Strong Is Sexy: 10 Female Athletes Who Break Traditional Standards of Beauty

Women are constantly at the crux of societal pressures to look and act a certain way. Female athletes, especially, are in the juxtaposed position of being both ridiculed and revered for their bodies and its abilities. Whether it be that they’re “too masculine” or don’t “play as well as a man” it seems that their talents are often overlooked. However, these badass female athletes are kicking these archaic notions of masculinity and inferiority aside, whether you like it or not.

1. Serena Williams

"She exudes confidence, she is woman" #siswimsuit make today a confident one.

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

How could we not put her first? Serena Williams has won 23 grand slams, setting a world record, and yet she still gets told that she looks “too muscular.” From the onslaught of sexism she received over the years, Williams paraded the trending #StrongIsBeautiful movement.

2. Amanda Bingson

Amanda Bingson is an Olympian USA Track & Field hammer thrower who recently made the cover of ESPN The Magazine‘s Body Issue. She  In her interview for ESPN, she said, “Generally when you look at athletes, you see their muscles and all that stuff; I don’t have any of that … I’m just dense. I think it’s important to show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.”

3. Nzinga Prescod

The appropriate side eye after this week's chaos. @imagista shoot from this summer, thanks @susannahbphotos! ❤️

A post shared by Nzingha Prescod (@nzinghap) on

Nzinga Prescod is a USA Olympian fencer. Not only does she show that yes, black girls fence, but fencing is also a sport that is often overlooked for its incredible strength and agility.  You go girl.

4. Elena Delle Donne

Delle Donne is a WNBA player for the Washington Mystics that spent years learning how to accept ridicule over her height. At 6’5, she’s not your average woman, but her impressive height is also what aided in her incredible basketball abilities and overall #badassness.

5. Ronda Rousey

#FearTheReturn #dec30 #rouseyvsnunes #ufc207 pic by @ewillphoto

A post shared by rondarousey (@rondarousey) on

Ronda Rousey is an American mixed martial artist and the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo. Rousey has been the victim of a lot of body shaming calling her “fat” or “too masculine”. One “afraid to show her big arms”, Rousey now flaunts her muscles as an effort to show women that strong is beautiful.

6. Claressa Shields

Claressa Shields is the first American boxer, male or female, to win an Olympic title twice in a row. Shields owns her speed, power, and agility in every move she makes, marking herself as another strong woman who owns her muscles and curves, is badass, and knows it.

7. Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland is the first black principal at the American Ballet Theatre and has raised awareness about race and body shaming in ballet. Black, curvy, and muscular, Copeland is tearing down the notion that ballerinas are supposed to have slender, lithe bodies.

8. Adeline Gray

Adeline Gray is a wrestling world champion.  Growing up with what she refers to as a ” teenage boy’s body,” a straight body with no hips or curves, it was hard for her to accept herself as beautiful. However, as she began wrestling and got stronger, she came to appreciate her body for what it enables her to do. Adeline is living proof that you don’t have to be a “macho man” to wrestle.

9. Allyssa Seely

Allysa Seelly is a paratriathlete world champion. Seely goes to show that you don’t need two legs to be an absolute badass. In an interview with ESPN, Seely said she wants to change the way society looks at disabled people or someone with a prosthetic, away from someone who is, “incapable and can’t take care of themselves,” as she proves this herself.

10. Courtney Conlogue


Courtney Conlogue is the top ranked surfer in the world and there’s a reason we can’t get enough of her. In an interview with ESPN, Conlogue said, “there was a long time when I was a little self-conscious because I was an athlete…I was super bulky and built up–I didn’t look like your basic model. But, I learned to embrace who I am and what I look like as an athlete. Being a strong woman and being a strong athlete in the water is a good thing.”



By Bella Engelhard