Alana Shipp onstage after winning third place in the Ms. Physique title in Hamburg, Germany (Courtesy Alana Shipp)

Alana Shipp (left) onstage after winning third place in the Ms. Physique title in Hamburg, Germany (Courtesy Alana Shipp)

It can be tough to appreciate the look of the bodybuilder. All that muscle and sinew glistening under a coat of slick oil, bulging in almost unexpected places. It’s one thing to admire Michele Obama’s sculpted biceps, sleekly emerging from her sleeveless shifts and sweaters, or Madonna’s athletic 50-something-year-old body prancing onstage, and quite another to truly venerate the massive muscles of carefully honed bodybuilders.

But commend we must, given that the sculpted curves and manifest strength of Israel’s winner of third place in the recent Ms. Physique title at the NAC Championships in Hamburg, Germany, belong to Alana Shipp, a temporary Jerusalem resident and former US marine.

It’s just a different kind of aesthetic, said Lia Finkelberg Elbaz, who, with her husband, Meny Elbaz, trained Shipp at their Jerusalem boutique gym, Sky Gym.

“There are people who love the look and people who hate it,” she said. “The responses are strong about bodybuilders, but you have to respect it. For us, it’s an art; it’s sculpting your body, carving it, and while maybe the look is more expected in men, people are harder on women, they judge them for it.”

Shipp, who was born in Barbados, grew up in New York and has been living in Jerusalem with her family for the last five years while her husband is working at the US Consulate, was fairly stunned by her bodybuilding success.

“I never believed I would stand on a platform winning any competition as an athlete, and especially not bodybuilding,” wrote Shipp in an email following last weekend’s competition. “I am so overwhelmed by the success I’ve achieved in bodybuilding in such a short amount of time.”

It’s true that the 30-year-old Shipp is an unlikely bodybuilder. She began working out about a year and a half ago, aiming to lose some weight gained during her two pregnancies and hoping to get into better shape for an upcoming Marine Corps ball. After several starts and stops, she began working out with Elbaz, who suggested training her for a bodybuilding competition in the fitness category.

“We saw that she has a very muscular body and a very strong willpower,” said Finkelberg Elbaz. “She was spartan in doing what we told her, not arguing, really dedicated to what she was doing, and that’s something that’s necessary to go into competition.”

Last May, Shipp won the Miss Israel Fitness title. But for now, said Shipp, who’s still vacationing in Germany with her family, she’s planning on taking a rest after three months of intense training and dieting, but plans on competing again soon.