Nothing predestined him to succeed in the field of bodybuilding, and yet despite the prejudices of the time, Chris Dickerson will succeed as one of the most influential figures in muscle culture.
His mother, an inspiring model:
Chris Dickerson was born August 25, 1939, in the heart of Alabama, of African American parent. It comes at a time when segregation and racism towards African-Americans are still current. After the economic crisis of 1929 and despite the New Deal, discrimination remained in access to employment and in the distribution of tasks. With the arrival of the Second World War, some African-Americans then joined the army in order to acquire a certain economic security. But here again, segregation persists. The situation of African-American women is hardly more enviable. Jobs in the factory are reserved for white women and black women are relegated to the status of servants.
But despite the prevailing racism of the time, Chris Dickerson’s mother, Mahala Ashley Dickerson will transmit to her son from an early age, the desire to succeed. She explains that some people may remind her of her skin color, but that determination overcomes all prejudices. And beyond the words, Mahala Ashley Dickerson will embody this force by becoming the first black woman lawyer in Alabama and subsequently, the second black woman admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1951.
Mahala Ashley Dikerson will be a real success model for her son. Chris will then acquire this foolproof determination which will prove, over the years, his best ally towards the path of recognition.
Muscles for more voice
At school, Chris is good at athletics. Only, despite his predispositions for the sport, Chris is above all passionate about singing. His dream: to become an opera singer.
He therefore directs his university course towards studies of dramatic art. In New York, he enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. However, his voice lacks intensity and his voice teacher will advise him to develop his muscles in order to acquire more strength in the voice.
At the same time, Chris visits his aunt, in California where he comes across, by pure chance, a photo of Bill Pearl, in a bodybuilding magazine. In front of Bill Pearl's physique, Chris then realizes the impact that such a physique causes.
From this photo, Chris will remain deeply marked and captivated. So fascinated, that he goes so far as to register in Bill Pearl's training room, in Los Angeles. He wishes to learn directly from the master and also to know man better. In front of Chris' energetic obstinacy, Bill Pearl then decides to train him.
A tenacious optimism, for a place in bodybuilding:
Chris therefore begins intense training at the age of 24. He realizes that the road will be rough. Chris is black and gay and racism and homophobia are more than present. In addition Chris has a smaller size than bodybuilders.
Chris knew full well that he would have problems because of his skin color and sexual orientation. However, he had the mental strength to deal with such criticism of himself. Nevertheless, he had some reservations about his size which had a direct impact on his bodybuilder characteristics.
But despite these factors, Chris' optimism was stubborn. So tenacious that he appeared two years later, in 1965, in his first competition: Mr. Long Beach. From his first appearance, he won the 3e 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 breathtaking since it wins them all.
With such success in 1966, Chris Dickerson began to make the headlines in bodybuilding magazines. He sported a very aesthetic and perfectly symmetrical musculature.
With his titles, Chris is now targeting that of Mr. America. To prepare as well as possible, he decides to call on his icon once again: Bill Pearl. Only he can only place himself at 6e place, in 1967. But it takes much more to shake Chris Dickerson. He perseveres. And in 1970, he won the prestigious titles of M. Univers and M. America. He becomes the first African American with such titles. A more than honorable distinction!
Chris Dickerson is gradually making his place in bodybuilding. For several years, he won the UAE and NABBA competition titles several times.
But Chris Dikerson has not yet finished provoking his audience and professionals in the field, since at 40, he decides to participate in the most illustrious of contests, that of Mr. Olympia.
40 years 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 competed in 1980 for the title of Mr. Olympia. He comes second, behind Arnold defending champion and in front of Frank Zane. Chris remains as optimistic as ever and retries the competition the following year where he is still in second place.
And the consecration arrives in 1983 where he finally wins the title of Mr. Olympia. Chris Dickerson definitely enters the history of Bodybuilding in becoming the first African-American, homosexual to win the most illustrious titles. And the oldest of Mr. Olympia, since he was 43 when he obtained it.
Chris Dickerson, like his admirable mother, has managed to overcome the harshest prejudices of homophobia and racism and to become a star of Bodybuilding.
Where others would have given up, Chris Dickerson succeeded. His journey proves to us that no matter how long it takes, hard work always pays off.