Professional bodybuilder extraordinaire Shawn Ray is set to become bodybuilding promoter extraordinaire, as he works through the final stages of his Shawn Ray Colorado Pro Am Classic, which will take place over the 12 and 13th of May 2006.
Sure to be a major event, the Classic will feature some of the world's top bodybuilding professionals and amateurs, along with a highly anticipated women's pro figure segment.
It is expected the show will set a new standard in bodybuilding promotion with its inclusion of multiple attractions, a few of which include door prizes, give-aways and an all-encompassing entertainment experience for the fans, and very competitive prize packages for the athletes.
Having promoted many events over his long tenure as one of the better pros on the circuit, Shawn feels it is now time to step up to a broader level of promotion while giving something back to a sport he has loved for the better part of his life.
Unprecedented for a bodybuilding event, and underscoring Shawn's desire to "give back", the Shawn Ray Colorado Classic will fundraise throughout the weekend to support the Colorado Police League, which provides underprivileged kids breakfast and lunch every school day.
Also unprecedented will be the Hummer H-3 that will be given away to one lucky fan. Listening to Shawn talk about this event, it is easy to see how passionate he is about providing a total entertainment experience for the fans and a quality show for the athletes.
With title sponsor Vyotech, for whom he is spokesman, and presenting sponsor bodybuilding.com, as well as many others, backing him, Shawn is sure to deliver on all his promises come May 12.
[ Q ] What prompted you to promote your own bodybuilding show Shawn?
I decided to get into bodybuilding promotion because for me it was the next logical step. I have done pretty much everything as a bodybuilding competitor that needed to be done. Thirteen years on the Olympia stage, 12 in the top five. Three time runner up. They weren't going to let me win it.
I won the Arnold and the Ironman. The only thing that was going to satisfy my hunger for the competitiveness was either a changing of the guard as it relates to the judging criteria because Ronnie Coleman raised the bar after Dorian raised the bar after Lee Haney. So you have three guys who have 22 Mr. Olympia titles between them, after 22 years.
It didn't look too promising to me that I would win an Olympia. There wasn't any other contest available that would take me that high. Knowing that the Mr. Olympia would never be mine prompted me to look at other things. I didn't want to be a 40-year-old bodybuilding trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
I felt that by the time I stepped off the competitive stage at 36 years old, I had a fair idea of what it was like to be a participant in the Mr. Olympia, what it was like to have the thrill of victory by winning the Arnold. I wasn't going to be part of a new era of bodybuilding that was going to bring back shape, symmetry and balance and proportion combined with definition and detail.
I came up in an era that was a mass monster era. Three Mr. Olympia's all 5.10 and 250 plus pounds. I didn't have an opportunity to be showcased. When I started bodybuilding I had role models like Chris Dickerson, Lee Labrada, Mohamed Makkawy and Samir Bannout. These were bodybuilders who were, in 1983 when I started bodybuilding, the leading men.
I thought I was getting involved in a sport where I could be showcased. And along came Lee Haney. When I graduated high school in 1984, Lee Haney was winning his first Mr. Olympia. A few years later, I would be standing onstage next to him in my first Olympia.
The problem with that being the beginning of my career, is that I had to bear witness to the later half of Lee Haney's career for four more years in a row. In 91, along came the guy who finished second to Haney, Dorian Yates, who was to become a bigger version of Haney. He would win six times, which would dominate the first portion of the 90s. Then, after him, low and behold, Ronnie Coleman raised the bar even further.
[ Q ] So your long career in professional bodybuilding eventually led to an interest in contest promotion? What events led up to you decision to promote your own pro show?
Yes. Getting out of professional bodybuilding as a career in 2001 was one of the smartest things for me to do. There was too much chemical warfare as far as I was concerned. To be competitive with the likes of Ronnie Coleman today would be impossible for me due to the current criteria.
One of my strongest arguments isn't to knock Ronnie Coleman or Dorian Yates, but it seems the consecutive winners of the Mr. Olympia are a reflection on the fact that the same judges are judging the shows. It would be fair to say some of the Mr. Olympia titles were given be virtue of the champion being the champion and the same judges being present every year.
This was probably my biggest pet peeve, but I left with my belly full and took all my experience of doing guest posing and seminars, and my connections and contacts. I landed a good spokesperson deal with Vyotech Nutritional and set about helping to take that supplement company to the forefront of bodybuilding.
It is now one of the leaders in the supplement industry, by virtue of my involvement. My experience with promotion, marketing and directing has, I think, a lot to do with the fact that I was able to create a charity golf tournament, which had never before been done in our sport.
In all these years I am amazed that a charity event has never been run with the backing of bodybuilding. That was one of the areas I was able to focus on. I called on the bodybuilders in the industry and those who support bodybuilding and we raised $30,000 - $50,000 of which went directly to the kids with the remainder financing the whole event.
Again, I figured the natural progression for me, as I was no longer focusing on the gym, was to run a pro bodybuilding show from a pro bodybuilder's perspective. With the exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hasn't competed in 25 years, there has never been a pro bodybuilder who has promoted a pro bodybuilding show. I found that odd.
I also found that intriguing because with as much experience as pro bodybuilders have, how could there not be a pro bodybuilder promoter. It comes down to experience and expectation, contacts and relationships. I imagine a pro bodybuilder would have an easier time pooling all those resources, and putting on a show.
You take a multi-million-dollar actor and former bodybuilder in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I figured if he can do it, I can do it with the experience he had. I have had just as much, if not more, experience than Arnold as a bodybuilder. I spent the better part of my life as a bodybuilder.
My bodybuilding career started at 17 years old and went through to 36 years old, whereas with Arnold, I believe in his last show he was 29 years old. I never put all my eggs into the one basket and working with one of the finest supplement companies in the industry, I figured that if I could get some autonomy and bring it all together and bring all the athletes together, I could help to raise the bar in terms of show promotion I would.
Vyotech afforded me that opportunity and its happening right now, as we speak, and we are coming along, in my first year of promotion, with the third largest pro bodybuilding show on the planet. I pat myself on the back because I see people try to come into the business of promotion only to go.
I chose the destination in Denver, Colorado and a partner in district chairman Geoff Taylor, and am now in a win-win situation. A win for the athletes and a win for the fans regarding what we are going to be able to give back to them. We are giving door prizes. No bodybuilding show gives door prizes.
I'm talking cellular phones, I-Pods, DVD players, flat screen TV's, and even a Hummer H-3. Not to a pro bodybuilder, but to a fan. Someone who comes to support the show will walk away with a car. By thinking outside the box, and promoting in the fashion I am trying to promote in, it's going to raise the bar for the other promoters.
A lot of them are getting away with these $10,000 prize money's. For my very first pro win, in 1990, 15 years ago, that's how much the prize money was. There are a lot of other pro shows using the fact that they are new, and don't have the funding and finances, as a crutch to deny the bodybuilders.
My goal for this year is to end the $10,000 shows. I think the bodybuilders train too hard and sacrifice too much to walk away with a $10,000 pay day. Out of this they have to pay Uncle Sam and invest another five or so grand in contest preparation. I am working to double my prize money in a year's time.
[ Q ] So you are wanting set a new standard in contest promoting?
Exactly. Somebody's got to set the standard. I believe the Arnold Classic has set the standard. The Mr. Olympia is what it is, regardless of what they are giving away. They are giving away more than the others but they have been around for a long time. I will do this too, with the right amount of time.
However, I want to do something that is not business as usual. We are getting sponsors from the AFC (the American Fighting Championships). This will be similar to a mixed martial arts event where we will be having an octagon with demonstrations. We will have an arm-wrestling championship, strongman competition, seminars by all the professionals who are in attendance and who are supporting the show.
There will be a huge expo. Our sponsors will be giving us stuff to give away. We will be flying our amateur champions from the NPC to the National Championships, which gives them an incentive to qualify for the Nationals.
At this show we will have the $10,000 Best Presentation Award with the Title Sponsor TLT, Inc. and Lee Thompson donating $5,000 on his companies behalf with the rest of the prize coming from other sponsors as an extra incentive for great performances from our athletes
[ Q ] What other awards will you be giving away?
First place is going to get $25,000, second is getting $10,000 and third is getting $5,000. The flip side is, in most of these pro shows they only pay the top five. The top ten finishers at my show will walk away with some money. We are bringing the pro figure in line.
Figure is the fastest growing market in all of bodybuilding and fitness. Most pro figure shows give away $3,000 for first. We are raising the bar by giving the winner $5,000, the second place finisher $3,000 and we will place the top five in the money. Our show is also a Mr. and Ms. Olympia qualifier.
The top three finishers from both the pro men's and figure will qualify for the Olympia.
[ Q ] Exactly when will the event take place and what will the schedule be?
The event will take place over two days - May 12 and 13. We will have a featured pro guest posing on the Friday night and will more than likely have the men's NPC amateurs and women's pro figure pre judging at this time. On the Saturday morning we will have the women's amateur NPC and in the afternoon we will have the pro men's pre judging.
On Saturday night we will have the finals for everyone, along with a couple of featured guest posers. Even the way we MC our event will be different. We will actually have a live broadcast with pro bodybuilding weekly. We will be broadcasting from the stage.
We will have Bodybuilding.com, who is one of our presenting sponsors, working in concert with us to ensure this is one of the greatest events they have ever participated in. Most sponsors give the promoters the money and then that is the last thing you hear about the sponsors.
We are actively trying to get ideas from our sponsors - look at what they would like to do. How they would like to see the show run. Maximize their sponsorship dollars. So there are a lot of things we will be doing with our sponsors that many promoters won't do.
[ Q ] So who are all the sponsors?
We have got Vyotech as the title sponsor. Presenting sponsors are going to be the AFC (American Fighting Championships), Bodybuilding.com and Boss. We have Hydroderm Skin Care as our host sponsor. Outside of that we have smaller sponsors like Eggwhites International, Pro bodybuilding weekly, TLT INC which is providing $5,000 toward the best presentation award.
We have Lords Gym, which is a Christian group who are building gyms and selling t-shirts promoting Jesus Christ. We have Stronghold Ministries. We have Musclebobble.com - they are going to offer 100 bobble dolls to the first 100 people that come into the venue.
[ Q ] Why did you choose the Denver Convention Center to host the show?
Most bodybuilding shows are run at high schools and performing arts theatres or college campuses. We are in the heart of downtown Denver situated near the several major league teams: the Colorado Rockies, the Denver Broncos, and the Colorado Avalanche. So we have a host of sports teams that are going to be involved.
This is not going to be just a bodybuilding/fitness weekend, this will be all-inclusive, with all kinds of entertainment involved. We will be having a charity donation to the police league, which provides underprivileged kids breakfast before school every morning, as well as lunches year round.
So children who can't afford to eat are going to get, through a fund-raising process during that weekend, a contibution on behalf of my partner, Jeff Taylor, his friend Joe, a local Policeman in Denver who helped start the program, and myself. We have a lot of people in place who serve a purpose, who will be helping us. With our host hotel being walking distance to the venue.
We also have ESPN who will be one of our sports oriented host restaurants. We might have a bench press competition and a possible weigh-in for the pros to generate interest for the locals there in Denver. We are not going to be business as usual.
This contest bears my name and we want to make it fan and bodybuilder friendly. It won't be a one hit wonder. We are thinking about the sequel - we want to plant roots here in Denver, Colorado, which is one of the fastest cities on the rise. It is a beautiful place, which has the Four Seasons.
We are going to be giving away baseball tickets, spa treatments, and a VIP trip to the Mr. Olympia weekend. We have the Palms Hotel, Resort and Casino in Las Vegas who have already contributed two nights with a VIP dinner and spa treatment at their hotel.
As well, we are going to have a draw where someone is going to have the opportunity to come to California, train at the famous Gold's Gym in Venice Beach, walk the boardwalk in Santa Monica and visit Muscle Beach as well as visit Disneyland for the weekend.
So there is a whole part of the show that is going to be directed toward the fans more than anything else. The bodybuilding contest itself will speak for itself. We have bodybuilders such as Darrem Charles, Mr. USA Phil Heath, Nationals champion Bill Wilmore and Johnnie Jackson who are committed to our show.
[ Q ] Will the show have any other surprises? Who else will be competing?
We are talking with two former Fitness Olympia champions Adela Friedmansky and Jen Hendershott. These will probably be two of our featured guest performers that weekend.
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We are working with Carla Sanchez and her group of fitness athletes. We have sponsors from Flex Magazine, Muscular Development, Ironman, who will help to facilitate the publicity.
On Bodybuilding.com we are going to have a countdown to the Colorado Pro where we will have a portion of the web site devoted to the show, where you can go on-line and see what a Darrem Charles training routine is going to look like getting ready for the show. You can find out what Phil Heath is eating in his preparation.
We will have pictures and journals, and interview questions leading up to this event. Kind of like with a boxing match where you have these guys doing the press conferences. We will be having the bodybuilders doing the same thing pretty much on line. We have Mustafa Mohammad flying in from Austria to compete in my show, we have Markus Ruhl who will be coming back from the disastrous Mr. Olympia showing that he had.
I got an e-mail yesterday from Vince "The Prince" Taylor who wants to make a comeback at the Arnold Classic and wind up in Denver Colorado at my show, which we are welcoming. Vince has been inactive for the past few years but he would like to make a comeback. So we have bodybuilders interested in our show.
[ Q ] Promoting as opposed to competing. What new challenges does this present for you?
Promoting doesn't really present any new challenges. I was self made. I never had a manager, never had an agent. I promoted myself all the way through. Things that people read and saw about Shawn Ray were generated from me. I have always looked at myself kind of like a product.
This time I'm not selling Shawn Ray, I'm selling my show. I want to satisfy my athletes and give something back to the fans and give something to charity. It's not a big stretch for me. I have always dealt with sponsors and promoters, and always have had to deal with athletes.
I am not focusing on me, which is easier to do. It is always harder to focus on yourself because ultimately you have bills to pay and there are the emotions and physical issues - soreness for example. Sometimes you are on a budget and you have to make provisions for that.
With the help of others with ideas, and the right intentions of trying to help the bodybuilders, I welcome the role of promoter. This isn't the first thing I have promoted. I have promoted muscle camps around the world from South Africa, Australia, New York, Florida, Las Vegas and California. I just had my seventh Shawn Ray All Star Seminar the day after the Olympia in Las Vegas with the sports biggest names. My show is just an extension of what I have been doing for a long time.
[ Q ] What kind of edge does having previously been one of the top pro bodybuilders in the world give you as far as running your own show goes?
First of all a lot of promoters are just in the business of promoting and can't really relate to the athletes - they look at the bottom line, the dollar bill. I have experience with athletes where it is not always about the money, but about the production. I can get athletes to work with me, while many promoters are looked at as a dollar bill by the athletes.
Also I have cooperation from various sponsors who I have had personal dealings with as a professional bodybuilder, who are willing to invest in what I am doing. More importantly, the discipline that bodybuilding gives you, the sacrifice, dedication and time. All of these things have been transferred into my promotion of this event.
My job is to put people in the seats and have a satisfactory, above average, report card when I'm done. That means I have to go above and beyond because there are more people than Shawn Ray that I am accountable to. As a bodybuilder it was all about me. As a promoter I have to ensure my athletes and sponsors are taken care of and that everything runs smoothly.
I have to check, double check, and cross check. There are a large team of people that I have to be accountable to because there is money coming in and money going out. I am more than equipped to stand up to all those responsibilities, because I have gotten the discipline from bodybuilding.
From bodybuilding I have learned how to manage the dollar bill and ensure the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted. Bodybuilding provided me with more than just a world class physique. It gave me the structure, discipline and organization that a regular document from school that says you passed a class won't give.
I have a world of experience. Also, I have had to deal with different ethnic groups, religions and personalities. I have had a good run at bodybuilding for most of my life because I have been able to adjust and adapt. I am also willing to compromise in certain areas where promoters are very rigid.
They are very business as usual and they get burned and jaded. I'm raw, hungry and gung ho. I have to look at ideas on how to satisfy everybody. I don't come with luggage.
[ Q ] It sounds like a new beginning, in a sense, for pro bodybuilding competition.
It is. I'm not here to compete with other people, I'm here to perfect what has already been done. It is nice to have people do all the groundwork because you can see all the do's and don'ts. I'm not saying this is going to be a flawless trip becoming a promoter. I'm expecting some bumps in the road.
Like a bodybuilder you don't anticipate those happening to you but when they do you have to be able to be the Teflon man and let those things bounce off you. I can't be overly concerned with things that are beyond my control to the point where the contest suffers.
[ Q ] On a personal note, how has life changed for you since your retirement from bodybuilding?
My quality of life hasn't changed much because this is what I have always done. The difference is, I'm now a little bit more at peace because it is more rewarding giving than taking. I would say that as a bodybuilder at least 90% of the time you are in the mindset of taking - what can I get.
You are working towards taking something from someone. In this instance, if I make money doing something that I love, great. If I don't, I'm doing it because I love it. My motives are right so I think the reward will come in the end, by virtue of making other people happy.
[ Q ] How is your family?
Everything's good. I turned 40 in September and if I had a script to write, I wouldn't have written it any differently. I just want to be in a position where I don't have to adapt to a dramatic lifestyle change where all of a sudden I have to go punch a nine to five.
I am still in the industry I fell in love with as a teenager. It keeps me happy doing that. I'm not hitting any roadblocks, I'm not being met with any unforeseen challenges to distract me from being able to be what I am.
[ Q ] Is there anything you would like to add as we wrap things up Shawn?
Visit bodybuilding.com for the number one choice for bodybuilding information especially as it relates to the Colorado Pro show. We also have a website - coloradoproshow.com - for information on how to register and purchase tickets, and information regarding he host hotel and venue.
[ Q ] Thanks for your time Shawn and good luck with the event.