Pearl, the first feature film from Elsa Amiel, is about Léa, a high-level bodybuilder who is preparing to compete in the famous ‘Miss Heaven.’ Unfortunately, her ex-husband, Ben comes back into her life leaving her with a child that she abandoned at birth. Although the film is a mix between comedy-drama and sports biopic, it has the ability to challenge some of the pejorative stereotypes about women in the world of bodybuilding. Moreover, the actress who plays Léa Pearl is none other than professional bodybuilder Julia Föry.
From the discovery of bodybuilding to Arnold's Classic
29 years-old, Julia Föry displays the type of massive body that we rarely see. This Swiss girl, who is acting for the first time, discovered bodybuilding seven years ago. ‘The first time I went to a gym was because of an accident, I had broken my back,’ she says in an interview for French cinema company Allociné.
Very quickly, it was love at first sight between the gym and the young woman. Intrigued by the functioning of muscles and the human body in general, Julia Föry decided to do her first bodybuilding competition only two years later. With each competition her level improved, to the point that, in 2016, she participated and won the Arnold's Classic in her category.
Pearl, a film beyond the stereotypes
Today renowned in the world of bodybuilding, Julia Föry continues to train and prepare for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s prestigious competition. She does two sessions, or even sometimes three a day, for a total of about six hours of training which is necessary for her to sculpt her body to the best of its abilities. A body which regularly undergoes criticism, because of the stereotypes which surround the culture.
It was this that pushed her to make Elsa Amiel’s film. ‘Most of the time when there are movies or projects about women bodybuilders, it's pretty negative and it talks about things that we already know, but when I spoke with Elsa I knew that she wanted to do something different, something new about female bodybuilding,’ explained Julia Föry.
A role made for her
The director explained it herself very well, the stakes of this film and what it reveals about a world of which we know only the surface, even if it is a fictional film. ‘These huge bodies represent strength, power... These are not words that are immediately associated with women. Women are asked to be beautiful, feminine. Bodybuilding is not associated with what society considers to be traditional beauty. So of course they have to fight on two fronts.’
A fight which both Julia Föry and Léa Pearl have had to face. Because according to the female bodybuilder, femininity is not necessarily a question of muscles. ‘It's when I look like this, that I'm feminine. It's me, my identity, my muscles. I like being muscular and I like being a woman. In my personal case it's the ideal way to express my femininity’ says the woman who would like to be a mother one day.
Bodybuilder before becoming an actress
The film, which took several months of filming, was a real challenge for Julia Föry and the film crew. She had to balance her work as an actress and an athlete, which was not without its difficulties. In the end, a special schedule was set up so that Julia Föry could do her six hours of training on a daily basis. ‘We had organised the shooting according to the periods when she had to intensify her training. It was essential to respect her training,’ says the director. ‘Bodybuilding is her life. She couldn’t lose the months of training, of sacrifice that she had made before the shoot.’
Today Julia Föry continues to follow an intense training schedule and an impeccable diet. The bodybuilder will probably participate in the next Arnold's Classic with the aim of winning the competition for the second time.
Check out the video above for more from Julia!