Catching up with a bodybuilding icon

by Allan Donnelly

April 17th, 2008



Aside from Arnold Schwarzenegger, there may be no more recognizable face in bodybuilding than Cory Everson. Not only did she dominate the competitive scene for most of the 1980s – Everson was six-for-six on the Olympia stage, winning six titles from 1984-1989, but also never lost a competition on the amateur or professional level – she was a crossover star. In addition to appearing in several television shows and movies, Everson landed her own workout show on ESPN – twice – with Bodyshaping in the late 1980s and Cory Everson’s Gotta Sweat in the mid-to-late 1990s.

As far as the sport of bodybuilding during her era, you couldn’t miss her – Everson was everywhere. Which is why, when putting together our 25th Anniversary issue, we had to catch up with one of the athletes that defined not only an era of FLEX, but the sport in general. Simply put she was, and is, what the sport should be.

Today, at 50 years old, Everson lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, Steve, who she married in 1998, and her two adopted children, Boris and Nina, both of whom are 10 years old.

Check back Tuesday, April 22 for our second Where Are They Now, featuring Rachel McLish.

FLEX: Who was the competitor you remember having the most trouble with?
Cory Everson: Probably Anja Langer. She was a little bit more on my physique lines and look, so in my eyes she would be more competition for me. That would be more like comparing apples to apples in that sense. Bev Francis of course was always major competition. I would consider her the top of her body-looking style and Anja Langer the top of her body looking style. So they were both vicious competitors.

FLEX: You never lost a competition. What made you so successful?
Cory: I think a couple of things. At the time I was competing the judges and the spot were really looking at the body symmetry and the lines number one and the amount of muscle mass as not as important a thing. Important in that you had to have good balance and good proportion but the lines were number one. I always say there were a lot of girls more muscular than me, there were a lot of girls more ripped than me. But thank goodness for my luck they were looking more towards the bone structure and the body proportion was. Having a real athletic look but not overly done.

FLEX: When you got into the sport who were some of the competitors you looked up to and you patterened yourself after?
Cory: I really didn’t pattern myself after anybody. There was Rachel [McLish] who wasn’t my body type at all. I had the broader shoulders type of swimmer-look body. I loved Gladys Portugues, and she would have had a lot of potential had she stayed in it as well. I loved Carla Dunlap, I loved her personality. And Marjo Selin also had beautiful lines. And Bev Francis who is probably my best friend in bodybuilding and remains my best friend.

FLEX: Which was your most difficult Olympia win?
Cory: I quit in 1989 and Sandy Ridell – and I would have never expected her to be close competition for me because she didn’t have the same type of lines and proportions so it was comparing two different body styles. But there were more and more girls becoming very, very muscular and I hadn’t changed much in the years I was competing. In all honesty I didn’t gain massive amounts of muscle. When I competed in 1984 I was 145 pounds, and every single year I competed I was between 145 and 147. I created the appearance of it by telling the media that ihad these major changes in my legs or my arms or something when it was more of a game I was playing. I really couldn’t put on any more muscle. I was getting more defined.

FLEX: What was it that caused you to retire from competitive bodybuilding?
Cory: That year had been kind of controversial with some of the girls getting really muscular. I just felt like I held the title long enough and it was going to start going in a different direction that I wasn’t capable of going in. Nor would I really want to go in that direction.

FLEX: When ESPN came to you with the idea for the Bodyshaping show, you were still competing. Was that something you were ready for?
Cory: It scared me to death. I was an athletic performer but I wasn’t a speaking performer. It was something that I had never done. I was scared to death. I didn’t even take speech class in high school because I was afraid to speak in public. I still am not comfortable speaking in front of a camera, I’m not comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. It makes me nervous.

FLEX: Do you still watch those shows?
Cory: No. I don’t. The only thing I ever watch now on tv is American Idol, 24 and some of those shows. But I’m still on QVC so I’m still attached to the whole fitness thing. Its fun to be attached to it now because not I’m looking at it in a different way. I’m trying to help people realize that hey, you’re never too old to get started. And you don’t have to give up just because your 40 or 50 or 60. You can still look great. It’s fun to let people know you don’t have to give up just because your time clock is ticking.

FLEX: Do you still follow bodybuilding?
Cory: In all honesty I have not followed it in the last couple years. The last people I followed were Lenda Murray and Kim Chizvesky. I’m so busy with my kids nowadays – I’m the typical soccer mom, homework mom, dance mom – winning the Ms. Olympia is a cinch compared to having kids. So I have not followed the sport in the last couple of years. So I am ashamed to say that but that is honest. I didn’t like the direction it was going in. I would never want to be competing against some of the girls that I had seen in the last couple years because I would have been – I’m not little enough to be a fitness girl and I’m not big enough to be a bodybuilder. Who I was winning the Ms. Olympia doesn’t even exist anymore. I don’t think there would be a category. I would be closer to figure competition than I would be to bodybuilding and I would just not train as hard. It’s different nowadays for sure. I don’t think it’s going in a direction the general public would like to see. When we had our Ms. Olympias we had over 2000 people go to the events at the Felt Forum, they were sold out.

FLEX: Was there a golden age of bodybuilding and when was it?
Cory: Yes I think there was. I think there was golden age from the beginning all the way to … I don’t know if I can even give it a date. To me maybe it was just because I was in it at the time, but to me that was the Golden Age. There was very little money in it, if any. Hardly. You did it because you loved it. I remember Lee haney coming to my house and picking me up when my car wouldn’t start. Everybody helped each other. I don’t know if there is that camaraderie there today. I still communicate with Gaspari and Matt Mendenhall, and Bob Paris, oh my God, I love him. I think to me that was the Golden time.

FLEX: How often do you train today?
Cory: Like three days a week. And then I usually walk or do the elliptical trainer. I feel the best when I’m doing at least three days a week of weights and at least three days a week of cardio or more. I usually do chest and shoulders, then I do legs and lower back and then back and arms. I love legs, legs are still my favorite bodypart. And then back.

FLEX: What kind of shape are you in today?
Cory: I still weigh 150 right now and I think at age 50 I could train for a couple months look pretty darn good if I did compete and I’d only need to lose five pounds. So I’ve always been pretty much regular since my senior year in high school unitl now. I can wear the same clothes. I choose smart foods and I make good choices. I’m not obsessed with anything and I don’t go overboard with eating and junk food and drinking and this and that.

FLEX: Aside from raising a family, what kinds of things are you involved with today?
Cory: I’m still on QVC and trying to get people motivated to do things at home in terms of training. I’ve got three dogs. My favorite thing to do is to help find homes for dogs and saving them from being put down. I have done lots of landscape art for friends and family and interior design work too. It’s fun.