RESIDENCE Knoxville, Tennessee
WEIGHT 120 pounds contest; 130 pounds off-season
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS 2007: New York Pro, 5th. 2006: Pittsburgh Pro, 3rd; New York Pro, 1st.
TO CONTACT jessfit.com
IT'S A TYPICALLY HOT AUGUST DAY IN CALIFORNIA'S SAN FERNANDO VALLEY—dry heat infused with a mocha haze—and Peter and Jessica Putnam are in the house that Joe Weider built, discussing their careers and drinking Diet Pepsi. A week after the NPC USA Championships on July 27, 2007, where Peter won the lightheavyweight division—but not that elusive pro card—he and Jessica, a top IFBB figure competitor, are in Los Angeles to be photographed for this magazine and to meet some of the people who make the muscle world go 'round—and anybody else who might see potential in this exuberantly healthy couple.
As they take questions in an airconditioned office in one of bodybuilding's hallowed sites, it's easy to see why they're here: The Putnams are undeniably attractive. And not just physically—Jessica with her swath of blond hair draped over wide shoulders that accentuate narrow hips, and Peter with his tanned, lapidary features—but as an entity of marketable muscle as well. They're articulate, enthusiastic and dedicated to fitness. Although Peter is still an amateur, he has been on the cover of flex magazine, an honor most pros highly covet but never experience. In fact, his cover appearance came one month after his wife's bikini-clad body held the same spot—a back-toback feat new to this industry.
In a sport where participants are often unable to gain a foothold against the oncoming tide of growing muscle, the Putnams are unashamedly ambitious, striving for security, name recognition and longevity. Newcomers in bodybuilding blow up and burst with the regularity of party balloons, and Peter and Jessica know that. This is a business to them as much as it's a sport.
"People get into bodybuilding and think, I'm going to win a show and make money. The reality is that it's about marketability," Peter says. "Can you help sell a product beyond your physique? Can you sit there and interact with people and convey your passion and inspire others?"
It's this recognition of the larger picture that gives the Putnams their chance for something more than flash-in-the-pan success, but it can also fuel resentment in other competitors. "Sometimes I think people mistake my passion, my zeal, for arrogance," Peter says. "I just get excited when opportunities arise because they're so few and far between in this sport." Jessica concurs: "We both want to make a career in this industry, and that doesn't happen for a lot of people."
Indeed, securing long-term contracts with supplement companies, signing exclusive agreements with magazines and making money through appearances is the holy trinity of the fitness world, and few bodybuilders will ever know it. Then again, few bodybuilders are one half of a highly marketable couple.
A GUIDING HAND One could be forgiven for seeing a kind of intelligent design at work in the way things conspired to bring Peter and Jessica together. The Putnams certainly do. They'd both won the Collegiate Nationals in 2004. Both happened to be eating at the same restaurant with their significant others, celebrating, when they casually congratulated each other and went their separate ways. They'd spent no more than two minutes together. Six weeks later, they were both single. Peter didn't even know her name until he found her picture on the Internet. He e-mailed her at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on the same day she and her boyfriend split up.
Within two weeks he knew she was the woman he was going to marry. They shared the same faith; they shared the same passion for fitness; they both won their first national titles at the same time, pushing them into the national scene together; and on top of it all, Peter's housing lease was up in Atlanta. He says everything facilitated their relationship. "Looking at her was like looking at my own reflection," he says. Jessica puts a finer point on it: "We truly believe God put us together for a reason." And right from the beginning it was easy for them to see their possibilities in the fitness world. "I realized quickly that we could potentially rise to the top of this industry as the power couple," Peter says. "It might sound pretentious, but I thought it could happen. Of course, we had to be tested competitively first."
STAKING A CLAIM
By the end of 2005, Jessica had won her pro card at the Junior Nationals, and has since placed in the top five in three of the four professional shows she has competed in, winning the 2006 New York Pro. With his most recent win at the USAs in July, Peter is a favorite to earn his pro card at the Nationals this November in Dallas. But even as an amateur, he's had opportunities many pros will never get. "If you think someone is going to come knocking on your door to drop an opportunity in your lap, then you're foolish," Peter says. "You need to be out and about, showing your face."
And while he's confident he'll earn a spot in the professional ranks, he's realistic about his chances of someday winning a Sandow. Jessica is similarly pragmatic about her Figure Olympia prospects, saying that it's not necessarily where you place that makes your career. Peter agrees. "You can make money in this industry without winning shows. Success for us is not necessarily based on how we fare competitively as much as it is about developing long-term relationships with people in the industry. That's where we'll be successful a decade from now."
On the walls in the corridors of the Weider building are portraits of bodybuilding's royalty: Most own a Sandow or two, and some never captured that rare honor, but there they hang anyway. It's a fact not lost on the Putnams, who know what they want to leave behind: "When I look back at our legacy, I want people to see that we impacted this industry," Peter says. "That we were part of the history of bodybuilding and that we made a mark that will forever be known." On this hot August day in California, you don't even have to break a sweat to believe they will.