Nancy Brown


Nancy Brown on Bikini Competitions, Mindfulness, + Her Body


Who: Nancy Brown, Professional Powerlifter, Feminist, Fiction Writer


Why she's foxy: A former bikini competitor who received her MFA in fiction from Columbia, she recently found her calling in her most creative pursuit yet: helping others find strength and safety in their bodies.

On Becoming A Trainer: “I got into fitness when I was thirty. I did a couple bikini competitions then I got into powerlifting and people started asking me to train them. I really didn’t want to at first. I identified as an intellectual and an artist, not a jock. But when I needed a job I applied for one teaching job and one training job — and I got the training job. Once I started doing it I realized how much I loved it. It’s very intimate working one on one with clients; everything else falls away. My goal is always carry mindfulness over into strength training. My class—called Silent Strength—is for women and trans folks and is all about getting them out of the mirror and into feeling and inhabiting their own bodies. We dedicate time after class to talk about body image and feminist issues. I really recognize that there is a need in the transcommunity for trainers to be sympathetic, to create a safe space where people can learn about their bodies.”


On Her Body: “It’s very difficult for women to put on mass. I, for instance am not much bigger than when I started. My waist is smaller. My legs are bigger. I’ve probably put on twenty or twenty-five pounds of lean mass and lost ten pounds of body fat. At the end of the day I have to live in my body and I get so much joy from this practice and from being strong and moving. To be honest I’m a lot happier with how my body looks now than it did before I started lifting.”

On Life Before Lifting: “I’ve always been really invested in the arts. I mostly worked in the service industry and I was writing my own music. Then I started doing a fiction writing MFA program at Columbia University which I’m in now.”


On Her Idol: “Any woman who is unafraid to challenge the status quo. I think we get this message that if we do so, we won't be loved, and that's scary. Bev Francis comes to mind. She was the strongest woman in the world and was the first really massive female bodybuilder. The ostracism I imagine she's endured must be tremendous. I'm impressed with women who are able to remain soft and succeed in a man's world. I'm constantly trying to figure out how to be soft and strong at the same time because I think that's the bravest, most honest way to go."

Fave Book:Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte —  although I think Heathcliff and Catherine have an incredibly dysfunctional relationship. But it makes for compelling reading. I'm not sure I'd want to read about the kind of relationship I want for myself. It just wouldn't have enough drama.”


Fave Movie:In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar Wei.”


Her Dream Day: “My dream day with no consequences would involve eating a lot of things I can’t necessarily have because I am lactose intollerant. So maybe Ample Hills ice cream for breakfast with a nice coffee. Definitely going outdoors, going surfing. Barbecue...reading..Then probably reading in a hammock, and then I’m gonna eat Defari’s pizza and probably have sex.”


Dream Wedding: “Henry James and Virginia Woolf in the Cueva de Cristales in Mexico, mostly so that I could then read their accounts of the event. The caves have huge crystals in — and the heat is so extreme that we'd have to wear refrigerated suits and cold breathing systems.”