Robbie Robinson

When Robbie Robinson He started bodybuilding at the Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach in 1975. He remembers being told that “Blacks are not contracted” to compete. He is threatened in competition and is fighting steroids and sickle cell anemia. despite winning many times But Robinson never won the IFBB’s overall Mr Olympia title after he complained of abuse, the IFBB suspended him and he moved abroad to compete without fear of racism. He finally returned to the United States in 1994 and earned his first Masters Mr. Olympia title for athletes over 40 and two Masters titles in his 50s. Today, at 75, Robinson is still going strong. And he shares how he builds strength to face any challenge.


i go to It’s basically an all-black high school in Tallahassee, Florida, so I didn’t find much racism. because everyone is poor Both blacks and whites I don’t look any better than you we eat the same food cook in the same pot So I don’t really understand it. until I leave the swamp I never heard the word n***** until I came to California in ’75 when I left the swamp. I realized wow, life is going to get harder there. That’s how I deal with it.

blocking bias

I’m doing Good because I only have a good body. I mean, that’s just a hardcore fact. I am in good shape I have a strong mindset. So I don’t listen to every negs I think when you get caught up in a problem and just keep listening to it. It will take away your ability to do everything you want to do positively. I just don’t care about it

fight other demons

my first encounter with steroids about two weeks before Mr. World [in 1979]. I remember taking this picture as I walked home breaking down the door. My girlfriend dragged me into the house. Heartbroken because of steroids [there can be blood-pressure issues]And for someone with a sickle like me, that’s not good, so I don’t get oxygen to my brain. no oxygen to the heart I almost had a heart attack. She can drag me to the bathtub and put cold water on me. Now you may not believe But that saved my life. I went to New York and won Mr. World two weeks later and I thought this was crazy!

experience injustice

when i come Went to Los Angeles in 1975 from Florida. I was denied a career contract. In the 80s I moved to Europe. And basically I was there for my entire career, almost 13 years. There, I was treated completely differently. I can work and organize exhibitions and seminars. I made enough money to buy a tiny house in Holland, so I thought the good stuff, the bad stuff. Life is like that. it’s not perfect It doesn’t make you promise anything. You have to go in there and create a life. no matter what kind of life you want all by yourself no one will give you be an inspiration to my brother I just keep working

come back again

i come back In 1994, for the Masters Mr. Olympia, I was standing on stage and they announced, “Robbie Robinson, winner of the first Masters Mr. Olympia in 1994.” I remember all the obscene words I was called. I remember hearing all the fans cheering after the judging. after the show ended They always have a big party. And that night there was no party. No party, nothing, hit me hard. And you’re saying the conference room is tight. Thousands of people screamed and shouted for Lou. [Ferrigno]. But when the judge said “The first Mr. Olympia was Robbie Robinson,” everyone cheered.

become more and more vocal

you can’t break I’m down mentally; The only person who can destroy me is myself. And I never listen to the negative For the Grandmaster Mr. Olympia I know if I can get in there and be in good shape. no matter where competitors are racial segregation I think my body can beat it. and it is so i got through it And I can feel you have to say something. [In the early ’80s] I was suspended because I used to talk about, “Hey listen, there’s no money here. people really don’t care about you If you don’t care about yourself You won’t.”

ready for everything

you have desires and dreams Likes going to Hollywood and being branded that world. Like Arnold and Conan and Lou the Hulk I thought it would be a good thing to do, but no, they weren’t ready for that, you know, in that world, at that point, and at that moment, those doors didn’t open. Today I’m making a documentary about my life. Now I have no desire to be a movie star. But if someone comes in and says, “Hey listen, run over there. and jump over that wall and fire your machine gun.” I’ll give it a try.

keep working

no disrespect Any guy trying to build a great body. But I don’t see it as art anymore. I just saw a huge body out there, all of them anabolic masses. And whatever they can use to get that body, and you know, I can’t appreciate it. I am very happy with what I have accomplished. hard work pays off I kept saying

Robbie Robinson was interviewed and photographed for Lift Every Voice in collaboration with LexusCapturing all the wisdom and life experiences of the oldest generation of black Americans by connecting them to a new generation of black journalists, Robinson interviewer Christian Rim writes for Men’s Health Magazine, The Undefeated, and the Philadelphia History Series. The full oral version is being published on the Hearst magazine, newspaper and television website around June 15, 2021. Go to for more information

Turning inspiration into action
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