Q&A with Katie Arnoldi
Pink, Katie Arnoldiís controversial novel about the world of womenís
bodybuilding, came out in 2001. Joan Didion called it a ďdazzling first
novelĒ but unsurprisingly it upset a lot of people in the sport who
thought it portrayed female bodybuilders in a negative light. New Line
Cinema optioned the novel and originally planned to make a movie
directed by Fight Club director David Fincher. After that idea came to
nothing, another producer, Ted Field, bought the rights and Arnoldi
wrote a screenplay. But the producers have not yet found a solution to
the biggest challenge involved in the project Ė finding someone who can
play Aurora Johnson, the aspiring female bodybuilder who is the lead
character. As the novel is re-issued this month, we talked to Arnoldi
about the movie, muscle chick lit and the Mecca in the eighties.
Do you still follow womenís
Not really, I still
train at Goldís Venice, so I do from a distance. But I canít talk about
individual competitors at this point, because after Chemical Pink came
out, people were mad! Eventually people accepted it, but when it first
came out people mad as hell about that book! I didnít go to Goldís for
two years. But the only reason they were mad is because I was talking
about what was really going on in the sport. Nobody said it was
inaccurate, because I was really careful with my research. I had two
separate guys that I met with weekly that had put multiple women
through shows and done their supplements. I went through everything
with them like what drugs and how many ccís because I didnít want
anybody to question the accuracy of it - and no one did. The
upset was just that I talked. This was before steroids in sports became
such a big issue. People didnít know about it, especially women and
steroids in sport.
How did people react?
wasnít a lot of direct confrontation but there was a lot of gossip and
whispering behind my back. Chemical Pink is a literary novel that
happens to be set in the world of womenís bodybuilding. Itís about
obsession and control Ė those are the themes that are interesting to
me. I set it in this world because itís a fascinating world and
something I knew a little about. But all the characters are fictitious.
There were people that thought Aurora was a specific person and she
When do you first get
involved in the bodybuilding scene in Venice?
started training at Goldís in the early eighties. I went to Goldís and
hired Kay Baxter to train me Ė this might have been like Ď83. She was
wonderful. Back then I didnít realize how these girls got so big and
hard - I really wasnít thinking about it. I really liked to train, I
liked the gym, and I couldnít believe the results I was getting from
lifting weights, so I was just intoxicated by the whole thing. Kay put
me on a pretty amazing diet but I didnít know about the drugs until
What did you like about it?
is something exhilarating about learning your body and controlling your
body. You decide you want to shape your body a certain way and through
training and diet you can do that. That is really empowering. It feels
great. But getting ready for contests is not a very healthy thing. I
love the shredded look Ė I think it looks great. But it isnít very
healthy.When did you
Iíd always been a fiction writer
but Iíd never had much luck selling anything. I had a difficult second
pregnancy and had to lie in bed for six months. I was lying in bed
thinking, ĎForget it! When I get up, Iím never going to write again and
Iím going to be a competitive bodybuilder!í My daughter was born in
July 1990 and I won the Southern California in í92. It was about
regaining control of my body. After that contest, I realized it wasnít
a road I wanted to go down but from that experience came Chemical Pink.
Venice like in those days?
It was amazing - back
then Goldís really was the Mecca. The sport has got more popular so
there are lots of great gyms all over America now, but there was a time
when people would save up money to come out to Venice. In the late
eighties, I knew this one girl Ė I wonít say her name but she was
really amazingly beautiful and was on a lot of covers in the early days
of womenís bodybuilding. Back then, the drugs were all new and her
boyfriend was experimenting with her. He would feed her thyroid Ė he
would take her up to the point where she was shaking and then back her
off a little bit. She looked great for a couple of years and then her
metabolism completely crashed - just like May in Chemical Pink - and
she blew up and could never lose the weight again. I saw several
examples of that because nobody knew what the drugs would do to the
girls. Which female
pros hung out at Goldís in those days?
Knight was there all the time. Janice Ragain Ė she was lovely.
occasionally trained at Goldís but she was in the Valley more. Denise
Yeah, I remember her training and
being photographed a lot, but I didnít know her!Whatís the
latest on the movie?
Itís been such a
rollercoaster. I canít believe itís taken so long. Ted Field bought it
from New Line and they went through a bunch of actresses like Jessica
Biel but nobody wanted to do it. A few years ago I met with Patricia
Arquette, who started training and went on a diet - she was pretty
great actually. She did it for a couple months and then the funding
felt through and she took another job and things moved on. Do you think
she had potential as a bodybuilder?
think she could have been good but it would have taken a while!So what now?
latest is that they want to find a real girl to do it Ė which is what I
wanted all along Ė and have Charles be the big name actor. There was
some talk of doing a reality show like ďIn search of AuroraĒ - a kind
of a documentary of the casting of this film but do it as a reality TV
show - but I havenít heard anything more about that. I think it would
be fantastic to find a bodybuilding girl who can act - faking the
muscle on this thing would have broken my heart. In the script I
intentionally pulled her way back so sheís a beginner so she doesnít
have a lot of mature muscle on her. Sheís beautiful and muscular but
sheís not huge, which makes it a lot easier to cast.But do you
think many female bodybuilders would audition for it? A lot of people
think Chemical Pink portrays the sport in a bad light.
my opinion, I wasnít portraying it in a good light or a bad light. I
was just showing it. This is what I saw going on. I didnít sugar coat
it, I just wrote the truth. But I really donít feel negative about the
sport. There are good and bad things about it, but that is true of any
professional sport. The novel is more about the relationship with
Charles and the place he is leading Aurora. Itís about his obsession
about experimenting on her. Itís not the sport, itís the relationship
between the two characters. If Iím judging anything, itís obsessive,
controlling men that try to take over womenís lives.
Arnoldiís website is www.katiearnoldi.com
you'd like to chat about Katie or Chemical
Last updated: Oct. 9, 2008 @ 9:25 a.m. PT