8-time IFBB Olympian and Hall of Famer Lee Haney
*Photo courtesy of Front Page Photography
"TotaLee Awesome" is the phrase that best describes the magnitude of Lee Haney. Lee Haney is Mr. Olympia! Having captured bodybuilding’s most coveted prize for eight consecutive contests, he was the youngest at age 24 to win the title and earn himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. He scored two perfect scores in 1986, the first in the sport!
Lee has authored two exercise books — Total Lee Awesome and Ultimate Bodybuilding. He has an extensive and impressive list of awards and recognitions — awards from the United States Sports Academy, the International Federation of Bodybuilders, Bellsouth and Coca Cola (Atlanta) Centennial Award (for his work with Haney’s Harvest House) and the prestigious award as Chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (during the Clinton Administration). He has most recently received a Lifetime Achievement award from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for his contributions to society as a whole.
Revered among his peers in the fitness and sport arena, Lee has trained and worked with such athletes as Evander Holyfield, Shawn Bradley, Gary Sheffield and Shannon Sharpe, giving him the reputation of “trainer of champions.”
Lee’s latest endeavors include the introduction of his very own nutritional supplement line, “Lee Haney’s Nutritional Support System.” He also holds the title of Director of Bodybuilding Sciences for the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), hosts a top rated television show airing on Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) station – “TotaLee Fit” (a health and fitness program); and has a recently published book (autobiography of his life) called “Beyond the Pump: A Personal Testimony.”
Lee earned an undergraduate degree in Youth Counseling from Spartanburg Methodist College. He is married to his second-grade sweetheart, Shirley Draper Haney, and they have two children – Joshua and Olympia Haney.
In 1992, Lee and his wife began a non-profit organization called Haney’s Harvest House. The Harvest House serves as a year-round mentoring program for young men; its mission is to help save a generation at risk by teaching character, respect for society and love for oneself.
Lee has been esteemed throughout the world of fitness and sport, but most importantly, he is a man of God –witnessing of God’s power. Lee shares his personal testimony at churches across the United States. Says Lee, "Out of all the things I’ve achieved, this by far is the greatest reward."
IFBBPRO.com: When and where were you born?
Lee: I was born on November 11, 1959 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA.
What is your educational background?
I graduated from Broome High School. I then went on to graduate from Spartanburg Methodist College. Both educational institutions are located in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
What is your athletic background?
I played high school football and competed in track and field.
LEE HANEY, Mr. Olympia 1984
*Photo courtesy of Weider Publications
How did you get involved in weight training and competitive bodybuilding?
As a youngster, I fantasized about being Hercules and Samson. When I was 12 years old, my parents bought me a set of weights. At 16, I competed in my first contest. Even though I didn’t place, I was told by several judges that I had great potential. I had fallen in love with the sport of bodybuilding.
Were your parents supportive of your bodybuilding aspirations?
My parents were always supportive of my dream to become a competitive bodybuilder although they didn’t understand how a person could earn a living showing off their muscles. They gave me the freedom to choose for myself what I wanted to be. I think they were as surprised as I when I became a professional bodybuilder and was able to make a living doing what I liked.
Before we get into the specifics of your competitive history, who were your mentors, heroes, individuals you looked up to or people who supported you during your bodybuilding career?
Over the years, I’ve had many mentors in the sport of bodybuilding. There was something about all of them that was unique and special. I can name three that had a direct impact on my success — Robby Robinson (for his physique); Arnold Schwarzenegger (for his charisma and business savvy); and Tom Platz (for his presence on and off the stage). As far as heroes are concerned, I’d have to mention two very special people who played a major role in my career — Jim Manion and Joe Weider. Jim was there guiding me, almost from day one. He helped me chose the right path to the pro ranks and remains a very good friend. Joe Weider gave me the opportunity to live my dream. When I first moved to California to pursue my bodybuilding goals, Joe would spend countless hours helping me work on my poses. Joe also made sure that I made sound decisions, both career-wise and in life.
Do you remember your first bodybuilding contest?
Yes, it was the 1978 AAU Teen Mr. Coastal USA. I placed 4th. This was actually my third bodybuilding contest. I thought I could have placed higher but the posing presentations given by the guys ahead of me were more polished. However, 4th place did motivate me to work harder.
Do you remember how you felt winning your first contest?
That was the 1979 AAU Teen Mr. America. I won the Tall Class and the Overall … a dream come true. Suddenly, I found myself the best teen bodybuilder in the USA. This victory really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what the future might hold in store for me. It was also especially sweet for another reason … I defeated the winner of the 1978 AAU Teen Mr. Coastal USA at which I’d placed 4th.
LEE HANEY, Mr. Olympia 1985
*Photo courtesy of Weider Publications
Over a 14-year period [1978-1991], you competed every year accept 1981. Why?
I had to have surgery on my left wrist. I developed what is known as a Ganglion Cyst. It was also the same year that I opened my first fitness center.
Why did you switch to the NPC in 1982?
In 1982, there was a lot of confusion over the differences between the AAU and the newly formed NPC (National Physique Committee); specifically, over which organization would grant a pro card. I wanted to make sure I was with the right bodybuilding organization. After doing some research, and after speaking with the new NPC president, Mr. Jim Manion, I made the decision to join the NPC. I’m glad I did.
What were your thoughts on winning your class and the overall at the NPC Junior Nationals and then, at the NPC Nationals in ‘82?
Winning the Heavyweight and Overall at the NPC Junior Nationals and also, the Heavyweight and Overall at the NPC Nationals, introduced me to the bodybuilding world in the biggest way possible. These wins propelled the name "Lee Haney" to the top of the amateur ranks in the USA. I felt as though my moment had finally arrived. To be chosen as the best physique in America was quite an achievement and I was elated yet humbled by the experience.
Why did you compete in the World Championships in ‘82 [Brugge, Belgium] instead of taking an IFBB pro card?
As an amateur athlete competing in the IFBB at that time, you could only turn pro through the World Championships. Apart from this, I wanted the experience of standing onstage with the best physiques in the world. I had the time of my life. I had a chance to battle the likes of Gunnar Rosbo and Rolf Moeller [2nd and 3rd respectively in the over 90Kg Heavyweight class].
What are your thoughts on winning the Heavyweight title at the 1982 Worlds? [note: there was no overall from 1976-1995]
To win in any category at this event, the most prestigious amateur bodybuilding contest in the world, meant that you had been judged among the most elite bodybuilders in the world. I recall standing onstage in complete awe; thinking of where I had come from and thanking God for the privilege of just being there.
LEE HANEY, Mr. Olympia 1986
*Photo courtesy of Weider Publications
What was it like winning your first IFBB pro show in 1983? [Grand Prix Las Vegas]
Winning my first professional show so soon after winning the amateur Worlds was very encouraging. I had no doubt made a big impact in the world of amateur bodybuilding. But, the question was, could I do the same in the professional ranks. This was especially true as I found myself standing onstage with legends like John Terilli, Albert Beckles, Greg DeFerro, Bob Birdsong, Tony Pearson, Bill Grant, Mohamed Makkawy, Johnny Fuller and Tim Belknap. After winning the ‘83 Grand Prix in Vegas, I felt I was on my way.
How important to you was winning the 1983 Night of Champions?
This win was very special to me for two reasons. First, it took place a week after Shirley and I were married. Second, the IFBB’s "Night of Champions" was extremely popular; all the bodybuilding legends that I had watched compete over the years had won the NOC.
You placed 3rd in the 1983 Mr. Olympia, behind Samir Bannout and Mohamed Makkawy. How did you feel about your first Olympia?
I was a bit disappointed at not having won. Nonetheless, I was encouraged by my 3rd-place finish. I was also given some valuable tips by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the after-party, which had a big impact on my winning the following year. Arnold said that my physique was very good. However, my posing presentation needed polishing. A few weeks later, he introduced me to his ballet coach. From that point on, I made sure my posing was well-crafted, especially when competing against such legends like Bannout and Makkawy. The ‘83 Olympia was definitely an eye-opener for me and a growth period.
LEE HANEY, Mr. Olympia 1987
*Photo courtesy of Weider Publications
In 1984, you won your first of eight Mr. Olympia contests, beating out Bannout (6th) and Makkawy (2nd).
I was totally blown away by the fact that I had arrived so soon at the pinnacle of our sport. To defeat the same legends I had read about in Muscle & Fitness and FLEX magazines was a miracle. To win the greatest bodybuilding title in the world, on my second attempt, was incredible. As I stood onstage, having my hands raised in victory, I knelt down to give thanks to God for answering a prayer that I had prayed when I was 17 years old. It went like this, "Lord, if you see fit to make me the best at this sport that I love so much, I’ll go before the world and give you all the praise and glory for it." This is the reason why I try to show love to all of my fans around the world by using my gift of bodybuilding to impact the lives of people everywhere. It’s amazing what God can do with a prayer prayed earnestly.
From ‘84 to ‘88, you dominated the Olympia. In ‘89, many said you fought off a tough challenge from Lee Labrada and Vince Taylor. What are your thoughts on this?
I’ve never taken any of my competition for granted. I felt that either of these champions could dethrone me on any given day. However, I also felt that my combination of height, symmetry, size and presentation was enough to keep me ahead. It did, although it was perhaps a little too close for comfort at times.
The 1990 Mr. O appeared even tougher, as you were behind after the first two rounds, rallying at the posing and posedown and narrowly defeating challengers Lee Labrada and Shawn Ray. Your thoughts on this?
Being on top for so long and trying to present a better package from year to year is a hard thing to do. The science of training and nutrition is forever evolving and so was the level of competition. Labrada and Ray were awesome competitors and were hungry for my title. However, I still maintained that the combination of size, symmetry and presentation would always win. There hasn’t been anyone that could match the size and stage presence as well as Arnold did. I felt I had, in some way, accomplished that while also having a family at the same time.
LEE HANEY, Mr. Olympia 1988
*Photo courtesy of Weider Publications
You beat Dorian Yates in 1991 to break Arnold’s record and capture your 8th Sandow. How did this feel?
Prior to the ‘91 Olympia, there had been a lot of talk about this monstrous guy from Great Britain named Dorian Yates who possessed size and height. I used this as a catalyst to take my physique to new heights. My training and nutritional approach was re-evaluated time and time again for any flaws or miscalculations. I knew that Dorian was different that any other competitor whom I had faced in the past. He had size, height and good symmetry.
You retired after this. Why?
There is such a thing as staying too long. I felt it was time to market my success in other areas of business.
How did you handle your retirement from competitive bodybuilding?
I immediately got busy with the rest of my life; setting new goals and establishing another career. I became a motivational speaker, operated four fitness centers, hosted my own exercise show on ESPN, Sports South and Trinity Broadcast Network. I also became a trainer to elite pro athletes such as Evander Holyfield, Gary Sheffield and Shannon Sharpe, to name a few.
In 1992, you started Harvest House. Why, and what were your goals?
I had a desire to create a place where other "men of substance" could mentor young men. There was such a void in minority communities, particularly in single-parent homes without a father figure. The goal was to teach young men life skill principals that would take them into adulthood.
How has Harvest House progressed over these past 16 years?
Harvest House and its mentoring programs have set the standard for other similar programs and is a model for like-minded organizations the world over.
LEE HANEY, Mr. Olympia 1989
*Photo courtesy of Weider Publications
I know you’ve had great interest from your fans around the world in your post-bodybuilding career and the great work you and your wife Shirley do at Harvest House. Can you expand on this?
The Harvest House was established in 1992 by me and my wife Shirley. I had grown up as a country boy and appreciated the values it had instilled within me as a youngster. Hard work, fresh air, respect for your neighbor and yourself, and the love of nature. That is what I feel helped mold me in my early years. I wanted to create a similar environment for other young people … especially for young boys and with the goal of mentoring young men that may have absent fathers, which we know is a big issue in our society. The Harvest House program first began on a 40-acre ranch that Shirley and I purchased in ‘92. It has since then evolved into a mentoring program that can be established by other organizations anywhere it’s needed. The mentoring extension of the Harvest House program is called "Modern Day Knights". The program consists of three "rights of passage" (Page: ages 6-12; Squire: ages 12-16; and Knight: age 17) which mentors boys from age 6-17 years old. The program teaches the principles of authentic manhood. It’s exactly what the world needs more of.
Do you have a life motto or "words to live by"?
What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.
A philosophy of life?
Convenience is made through inconvenience. Work hard, don’t waste life … and treat people the way you want to be treated.
What role if any does religion play in your life?
I don’t have a religion. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. He was always inclusive of all people while teaching the principles of Love and Compassion.
LEE HANEY, Mr. Olympia 1990
*Photo courtesy of Weider Publications
What are your short-term goals?
I always practice living one day at a time and enjoying it to the best of my abilities. My present goal is to find ways to stay in touch with bodybuilding fans around the world. This is why I created TotaLee Fit Radio (at www.totaleefitradio.com and www.leehaney.com). I can continue to share not only training and nutrition tips but also life experiences in such areas as how to have a healthy marriage, child-rearing, how to be wise with your finances, to name a few.
To continue to be a good representative of the sport of bodybuilding and fitness and a positive role model for the younger generation of bodybuilders and youth of the world.
By the way, why did you choose to compete in the IFBB instead of in other organizations?
That’s simple — there’s no better bodybuilding organization in the world. All of my heroes were a part of the IFBB.
In October 2008, the bodybuilding world was shocked and deeply saddened with the news of the passing of Ben Weider. Thousands of tributes poured in from around the world. What would be your tribute to Ben?
Ben Weider was one of the greatest men I’ve had the honor of meeting and getting to know. His zeal and love for the betterment of the sport of bodybuilding goes without saying. When I think of the magnitude of what he has accomplished, it’s nothing short of incredible. I have, on many occasions, called upon Ben for help and he was always willing to go out of his way. As a matter of fact, he granted me one last favor three weeks prior to his death. In my request, I told him of my desire to reach bodybuilding fans around the world with TotaLeeFitRadio.com. I told him I wanted to not only share training and nutritional information, but also valuable lifeskill discussions relating to family and moral values. With no hesitation, he gave me his blessing and assured me that he would do all that was in his power to make it happen. And here we are. That’s the Ben Weider I’ll always remember and admire. He was a man of vision.
LEE HANEY, Mr. Olympia 1991
*Photo courtesy of AMI
From a constructive criticism point of view, what are your thoughts on men’s bodybuilding - past, present and future?
I think we’re starting to lose the balance and symmetry that made our sport more appealing to the general public. I feel that size is only one part of the formula; not the "be all and end all". Symmetry, proportion, balance, and aesthetics are just as important to the overall package.
You appeared on the cover of over 25 bodybuilding magazines throughout the ’80s and ’90’s, most notably, Muscle & Fitness and FLEX. Do you have a favorite cover shot?
I really liked the February ‘85 cover of Muscle & Fitness; I’d won my first Sandow that previous September at the Felt Forum in New York, in front of record crowd of 5,000. I also liked the April ‘88 and January ‘89 covers of FLEX.
Here’s a few quickies …
What’s your favorite food(s)?"
Sweet Potato. This is why I have my own protein powder that includes a sweet potato base.
[LWhat is your least favorite food(s)?
Junk foods high in fats.
What types of movies do your like?
Action movies without blood everywhere. Favorite(s)? Excalibur, Terminator, Lord of the Rings, Iron Man and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
What types of music do you like?
Jazz, Country, Light Rock. Earth, Wind and Fire.
Do you have a hobby or hobbies?
I enjoy my life so much that I count it as a hobby.
What do you do in your leisure time?
I like taking my wife to the movies and walking in the park.
Do you have any pet peeves?
Can’t flex it, don’t carry it. In other words, don’t allow yourself to get out of shape. Always stay within striking distance of competing. That was my pet peeve year-round when I competed.
Is there something about you that people don’t know and that you’d like to share with your fans worldwide?
Most of my fans probably don’t know that I do a lot of speaking at churches around the country. I love sharing what God has done in my life and how He’s able to do things in the lives of others too.
*Photo courtesy of Mike Neavaux
On your website, LeeHaney.com, you feature a Fitness Lifestyle Challenge Kit and Competitive Mass Gain Kit. Can you explain what these are?
The Fitness Lifestyle Challenge Kit is part of my product line that was created to give people the tools to get back into shape. It includes a 7-day systemic cleansing and detox program (created for cleansing the liver, kidney, blood stream, and colon). Also, a food-base multivitamin, Fat Metabolism Enhancer, meal support powder (whey, egg soy), sweet potato powder and green tea blend. I wanted to make it easy for the average person to follow an eating and exercise program that included their supplement needs. This was important because so many people have none to little understanding on how to make lifestyle health changes. Those ordering my products will also receive a free total body circuit training DVD.
The Competitive Mass Gain series was created for the hardcore bodybuilder. The kit includes an advanced protein powder for putting on mass, a multivitamin packet, a Nitro Enhancer to promote natural growth, and a free hardcore instructional DVD.
Can you summarize your training philosophy?
My philosophy for training is: stimulate not annihilate, convenience is made through inconvenience, and of course, what you are is Gods gift to you; what you make of yourself is your gift to God.
How would you summarize your outlook on life?
I’ve always been mindful to breathe as I make my way through life’s journey and have tried to teach others within our sport, and outside our sport, to do likewise. Enjoy your life and don’t hold your breath. Be sure to exhale along the way and savor the moments while giving thanks to God Almighty.
Lee, it’s been a real pleasure interviewing you for IFBBPRO.com. Best of luck in all your current and future endeavours.
The pleasure has been all mine … thank you very much for this opportunity to reach out to my fans and supporters as well as to bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts around the world. Take care and God bless.
LEE HANEY, with his wife Shirley, son Jushua and daugher Olympia
*Photo provided by Lee Haney
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IFBBPRO.com is pleased to provide the following information
on Lee’s TOTALEE FIT RADIO Internet show and LEEHANEY.com website.
Lee Haney, 8-time Mr. Olympia and past Chairman of the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and Sports launches TotaLee Fit Internet Radio.
TotaLee Fit Internet Radio was created to address exercise and nutritional concerns for people in search of a healthier lifestyle. TotaLee Fit Internet Radio is a spin off of Lee’s international television fitness show, TotaLee Fit, which airs weekly on the Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN). The show addresses exercise, nutrition and lifeskill topics for viewers around the world.
LEE HANEY, past Chairman of the President’s Council
on Physical Fitness and Sports
*Photo courtesy of President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
The concept of TotaLee Fit Internet Radio came about in response to the multitude of people desiring proven information from experts in the field of exercise and nutrition and what better way to spread the message than through Internet radio.
TotaLee Fit Internet Radio’s founder, Lee Haney, is excited about the opportunity available through Internet radio. This was important to Lee due to the fact that he had traveled throughout the USA and internationally hosting exercise and nutritional seminars within the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB), which comprises more than 180 countries, and the National Physique Committee (NPC) of the USA. Not to mention, the countless fitness articles written by the fitness publications, Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines, Muscular Development, Iron Man, and Muscle Mag, which connects nationally and internationally with thousands of readers. TotaLee Fit Internet Radio will allow Lee and his host of fitness advisors to continue to help people around the world in pursuing their fitness goals.
Another tremendous plus to TotaLee Fit Internet Radio is Lee’s association with one of entertainment’s greatest radio and TV personalities, Mr. Steve Harvey. While overseeing Mr. Harvey’s personal fitness program, Lee was given the opportunity to share fitness and exercise guidance to the 8.5 million listeners that are a part of the Steve Harvey’s Morning Show. Lee and Steve Harvey have now teamed up to get America in better shape through lifestyle changes. TotaLee Fit Internet Radio will be linked to Steve Harvey’s website.
With all of the past and present publicity available to Lee as an icon in exercise and fitness, TotaLee Fit Internet Radio is sure to be a hit with those desiring the best in exercise and fitness information here in the USA and around the world.
TotaLee Fit Internet Radio was launched in the fall of 2008. Listeners will be able to listen online at: www.TotaLeeFitRadio.com, www.leehaney.com or listeners may access the Internet broadcast at: www.steveharvey.com (Steve Harvey’s Health Club link). The radio broadcast is scheduled for Monday’s and Thursday’s at 10:00 am to 11:00 am (subject to change).
TotaLee Fit Internet Radio is in the process of seeking sponsors that would like to be associated with the highest of quality in Internet radio.
For sponsorship opportunities, contact Lee Haney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 770-450-8844.
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