Nothing predestined him to succeed in the field of bodybuilding, and yet despite the prejudices of the time, Chris Dickerson has managed to establish itself as one of the most influential figures of muscle culture.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
His mother, an inspiring model:
Chris Dickerson was born on August 25, 1939, in the heart of Alabama, of African-American parent. It comes at a time when segregation and racism towards African Americans is still alive today. After the economic crisis of 1929 and despite the New Deal, discrimination remains in terms of access to employment and the division of labor. With the advent of the Second World War, some African-Americans enlisted in the army to gain some economic security. But here again the segregation persists. The situation of African-American women is hardly more enviable. Factory jobs are reserved for white women and black women are relegated to the status of domestic servants.
But despite the prevailing racism of the time, Chris Dickerson’s mother, Mahala Ashley Dickerson will pass on to her son from an early age, the taste for success. She explains to him that some may remind him its skin color, but determination resolves all prejudices. And beyond words, Mahala Ashley Dickerson will embody this strength by becoming the first black woman lawyer in Alabama and later, the second black woman admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1951.
Mahala Ashley Dikerson will be a true model of success for her son . Chris will then acquire this foolproof determination that will prove, over the years, his best ally towards the path of recognition.
Muscles for more voices
At school, Chris is good at Athletics. Only, despite his predispositions for the sport, Chris is primarily passionate about singing. His dream: to become an Opera singer.
He directs his university studies towards drama studies. In New York, he enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. However his voice lacks intensity and his singing teacher will advise him to develop his muscles to gain more strength in the voice.
At the same time, Chris visits his aunt in California, where he falls, by chance on a photo of Bill Pearl, in a bodybuilding magazine. In front of Bill Pearl’s physique, Chris becomes aware of the impact of such a physical.
From this photo, Chris will remain deeply marked and subjugated. So fascinated, that he goes so far as to enroll in Bill Pearl’s training hall in Los Angeles. He wants to learn directly from the master and also better know the man. In the face of Chris’s energetic obstinacy, Bill Pearl then decides to train him.
Tenacious optimism for a place in bodybuilding:
Chris starts intense training at the age of 24. He is aware that the path is going to be tough. Chris is black and homosexual and racism and homophobia are more than ever present. Chris is smaller than bodybuilders.
Chris knew perfectly well that he would have problems because of his skin color and sexual orientation. However, he had a mental strength that could face such criticism of himself. Nevertheless, he had some reservations about his size that had a direct impact on his bodybuilder features.
But despite these factors, Chris’s optimism was stubborn. So tenacious that he presented himself two years later, in 1965, at his first competition: Mr. Long Beach. From his first appearance, he won the 3at square. Chris is more than happy with his ranking.
This first experience pushed him the following year to register for 12 competitions on the East Coast.The result is amazing because it wins them all.
With such success in 1966, Chris Dickerson begins to make one of the bodybuilding magazines. He sported a very aesthetic and perfectly symmetrical musculature.
With his titles, Chris is now targeting that of Mr. América. To prepare himself better, he decides to appeal again to his icon: Bill Pearl. Only he can only place himself at the 6 at place in 1967. But it takes a lot more to shake Chris Dickerson. He perseveres. And in 1970, he won the prestigious titles of Mr. Universe and Mr. America. He becomes the first African-American with such titles. A distinction more than honorable !
Chris Dickerson is gradually becoming a part of bodybuilding. For several years, he won several times the titles of competitions of the UAE and NABBA.
But Chris Dikerson has not finished provoking his audience and the professionals of the field, since at 40, he decides to participate in the most famous of competitions, that of M. Olympia.
40 years old represents an advanced age for competitions. Most often, bodybuilders retire at this age. But Dickerson is motivated and nothing will change his mind.
He therefore competes in 1980 for the title of Mr. Olympia. He comes in second place, behind Arnold titleholder and in front of Frank Zane. Chris is still optimistic and retries the contest the following year, where he is still in second place.
And sometimes the consecration in 1983 when he finally won the Mr. Olympia title. Chris Dickerson definitively enters history Bodybuilding becoming the first African-American gay to get the most illustrious title . And the oldest Mr. Olympia , since he was 43 years old when he was awarded.
Chris Dickerson, like his admirable mother, has managed to overcome the harsh prejudices of homophobia and racism and become a star of Bodybuilding.
Where others have given up, Chris Dickerson has succeeded. His journey proves that no matter how long it takes, hard work always pays.