Friday 19 January 2018

Waking hours with... Mama Lou Strongwoman

Linsey Lindberg (35) performs as Mama Lou Strongwoman and is a Guinness World Record holder. She lives in Austin, Texas, and has been named among America's Top 50 Fierce Women by 'More' magazine, along with Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga

Linsey Lindberg.
Linsey Lindberg.

Emily Hourican

I travel around Europe and America for four or five months of every year, bringing my Mama Lou Strongwoman act to festivals and State fairs. When I'm not travelling, I live in Austin, Texas, and I generally get up around 8.30am. The first thing I do is what I call a slow get-up - I make a cup of tea and drink it as I go through my emails and see what the day holds. I have to be very careful with what I eat, so I stay away from bread and carbs as much as possible; for breakfast, I generally have two eggs, maybe with vegetables. Somewhere in the next hour, everything starts to turn a little bit crazy, and that's the point at which I move from tea to coffee.

I love that when you wake up in the morning, you can never know what will happen that day. I remember when I was contacted by the producers of the Guinness World Record Show, I was having lunch with my boyfriend of the time, and I took a phone call from LA. A week later, I flew out there and broke the record for crushing apples with my biceps. That call changed everything.

Life has really taken off for me. It used to be that the only thing I focused on was being Mama Lou, but in the last few years, I've had a lot of injuries, and I've had to think differently. I'm getting older - I'm 35 now and I've been doing this for 10 years. Also, I am a single woman, and I have to look towards what is coming next in life. So, I took all of the knowledge and experience that I have acquired travelling around the world for the last 10 years, and two years ago I set up a speciality agency and production company - Austin Oddities & Entertainment. Most people run away to join the circus, but there's a small part of my heart that wants to run away and join a town. Even so, I never want to give up being Mama Lou.

This all started for me when I was 26. I gave up a secure job in a big accounting firm to join the circus. Up until then, I really hadn't done a lot of physical stuff, but I started doing trapeze, and I realised very quickly that being flexible was not my skill set, but I got muscular extremely quickly. At the time, I was trying to figure out who I was. As a woman, you're battling images of beauty that are plastered all over the place, and if you don't match those images - and I didn't - it's easy to feel bad.

Finally, I realised that I wasn't going to let other people define what made me successful and amazing. Becoming Mama Lou was the way to find the feminist inside me and see myself as powerful, instead of looking at myself as someone who didn't meet the beauty standards set by society.

That first year was so full of failure, but I just kept going out there. I never believed that I couldn't do this. I always knew that failure is a temporary thing, and that the most important quality that any person can have is grit. Grit means that if you fall down, you can pick yourself back up; you don't need someone else to do that for you.

I started to realise that, through my act, I was becoming a superhero for kids, and not just little girls - although they are a giant part of my fanbase - but little boys too. I realised that I was changing stereotypes of women. If you can reach young children and show them that women can be lovely, but are just as capable and strong as men, then that is changing the future.

Pretty quickly, Mama Lou started taking off, and then the media began to pick up on what I was doing. Next thing I knew, I was contacted out of the blue by More magazine, and they were doing their very first Top 50 Fierce Women List, and they added me in, right alongside Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington and Lady Gaga. From there, I did so much more media, including the BBC Officially Amazing show.

I still travel just as much ever, living out of a suitcase, so when I am home, it is like a vacation. I try to rest and relax. I don't go to a gym, because I dislike that mentality, but what I do like to do, mid-morning, is put an audio book on my phone, go to my local park, have a run and do some pull-ups and push-ups. My body builds muscle very quickly and when I'm touring, doing three shows a day is definitely enough to keep me strong. By the end of a tour, I look like a beast! But actually, my goal is to look like a normal woman, so I balance that with periods where I train less.

In the afternoon, I answer emails and do administrative things for Austin Oddities. I catch up with friends, too - you can really fall off the map if you are away so much, so I plan long lunches. I'm careful about what I eat, but a nice wine or beer is always part of the diet! I'm a really wonderful cook, and one of my favourite wind-down things is to put on some Otis Redding, drink some wine and cook a nice meal. I don't go out as much as I used to, but when I do, I love going to the Honky Tonk clubs. These are very special to Texas, located in old dance halls. You dance the two-step all night long, you're sweaty and smiling when you're done, and sometimes you get a smooch.

Dating can be difficult. I guess there's no easy way to break it to a man that you're a professional strongwoman, and pretty well known around the world. They find it emasculating. And I have to be careful, because there is a fetish out there, and I would rather stay away from that! I want somebody who likes the person underneath, not just the surface.

Bedtime is generally midnight, because work is always there the next day. Sometimes I long for a job I could put down at 5pm, but on the other hand, I feel really fortunate that I wake up every morning excited. I always think back to this Bob Dylan quote: "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do."

Mama Lou will be performing at Laya Healthcare's City Spectacular in Dublin's Merrion Square on July 10-12 and Cork's Fitzgerald Park on July 18 and 19. Free festival. See

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