Rene Campbell wants to change perceptions of what women should look like

Counterpointed by a number of striking tattoos, hers is a body defined by muscle. She is a mother of two who embodies power and strength.



a person wearing a costume: "My bodybuilding journey made me realize that I needed to do things for myself," says Rene Campbell.


© Max Ellis
“My bodybuilding journey made me realize that I needed to do things for myself,” says Rene Campbell.

Rene Campbell has dedicated most of her life to sculpting her once diminutive frame into one that, she says, goes “completely against what society thinks a woman should look like.”

The bodybuilder’s dedication has brought plenty of awards but building her dream body — gaining over 85 pounds, going from a UK size 8 to 14 — has had its challenges, too, both physically and mentally.

“I was very insecure about my body image, very insecure about myself as a person,” Campbell, 44, tells CNN Sport from her home in Cornwall, UK, as she reflects on her motivation to transform herself.

“I was constantly feeling under pressure through the media that women needed to look a certain way.”

‘A woman with muscle’

“For quite some time I struggled with eating disorders because I was constantly trying to keep my weight really low, to appear skinny, like these women are on magazine covers,” she says.

Then, she attended a women’s bodybuilding show and became intrigued by the way these seemingly confident women held themselves.

Though Campbell ​says she loves the way she now looks, ​she says she is sometimes treated with cruelty, like when she has been asked to leave women’s toilets.

“A lot of the time you are up against a lot of negativity. People set in an old mindset,” Campbell adds.

“I was up against — and still am — a lot of criticism from people who don’t understand why women would want to be muscular. But it just gave me a sense of confidence and mental strength.

“I’m stuck in a situation where I have to prove that I’m a woman in order to use these toilets? It’s quite offensive. I do try and explain to them quite nicely. I may look this way but, at the end of the day, I am a woman. I have every right to use these toilets.”



"There's a very close relationship between passion, dedication and obsession," says Campbell.


© Max Ellis
“There’s a very close relationship between passion, dedication and obsession,” says Campbell.

Studying female bodybuilders

For over a decade, sociologist Dr. Tanya Bunsell has been researching female bodybuilders.

“When I would tell people that I was studying female bodybuilders, the first reaction was, ‘That’s just not attractive,'” Dr. Bunsell, a lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at Canterbury Christ Church University, tells CNN Sport.



a person with pink hair: Campbell takes enormous pride in the way she has reshaped her body.


© Max Ellis
Campbell takes enormous pride in the way she has reshaped her body.

“There’s definitely a glass ceiling on muscularity, and that crossover boundary where the body becomes transgressive and interrogates people’s notions of male and female.

“The troublesome and disturbing body of the hyper-muscular woman is deemed so outrageously deviant by society that it provokes harsh comments.”

“Even though there is a huge market encouraging women to build abs

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Bodybuilding: Rene Campbell wants to change perceptions of what women should look like

Rene Campbell has dedicated most of her life to sculpting her once diminutive frame into one that, she says, goes “completely against what society thinks a woman should look like.”

The bodybuilder’s dedication has brought plenty of awards but building her dream body — gaining over 85 pounds, going from a UK size 8 to 14 — has had its challenges, too, both physically and mentally.

“I was very insecure about my body image, very insecure about myself as a person,” Campbell, 44, tells CNN Sport from her home in Cornwall, UK, as she reflects on her motivation to transform herself.

“I was constantly feeling under pressure through the media that women needed to look a certain way.”

‘A woman with muscle’

“For quite some time I struggled with eating disorders because I was constantly trying to keep my weight really low, to appear skinny, like these women are on magazine covers,” she says.

Then, she attended a women’s bodybuilding show and became intrigued by the way these seemingly confident women held themselves.

Though Campbell ​says she loves the way she now looks, ​she says she is sometimes treated with cruelty, like when she has been asked to leave women’s toilets.

“A lot of the time you are up against a lot of negativity. People set in an old mindset,” Campbell adds.

“I was up against — and still am — a lot of criticism from people who don’t understand why women would want to be muscular. But it just gave me a sense of confidence and mental strength.

“I’m stuck in a situation where I have to prove that I’m a woman in order to use these toilets? It’s quite offensive. I do try and explain to them quite nicely. I may look this way but, at the end of the day, I am a woman. I have every right to use these toilets.”

"There's a very close relationship between passion, dedication and obsession," says Campbell.

Studying female bodybuilders

For over a decade, sociologist Dr. Tanya Bunsell has been researching female bodybuilders.

“When I would tell people that I was studying female bodybuilders, the first reaction was, ‘That’s just not attractive,'” Dr. Bunsell, a lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at Canterbury Christ Church University, tells CNN Sport.

“There’s definitely a glass ceiling on muscularity, and that crossover boundary where the body becomes transgressive and interrogates people’s notions of male and female.

“The troublesome and disturbing body of the hyper-muscular woman is deemed so outrageously deviant by society that it provokes harsh comments.”

“Even though there is a huge market encouraging women to build abs and tighten their figures, the ideal still stands for smaller waists, curvy hips and lean legs, the so-called hourglass figure,” adds Dr. Bunsell.

Campbell takes enormous pride in the way she has reshaped her body.

‘The body becomes an amazing machine’

When she started her bodybuilding career, ​Campbell says eating copious amounts of food was, at first, a shock to the body and mind.

“My body temperature went up,” she says, ​saying that putting on weight initially scared her.

“I was feeling hot all the time because you’re

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Women’s Euro qualifiers: Megan Campbell returns to Republic of Ireland squad for Germany clash

Megan Campbell
Campbell is back in the Republic of Ireland squad for the first time in more than a year

Manchester City defender Megan Campbell is back in the Republic of Ireland women’s squad for their European Championship qualifier against Germany at Tallaght Stadium on 1 December.

Campbell returns to the squad for the first time since October 2019 after recovering from a long-term hip injury.

Injury rules out midfielder Megan Connolly.

Hayley Nolan and Alli Murphy are considered close contacts following a Covid case at London City Lionesses.

Kyra Carusa is unable to travel to the Republic of Ireland because of Covid protocols in Denmark.

The squad will meet up on Sunday at the FAI National Training Centre for what is the final game in this Group for manager Vera Pauw’s team.

Germany have already been confirmed as Group I winners, which means that the runner-up spot and a place in a qualifying play-off is now between second-placed Republic of Ireland (13 points) and third-placed Ukraine (12 points).

Ukraine play Montenegro in their final group game.

Pauw’s team currently hold a better goal difference so they need to equal or better Ukraine’s result in order to seal second spot.

They face a very uphill task however as Germany have a 100% record so far and have yet to concede a single goal, having scored 37 in their six matches.

Republic of Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers: Marie Hourihan, Courtney Brosnan, Grace Moloney, Niamh Reid-Burke

Defenders: Harriet Scott, Keeva Keenan, Claire Walsh, Louise Quinn , Diane Caldwell, Claire O’Riordan, Megan Campbell, Eabha O’Mahony, Isibeal Atkinson, Aine O’Gorman

Midfielders: Niamh Fahey, Jamie Finn, Denise O’Sullivan, Niamh Farrelly, Ruesha Littlejohn, Ellen Molloy, Jessica Ziu, Emily Whelan

Forwards: Katie McCabe, Heather Payne, Leanne Kiernan, Amber Barrett, Rianna Jarrett

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‘No timeframe’ for full-time referees in women’s game, says FA’s Sue Campbell

Baroness Sue Campbell, the director of women’s football at the FA, has conceded there is no timeframe for the introduction of full-time professional referees in the women’s game between now and 2024.



Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Related: Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action

The quality of refereeing in the Women’s Super League has been heavily criticised this season. On Sunday, Brighton forward Kayleigh Green was shown two yellow cards but the referee Lucy Oliver failed to issue a red, and the player remained on the pitch for the duration of the match, despite protestations from Everton.



Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football, at a media event for UEFA Women’s EURO 2021 in London in February.


© Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football, at a media event for UEFA Women’s EURO 2021 in London in February.

Speaking at the launch of the FA’s new four-year strategy for women’s football on Monday, Campbell stressed that professionalism was something that the head of refereeing, Jo Stimpson, was “passionate” about and that “ultimately that will be where we get to, but I don’t know what the timeframe is on that”.

“To be fair, Premier League referees are full-time and they still get just as much criticism. It’s just a tough job, isn’t it? Refereeing is a tough, tough gig,” Campbell added.

Video: Premier League issues emphatic response to Project Big Picture plans (Birmingham Mail)

Premier League issues emphatic response to Project Big Picture plans

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“Our top eight Fifa-nominated women, will not be going full-time, but certainly through our scholarship programme, they will have significantly more time to focus on training and development than they’ve had in the past.”

There will be other improvements too. As well as having every match filmed and observed, referees are being assigned a “core coach” to mentor them which will also help to identify those that do “want to go on and be full-time professional referees”.

In addition to improvements in refereeing, the new strategy has a further seven key objectives. They include ensuring every primary-school-aged girl has access to football, with Campbell confirming that the FA currently operates in around 10,000 of England’s 23,000 schools, giving every girl equal access to playing football for fun or for excellenceand the building of an effective pathway through clubs.

Other objectives include building the domestic leagues into the best in the world, winning a major tournament at senior level, embedding local leaders to support football in their communities and building and diversifying the pool of coaches by equalising access to playing at the lower reaches of the women’s game.

Related: Women’s football is growing but can the FA keep pace with demand? | Flo Lloyd-Hughes

A separate strategy for the professional women’s game will be launched on 1 November and Campbell said that the FA has “no long-term ambition to hang on to the league for the sake of hanging on to it” in response to increasing talk of a potential takeover or independence, but added that professionalism is still

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