Ashley Kaltwasser: The G.O.A.T. of Bikini
Ashley K is the best Bikini pro of all time with the MOST pro wins of ANY IFBB pro. Bottom line – she’s still going, and winning.
By Giles “Tiger” Thomas
When this feature was initially put to me, the angle was to feature IFBB Bikini pro “Ashley K” (as she is perhaps best known) as the new record holder for the amount of all-time wins by any IFBB Pro League professional. As myself and MD “Buff Bombshell Show” host Lauren Lotter provided (Bucharest, last November) the livestream commentary at the Romania Muscle Fest for Jake Wood and Alina Popa in November (2021), we witnessed 2008 Mr. Olympia Dexter Jackson’s record of a whopping 29 pro wins be taken out by Ashley with the winning of her 30th pro event. But some bodybuilding fans might raise an eyebrow at that. “You can’t compare men’s open pro bodybuilding to BIKINI!” they might yell. OK, fine, I get it, but hear me out on this, and I’ll tell you why this is actually so significant, and – well – bloody impressive. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Pro Bikini hasn’t been around as long as men’s open bodybuilding. The Mr. Olympia started its first year back in 1965. When Joe and Ben Weider formed the IFBB Amateur League internationally and after Joe’s wife, Betty, suggested the name for the ultimate bodybuilding event (to decide who really was THE best in the world) by spotting the name “Olympia” on a bottle of beer, the IFBB Pro League as we now know it to this day, was – effectively – born. So, for 57 years, the guys have had a stage – and a home – to display their world-beating pro physiques. Bikini did not even form as an Olympia category until 2010 when the then 18-year-old Nicole Nagrani took home the equivalent of the Sandow and consequent right to call herself THE best Bikini Pro on the planet.
2. Dexter has had longer to scoop up his wins – 29 wins – as well as a Mr. Olympia title in 2008; not bad. But leading on from point “one” above, Dexter took 18 years to accumulate his golds as an IFBB pro. In 2002, I witnessed him win his very first pro show at the British Grand Prix in Manchester, where he beat Dennis James (second) and Chris Cormier (third) to begin what was to become a further 18 years of competing until he competed in – and then announced his retirement – on stage at the 2020 Mr. Olympia. Ashley won hers over a far shorter 12-year time span.
3. The Bikini pro look has changed a LOT over the past 12 years. Something else that indicates the impressiveness of Ashley’s run of CONTINUAL domination. Any of you that have followed the evolution of Bikini will know just how much it has changed. A simple glance of the winner timeline from the very beginning of Bikini – to the present day – will see that a LOT has changed. In 2010 with Nicole Nagrani, to the more muscular look of Brazilian Nathalia Melo when she became Olympia champion in 2012, up to the varying looks of 2020 winner Janet Layug and even the current “world” champ Jennifer Dorie, the bodies literally hop from one look to the next just about every single year. Ashley has had to continually evolve, even as she retired in 2017, to then come back in 2018 with an all-new look that indicated she was paying close attention to the category. Adapting like this, when many others faded away. That’s impressive.
4. Bikini judging is more subjective. When comparing men’s bodybuilding to Bikini, I mean. Even though the night and day look is different from (for example) 2018 Mr. Olympia Shawn Rhoden, to that of current Mr. “O” Big Ramy, the judging criteria has – for decades – been pretty clear cut. Very little has changed in that respect and it’s the evolution of all the men’s bodybuilding in that, since Lee Haney in the ‘80s (Mr. Olympia 1984-1991), then Dorian Yates (1992-1997) and then Ronnie Coleman (1998-2005), the guys got bigger and heavier, yes, but the standards to which they were held to with their physiques, remained consistent. Bikini, in just over one single decade has changed drastically – and Ashley adapted accordingly, amazingly well.
5. Would we ever see a Bikini lady competing for as long as the men? I’ll keep this one pretty succinct. Dexter Jackson was competing – successfully – up until he was over 50 years old. Would a Bikini pro be able to do the same? Would they even be able to still be winning at 40? I’ll answer that. No, it doesn’t happen. Ever. Sorry. Bikini competition isn’t really a division for the long haul; names (ladies in their 20s mainly) rise to the top and hold it for two to three years at the Olympias. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Go to another Olympia just two years later and 90 percent of the ladies are completely different. Yet another reason just why Ashley K is the best Bikini pro of all time with the MOST pro wins of ANY IFBB pro. Bottom line – she’s still going, and winning. In her own words that she spoke every single day of her Olympia All-Star Tour (Romania, UK and Spain) in November 2021: “I’m just getting started, guys.”
‘Let’s go rock it!’
Excerpt from Ashley’s in-studio interview with MD’s “Buff Bombshell” host Lauren Lotter in the UK (Season 3, Episode 9, out on MD’s YouTube channel) whilst on her Olympia All-Star Tour (three countries in two weeks, and the tour bookended with another win in Romania and runner-up in Alicante, Spain at the Big Man Weekend).
Lauren: How does it feel making history by winning your 30th pro show, Ashley?
Ashley: I’m shocked! Because here’s the thing. When I first turned pro, I guess my ultimate goal was to win one show and I thought that would be the pinnacle – and maybe after a few years I could scoop up one show win and “maybe” qualify for the Olympia. My expectations were not that high at all, I guess; I just wanted to win just ONE pro show, one day. And in Romania, I just did, times 30!
Lauren: So you’ve now surpassed the likes of Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman and Dexter Jackson!
Ashley: (Cuts in) However! I will say! Apples and oranges guys, because I realize it’s a hundred times harder for a bodybuilder to do that than a Bikini competitor, so I have to give props where props are due for the gentleman, because a Bikini competitor can maintain a lot longer, just like I did in all 2021.
Lauren: I do agree, Ashley, but the only thing with Bikini is: the look changes, right?
Ashley: There is an ever-changing look, yes, or it becomes more subjective in that it can be “anybody’s game” kind of deal, so I guess when you factor that all in, but still, it is MUCH harder to prep for a bodybuilding show.
Lauren: How do you feel your competition preps have changed from when you started, to now?
Ashley: Back, a few years ago, it wasn’t like it is now. I feel like it was much more “bro-science” bodybuilder-type preps. It was more hardcore, like going for those myths of say, “bulking” in the off-season. So, when my off-season came, I thought “time to put on some fat” so I could actually gain muscle – and I soon realized that that is NOT how it goes, as we certainly know now. I guess we’re much more wise to that nowadays. But, back then it really was more that more old-school type bodybuilder type prep for Bikini, which doesn’t make any sense reflecting on it now. I guess back then when it started, there just wasn’t much knowledge or information back in the day, you know?
Lauren: Do you feel that nowadays the whole “bulking” approach for Bikini is completely out?
Ashley: (Laughs) Let’s face it, it’s just an excuse for you to eat exactly what you want. Fat doesn’t necessarily equal muscle. Although I do get we can’t be stage lean ALL year round, I realize that. But for me, I like to set an off-season limit of just 10 pounds over my stage weight. I think that’s pretty fair for most girls, although it can vary depending how tall the girl is too.
Lauren: So, Ashley, in Romania, we got to witness history seeing your 30th pro win. How cool is that?
Ashley: You know, what I said up there to the emcee after I won, what’s cool is that you’d think, “ahh, 30 wins, it’s like ‘whatever’” now, NO! It literally feels like my first win every single time, even if it’s say a smaller show than the Olympia or Arnold. It doesn’t matter and that feeling is still the same – and I never expect that either. I also never expect to go in and win, even if it is a smaller show and I think that’s why I have been able to go at this for so long competing in pro Bikini, because I don’t set that expectation for myself, because I feel when you expect that out of yourself and you then assume you’re going to win – and you don’t? That’s a disappointment, and that’s when you get discouraged. But if you go into it and you’re like “you know what, ‘hey’ I gave it my all, I’m really proud of my physique and I feel good about this, give it my all, enjoy every second of it and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day, if I win, then that’s the icing on the cake.” Because in Bikini, it can be anybody’s game on any given day, so I keep that mindset always and remain proud of my physique and tell myself each time, “So let’s go rock it!”
Guys, She Did It Again …
As stated in the opening paragraph of this feature, the article was to focus on her record 30th pro win. But, at time of writing, yep, she’s won, again! At the Musclecontest in her hometown of Las Vegas. So, yeah, scratch that “30th Pro Win” working title and replace it with “The Unstoppable One wins 31!”
Ashley’s 31 Show Wins
IFBB Powerhouse Classic
Toronto Pro Show (Canada)
Sheru Classic (India)
Arnold Classic (USA)
Arnold Classic Australia
New Zealand Pro Show
Toronto Pro Show (Canada)
IFBB Russia Pro (Russia)
Arnold Classic USA
Korea Grand Prix (South Korea)
Nordic Pro (Finland)
Took this year off (eating Snickers bars for breakfast, Ashley told us)
Denver Mile High
Vancouver Pro (Canada)
Battle in the Desert
Denver Mile High
Northern California Championship
World Klash Pro Bikini
Battle in the Desert
Pittsburgh Pro Show
California Night of Champions
Denver Mile High
Clash of the Titanz
Texas Pro Show
Romania Muscle Fest
Ashley Kaltwasser, who has the most pro wins of any IFBB pro, is a Team Hi-Tech athlete sponsored by Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals. For more information, visit hitechpharma.com