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Shawn Ray

Shawn Ray

Shawn Ray, a titan in the bodybuilding industry, now brings his extensive experience to Muscle Insider’s audience. A Hall of Fame bodybuilder, Shawn has stood among legends in the sport, including Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, Dorian Yates, Kevin Levrone, and many others. Whether winning the Arnold Classic, or his many near victories on the Mr. Olympia stage, Shawn has continued to evolve in the industry, and transitioned into various roles like journalism and event promotion. Known for his articulate insights and profound knowledge of the sport, Shawn's writings are expected to enrich readers with deep dives into the technical aspects of bodybuilding, fitness trends, and athlete development strategies. His experience not only illuminates the complexities of competitive bodybuilding but also guides enthusiasts and professionals alike through the evolving landscape of fitness.

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The Business of Bodybuilding

Introduction to Bodybuilding as a Business

When an athlete gets into competitive bodybuilding the last thing he typically learns about is how to market his physique to potential sponsors for pay. Athletes around the globe fall in love with the concept of improving their body’s overall appearance with the hopes of being better than the others who have the same passion for competing. However, every athlete soon finds out that their passion can also become their business, creating a career that never feels like work if done properly. There’s a huge disconnect for some, being that the two are vastly different in nature and very few can combine the concept of doing The Business of Bodybuilding and competing in bodybuilding.

17 years old my first win 1983

Transitioning from Athlete to Entrepreneur

When athletes start their journeys, many of them make the same rookie mistakes beginners always do, and that is they believe they can compete forever making zero plans for the future. Why bother thinking down the road when you have a contest that’s 16 weeks away …. at least that’s the mindset of many in the early stages of competing. Long-term thinking never gets factored in when we try to reach our short-term goals believing that we’ll have more time down the road to process exactly what it is we are trying to do with this love affair of self improvement. Some of us are of the belief that this point in time is only a phase of life and that soon other passions like; college, marriage, work, or kids will take us into other directions in life where we can look back at competing as but a moment in time, a thing we once did. Others like myself however, may embark on this same journey as I did at 17 years old and the ride never ends, kind of like a roller coaster that takes you through the twists and turns of life seeing all aspects of the sport and holding on to them with no end in sight.  Over the years and through the decades of life, the sport evolves, and life’s lessons get taught through the lens of the sport.

Legends of Bodybuilding

The Evolution of a Bodybuilder's Career

During my 40 years in the business of bodybuilding, I’ve had to personally adapt to changes at various stage of growth in order to allow the passion for my business to survive. At first, there was competition then modeling, journalism, media, marketing, promotions, acting, and ultimately, I was able to combine all that I’ve learned and turn my passion into my business.

Evolving from the competition stage into a contest promoter took decades of work and experience, but I learned all the aspects needed to put on a contest by participating in them for years before I promoted my first big show in 2006, five years into my competition retirement.

1st Pro-Am Contest Promotion 2006

The Role of Promotions and Media in Bodybuilding

Promoting shows is a huge undertaking that requires things like; time, thought, relationships, collaborations, finances, and creativity skills which I developed as a competitive athlete on the sport’s biggest stages. Competition prepared my mind for the challenges I’d face on this journey through fitness like the patience I’d need and excitement I’d feel in the achievement aspect of getting the work done. I had to study various aspects of the sport that were foreign to me like; the lighting, sound, visual set up of the stage, while recognizing the needs of the athletes; water stations, EMT’s, security, stage expeditors, awards, and so on. These aspects of the sport combined with sanction fee’s, prize money, judges, airfare, and hotel, they can be overwhelming for some but for me they were no more overwhelming than preparing to compete against the likes of bodybuilding legends, Kevin Levrone, Lee Haney, and Dorian Yates to name a few for over my 12 years on the Mr. Olympia stage!

Legends of the Olympia.

Learning from the Legends

Early in my career, I took notice of how the “Business of Bodybuilding” was taking place, I was a student of the sport. While competing I knew I was in the right place for my future endeavors to flourish however, deep inside I knew I was an artist and competitive bodybuilding helped shape that aspect of my passion. But I knew there was more to my passion for fitness. I also felt like an ambassador performing seminars and guest appearances in the promotion of the sport and my accomplishments. During my travels around the world, I was building personal relationships with gym owners, contest promoters, magazine editors and more that would later pique my interest in helping others achieve their dreams and goals through promoting events!

$10,000.00 Best Legs Award

Navigating the Challenges of Event Promotion

Throughout my career I figured that by helping others I could help myself in this industry though the art of association. You see, I did bodybuilding for myself to fulfill my personal goals and dreams of becoming one of the best to ever do it! However, I would also learn along the way that by working with others I could also continue to support myself by helping other athletes make money too hence, part of the reason I became a promoter.


The Importance of Networking in Fitness Industry

Our passion’s can become our business but only if we share the same energy and enthusiasm we have for competition. When I competed it’s true, I was in competition with myself to be the best I could be but I also knew I would be pitted against like-minded athletes on a global scale for comparison to determine who would be the best to do it, so I could never relax or let up on my training, my dieting, or my focus. For two decades of my life, I had to be laser focused!

Turning Passion into a Sustainable Career

Once the fire to compete subsided, I turned my focus toward business and productions. By being a producer, I could help others achieve their goals while finding satisfaction in the art of collaboration by bringing different elements of our sport together like a symphony to work in unison for a specific ending. I approached the business of bodybuilding much like I did my preparation for bodybuilding competition with attention to detail and focus on my desired results so that all parts of the orchestra would come together and make beautiful music. By doing the Business of Bodybuilding I would promote Muscle & Fitness Camps around the world with top bodybuilders and athletes so fans could learn from the best and this made everyone happy!

The Future of Bodybuilding as a Business

The combination of passion and business turned my hobby into a profession and my profession into a business that brought me around the globe a few times, opened closed doors, created opportunities where none existed, and created a life worth living off the pro stage. My worth, my value resides from the investment of time into this industry to the degree that I forged lifelong friendships with competitors, gym owners, promoters, producers, fans and more!

Who said all work and no play is boring?


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