Tony Pearson (bodybuilder)

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Tony Pearson
African american bodybuilder tony pearson posing.jpg
Tony Pearson
Personal info
Nickname" The Michael Jackson of Body Building "
Born (1957-01-11) January 11, 1957 (age 64)
Memphis, TN
Height5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight205 lb (93 kg)
Professional career
  • WBBG Mr. World
  • 1979
Best win
  • NABBA Pro. Mr. Universe
  • 1980
Predecessor Bertil Fox
Successor Robby Robinson
ActiveRetired 1994

Tony Pearson (born January 11, 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee) grew up in St. Louis, Missouri is an American bodybuilding champion. His bodybuilding championships include individual and couples competitions.



Early years

Tony Pearson was born the second youngest of eight children (five girls and three boys). His mother, Daisy Pearson, was a stay at home mom and his father, Sam Pearson, worked as an ice and coal delivery man. Tony grew up during the civil rights era of the early 1960s in Memphis, TN. In 1959, at age two, Tony's parents divorced, at which time he was taken to an aunt to raise him. This family member was in her later years and financially and emotionally unable to care for a young child. In 1970 they moved to St. Louis, MO where he attended Normandy Junior and Normandy High School. In 1973, after years of abuse and neglect, the intervention of his high school counselor and the State of Missouri took custody of Tony from his aunt and placed him in a group home.

Tony discovers bodybuilding

As a member of his school's wrestling team, Tony suffered a knee injury, at which time he started weight training as a way to rehabilitate his knee. Surprised at how quickly his body responded to lifting weights, Tony decided he wanted to become a bodybuilder. Seeing his interest and talent, his coach took him to a "real gym," George Turner's gym in Clayton, MO. This gym was the home to some of the professional bodybuilding elite of the time. Ken Waller, Dave Johns, and Samir Bannout were all connected to Turner's gym. After the first day of training, the owner of the gym, George Turner, said to the young Pearson, "You've got potential kid. I'm going to train you. I think I can make you a champion." Over the next few months he packed on twenty pounds of muscle and six months later Tony told his trainer that he was leaving. In 1976, at the age of nineteen, Pearson moved to California to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional bodybuilder. After arriving in Los Angeles he was homeless for a period of time. After getting on his feet, the young Pearson ventured to the "Mecca of bodybuilding", Gold's Gym in Venice, California. It was there that he was introduced to all of the great bodybuilding legends of the time, just weeks before the 1976 Mr. Olympia competition.

Tony and Arnold

Later that year (1976) Tony was training in Venice Beach, where he was discovered by Arnold Schwarzenegger on Muscle Beach, who became his mentor. Pearson won his first contest, the 1976 Mr. Venice Beach, and Arnold featured him in the first edition of his book, The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding Co-Written by Bill Dobbins. Of the young Pearson, Schwarzenegger wrote, "I remember a few years ago seeing a skinny black kid training at the weight pit on Venice Beach. I watched him doing endless sets of squats, with very heavy weight, torturing himself with rep after rep. After a while, his thighs began to grow and soon they were huge, separated and beautifully defined, and only a year and half later he entered and won the 1978 Mr. America contest." [1]

Individual competition

Tony Pearson known for his symmetrical lines and razor sharp definition. Pearson's stage name was "The Michael Jackson of Bodybuilding" due to his similar facial appearance to the entertainer. His career began to take off as he worked his way through the amateur competitive ranks. In 1978 winning the Amateur Athletic Union's (AAU) Mr. Los Angeles, (Los Angeles, CA), Jr. Mr. USA, (Sacramento, CA), Jr. Mr. America, (Austin, TX), Mr. California (short), (Sacramento, CA), and (AAU) Mr. America, (Cincinnati, OH). At the age of twenty one, Pearson was the second youngest to win Mr. America (the youngest was Casey Viator at the age of nineteen), (Preceded: Dave Johns 1977), (Succeeded: Ray Mentzer 1979). Other bodybuilding competitions won during his twenty-year career include the 1979 World Bodybuilding Guild (WBBG) Professional (the official start of his professional bodybuilding career), Mr. World, [2] ( New York, NY ), (Preceded: Anibal Lopez 1978), ( Succeeded: Anibal Lopez 1980), and the WBBG Olympus Mr. Olympus Pro, (Preceded: Sergio Oliva 1978), 1979 World Amateur Bodybuilding Association, (WABBA) World Championships, (Verona, Italy), the 1980 National Amateur Bodybuilders Association (NABBA) Pro Mr. Universe., [3] (London, England), (Preceded: 1979 Bertil Fox), (Succeeded: 1981 Robby Robinson), 1983 International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB) Pro Denver Grand Prix Winner, (Denver, CO). Pearson also competed in the (IFBB) Mr. Olympia in 1984 (New York, NY) and a second time in 1985 (Brussels, Belgium) placing 12th in both competitions.

Couples competition

Pearson was first introduced to couples posing in 1979 when he made a guest appearance with the "First Lady of Bodybuilding", Lisa Lyon, at the Mr. Los Angeles Competition. This was the first time a male bodybuilder and a female bodybuilder performed on stage together. Pearson and Lyon were pioneers in this new category of Mixed Pairs. In 1980, Chris Dickerson and Stacy Bentley won the first International Federation of Body Building (IFBB) Professional World Mixed-Pair Competition. In 1981, Dickerson won again with Lynn Conkwright. In an unprecedented winning streak, Pearson won six International Federation of Body Building (IFBB) Professional World Mixed-Pair titles with four different partners in 1982 and '83 (Shelley Gruwell), '84 (Carla Dunlap), '85 (Tina Plakinger), '86 (Juliette Bergmann), and '88 (Carla Dunlap).

In 2010, at the age of fifty-three, Pearson returned to the stage guest posing with his former Mixed Pairs partner 2001 Ms. Olympia Juliette Bergmann at the 2010 "Juliette Bergmann Bodybuilding Classic" in the Netherlands, and also made a guest appearance at the FIBO Power 2011 in Germany. In 2014 at the age of fifty-seven, Tony returned to competitive competition winning the Men's open (short) and the Grandmaster's over 50 class at the NABBA USA American Championship's, also capturing the Joe Meeko Memorial Men's bast poser award.

Other competitions

In 1991 and 1992, Pearson competed in World Bodybuilding Federation WBF shows launched by professional wrestling mogul Vince McMahon. A group of thirteen professional bodybuilders were named (WBF Body Stars). Pearson's stage name was dubbed "The Jetman". In 1993 Pearson promoted a supplement line (ICOPRO), Integrated Conditioning Program, developed by Dr. Frederick hatfield (also known as "Dr. Squat") for Vince McMahon.

Honors and awards

In 2007, Pearson was inducted into the "Muscle Beach Bodybuilding Hall of Fame" in Venice Beach, CA. Other professional bodybuilders to receive this honor include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, and Joe Weider. [4]

Media appearances

Tony has appeared on: Man from Atlantis: "The Disappearances" television movie (minions) MGM, 1977, Good Morning America Show 1978, The Merv Griffin Show 1979, Rose Parade, Pasadena, CA, 1979, ABC Wide World of Sports, 1983, 1984, NBC Sportsworld, 1983, 1985, 1986, Soul Train (Health and Fitness Segment), 1987, La ultima Cena……Del, TV Comedy Show Special, 1988, (himself), Empty Nest, Gesundheit (role: stud with suds,) 1994, WBF BodyStars, (TV Show) USA Network, 1991 (himself), Bodybuilders on "Card Sharks" game show, 1987 (himself) CBS, WWF/WBF BodyStar Wars Challenger, 1991 (himself) "Tug of War" between the WBF and WWF Stars. Flex Magazine Workout (co-hosted by Shawn Ray), (TV Show), ESPN 1993

Tony has been featured in the fitness and lifestyle magazines: Sports Illustrated, Ebony Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Iron Man, Muscle Mag International, Flex Magazine [5]


Pearson was known to have the best shoulder to Waist ratio in bodybuilding. [6]

Competition history

See also

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  1. "The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, first edition, page 449.
  2. WBBG Pro. Mr. World
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-03. Retrieved 2009-12-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
* 1976AAU Gold's ClassicTeenoverall winner
* 1976AAU Gold's ClassicTeen, Short1st
1977AAU Junior Mr. USAShort3rd
* 1977AAU Mr. Los AngelesJunior1st
* 1977AAU Mr. Southern CaliforniaJunior1st
* 1978AAU Mr. Americaoverall winner
* 1978AAU Mr. AmericaMedium1st
* 1978AAU Mr. CaliforniaShort1st
* 1978AAU Junior Mr. AmericaMedium1st
* 1978AAU Junior Mr. Americaoverall winner
* 1978AAU Junior Mr. USAoverall winner
* 1978AAU Junior Mr. USAMedium1st
* 1979WBBG Olympuswinner
1979NABBA Mr. UniverseMedium2nd
* 1979WBBG Pro. Mr. Worldwinner
* 1979WABBA World ChampionshipsMedium1st
* 1979WABBA World Championshipsoverall winner
* 1980NABBA Universe Pro.winner
1980WABBA World ChampionshipsProfessional3rd
1980WABBA Pro. World Cup5th
1981IFBB Canada Pro. Cup4th
1981IFBB Grand Prix Belgium6th
1981IFBB Grand Prix Wales5th
1981IFBB Universe Pro.3rd
1981WABBA Pro. World Cup7th
1981IFBB World Grand Prix4th
1981IFBB World Pro. Championships3rd
1982IFBB Night of Champions6th
1982IFBB World Pro. Championships6th
*1983IFBB Grand Prix Denverwinner
1983IFBB Grand Prix England4th
1983IFBB Grand Prix Las Vegas6th
1983IFBB Grand Prix Portland2nd
1983IFBB Grand Prix Sweden6th
1983IFBB Grand Prix Switzerland6th
1983IFBB World Pro. Championships8th
1984Canada Pro. Cup3rd
1984IFBB Olympia12th
1984IFBB World Grand Prix3rd
1985IFBB Night of Champions9th
1985IFBB Olympia12th
1986IFBB Los Angeles Pro. Championships5th
1986IFBB Night of Champions4th
1986IFBB World Pro. Championships9th
1987IFBB Night of Championsdid not place
1987IFBB World Pro. Championships8th
1988IFBB Grand Prix US Pro.6th
1988IFBB Niagara Falls Pro. Invitational5th
1988IFBB Night of Champions8th
1988IFBB World Pro. Championships8th
1989IFBB Grand Prix France11th
1989IFBB Grand Prix Germany9th
1989IFBB Grand Prix Spain9th
1989IFBB Grand Prix Spain (2)9th
1989IFBB Grand Prix Sweden11th
1990IFBB Arnold Classic6th
1990IFBB Houston Pro. Invitational6th
1990IFBB Ironman Pro. Invitational8th
1991WBF Grand Prix11th
1993IFBB Chicago Pro. Invitational13th
1993IFBB Night of Championsdid not place
1993IFBB Pittsburgh Pro. Invitational16th
1994IFBB Ironman Pro. Invitational14th
1994IFBB San Jose Pro. Invitational16th
2014NABBA USA American Open (short)1st
2014NABBA USA American Grandmaster's1st