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Betty Brosmer: Young Pinup And Fitness Queen, Then And Now

Icons | September 11, 2020

Betty Brosmer on the cover of Photoplay, September 1957. Source: Reddit

Betty Brosmer might not be a household name, but in her day, her face and figure were inescapable. As a successful pinup model in the '50s, she graced magazine covers of the legion of men's magazines looking to duplicate the success of Playboy. While names like Bettie Page, Anita Ekberg and Marilyn Monroe live on thanks to cultural influence or celluloid success, Brosmer is less well known because she didn't transcend her era -- neither an actress nor a fashion trendsetter, Brosmer was simply an extremely good model, and extremely popular one. Though the term did not yet exist, Brosmer was the leading supermodel of the 1950s, with a status something like a Kate Upton, Elle MacPherson, or other Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover models. Brosmer’s career later took an interesting twist when she became a fitness advocate and bodybuilding expert alongside her husband, bodybuilding pioneer Joe Weider, proving she was more than just good looks and a perfect body.

Young Betty Brosmer Was A Tomboy

Source: Pinterest

As a child, Betty Brosmer was naturally small and slender and even then, she desired more strength from her petite body. When she was just a pre-teen, she was extremely interested in fitness, which prompted her to lift weights and build muscle. Known as a “tomboy” in school, Brosmer was an extraordinary athlete who all her peers would want on their teams. As beautiful as she was, the career path she chose was unexpected to those who knew Brosmer in her youth.

Brosmer Won More Than 50 Beauty Contests Before The Age Of 20

Source: Pinterest

Brosmer began her modeling career at the young age of 13, posing for the popular Sears & Roebuck catalog. The rest of her teenage years were spent traveling between New York City and Los Angeles building her impressive modeling portfolio. Advertising agencies and modeling agents were astounded by the young girl’s remarkable beauty that resembled more of a 25-year-old. She was bombarded with more work than any teenage model in history and blessed the covers of the most popular magazines of the time with her photos. She also posed for romance novel and crime magazine books and won over 50 beauty contests while still in her teens. Her figure was considered to be the definitive hourglass shape, the look that would become the new standard for upcoming models. Her unbelievable measurements of 38”-18”-36” gave her the credit of having the “impossible waist.” Brosmer’s playful, slightly risqué photos helped define the '50s idea of a pinup girl.

Brosmer Was More Successful, As A Model, Than Marilyn Monroe

Source: Pinterest

Not only was Brosmer astonishingly gorgeous, she was also an intelligent woman who knew her value. As the first model to demand rights for her photographs, she profited well and became the highest paid glamour model of the 1950s. Brosmer eventually signed a contract with renowned pinup photographer Keith Barnard, famous for working with other model legends including Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Barnard helped launch Brosmer into an international sensation, and she became his top-selling model of all time, surpassing Monroe, Mansfield, and his other celebrated clients. According to her own official website, Brosmer appeared on over 300 magazine covers.

No Thanks, Mr. Hefner

Source: Pinterest

While Brosmer was featured in almost every men’s magazine throughout her career, the one organization she turned down was the most popular of them all -- Hugh Hefner's magazine. She once had a photoshoot set up with the magazine, but she was unaware that she was expected to pose nude. Brosmer stuck to her principles and refused to expose her naked body with the justification that she did not want to embarrass her future husband and family. Brosmer never did take nude or semi-nude photos for any magazine throughout her entire career, and this clearly never slowed her down. 

From Cheesecake To Muscle

Brosmer on the cover of a bodybuilding magazine with Dick Dubois. Source: Blogspot

The future-husband Brosmer did not want to mortify turned out to be bodybuilder Joe Weider, whom she married in April 1961. Weider endorsed the bodybuilding lifestyle through founding the International Federation of Bodybuilders and the Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding Contest. Joe Weider, 16 years Brosmer's senior, was in his early 40s when they wed, and more of an entrepreneur than active bodybuilder. Meanwhile, Brosmer, still in her modeling prime, altering her trajectory slightly to appear in fitness magazines more than men's magazines. 

The Father And First Lady Of Bodybuilding

Franco Columbu, Joe Weider, Betty Weider, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Source: Pinterest

Joe Weider also became a media mogul in the fitness space, starting out with specialized bodybuilding magazines and diversifying into more consumer-friendly publications we know today, such as Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Health, and Shape (which he co-founded with Brosmer). Together, the pair spent the next decades promoting healthy lifestyles through bodybuilding and exercise. Brosmer's pinup career gave way to her interest in writing as she became a writer for Muscle and Fitness and even started her own columns “Body By Betty” and “Health By Betty,” to encourage strength and healthy habits. During the 1980s, she and Weider co-wrote two books: The Weider Book of Bodybuilding For Women and The Weider Body Book.

Betty Continues To Advocate For Health And Fitness

Betty Weider with Joe Weider protege Arnold Schwarzenegger. Source: Boxden

Today, at the age of 85, Betty Weider is continuing to advocate for health and fitness through producing the magazine Shape and writing encouraging columns for Power and Beauty. She is also an honorary member of the Olympic Committee, doing everything in her power to educate the world, especially women, about proper nutrition and physical activities. She has been on her own since her husband passed away in 2013, but that has not stopped her from keeping his legacy alive through the promotion of health. Betty (Brosmer) Weider is genuinely a woman with true outer and inner beauty who has heavily contributed to the current norm of a healthy, beautiful body.  

Tags: Betty Brosmer | Fitness | Fitness Gurus

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Brian Gilmore

Writer

Brian Gilmore has been writing about and studying everything the Internet loves since 2006 and you've probably accidentally read something he's written before, and if you haven't, you're already reading this bio, so that's a good start. He's a culture junkie ranging from Internet culture, to world history, to listening to way more podcasts than the average human being ever should. He's obsessed with the social catalysts that have caused some of the biggest movements of the last few hundred years, including everything from their effect on the pop culture of the time, to where they end up ideologically. The idea that generations have a beginning and an end is fascinating to him, and the fact that their lasting effects at any given point of their evolution can steer the direction of the entire world lead to some interesting questions, and answers, about our current culture at any given time. He also loves retrofuturism, phobias, and the fact that every pop culture icon has at least a few photos of them that make you feel like you might know them. History isn't a collection of stories as much as it is humanity trying its hardest to maintain a grasp on lessons we've learned before as a species, and that is just way too interesting to not look into a few hours a week. Oh and he used to collect Pez dispensers.