Robynn Europe - Skinbyrd Turned Bodybuilder
In the summer of 2001 I was sitting on a couch at ABC No Rio minding my own business when an angry black skinbyrd came charging down the stairs. “Who the fuck is Beverly?” she asked. Terrified, I raised my hand. She demanded I show her the swallows tattooed on my chest. I nervously complied. Since I’d moved to New York, I’d gotten a lot of attention from skins and punks because of those birds something I hadn’t been prepared for when the meth head tattooist in Missouri applied them. I was sure she was going to call me out for being a poser. Instead, she sighed grumpily and said, “Fuck, Tucker was right. Yours are better than mine.”
Then she smiled and introduced herself. It was one hell of an introduction. Then again, Robynn Europe is one hell of a lady. I would see her around now and then at punk and hardcore shows, and then again when we both gravitated to the thrash and metal scenes (aka the punk rock retirement plan). She was always loud, brash, funny, and tough, but nothing prepared me for the photos I saw of her on the internet after not seeing her for a couple of years.
That force that had intimidated me so when I was a wee little college teen had been harnessed and transformed into something entirely unexpected from an Oberlin College studio art major. Her new passion? Competitive bodybuilding.
VICE: Have you always been straight edge? I think you were probably the only straight edge skinbyrd I ever met.
Robynn Europe: Yup. As lame as it sounds, I've never had a drink, a smoke, or even harmless shit like weed... nothing. Well, once when I was four, my grandfather—may he rest in peace—was watching the Mets game on the stoop. We lived in Bed-Stuy then, and that was the thing to do. Anyway, he was kinda drunk, and I asked for a sip of his beer and he gave me the entire rest of the can. I proceeded to do a whole bunch of totally not cool stuff, including locking myself in the bathroom and getting my grandmother's orange lipstick EVERYWHERE. I got a spanking for that. WASTED TODDLER!
Growing up in Coney Island in Brooklyn, who were some of your favorite punk and hardcore bands in the scene?
Here’s basically everything I listened to until I stopped listening to punk rock altogether and traded it in for metal and hardcore: LES Stitches, Black Flag, Spider Cunts, Murphy's Law, Deviate, Zombie Vandals, The Stand, Empty Set, Bouncing Souls (fuck you, don't judge me), Crass, Aus Rotten, Doom, Conflict, the Truants, Cocksparrer... and probably a bunch of other stuff I can't call to mind right now. Give me a few days in my leopard print jeans and we'll see what I can summon up.
Have you met anyone else in the bodybuilding field who came up from the punk scene? Any NYHC dudes? They seem like they like to work out.
OH MAN, there was this dude with a giant butt, mascara, a beret, and (when not wearing the beret) the craziest Mohawk ever, and his name was Stuart Bernstein. I wasn't in love with that guy growing up—I mean, I was scared of him because he was way bigger than the rest of us and would get pretty wild in the circle pit—but when I got into bodybuilding and discovered he was a competitive bodybuilder too, we made out a few times. He still had the Mohawk, the beret, the mascara, the tattoos, the bleached jeans... he looked like he did in high school, only jacked and 30. Oh, also, Elaine from the Devotchkas. She was one of the primary reasons I was certain I could do this without losing myself in it. She's actually still pretty awe-inspiring.
As far as NYHC dudes... uh, not really. Dudes never liked me growing up, and frankly they still don't. So if I see anyone who EVER spoke to me, it's rare. I guess Dennis Infiltrator became a personal trainer? That's all I got.
Are tattoos frowned upon in the competitive world?
Meh, I'm black. Once I put on my three layers of spray tan, no one can see my tattoos anyway. It's probably not going to help anything if your tattoos obscure the way your body looks, but... like I said: black.
In your street clothes you look totally different. It's a pretty amazing transformation from chucks and a Motorhead tee to glammed and greased up in that sparkly bikini. What superficial preparations do you have to go through to be stage-ready?
Oh freaking man. I get a weave that goes down to the middle of my back, I have to wear three layers of wacky stage makeup that makes my body three shades darker than it usually is, I have to get a french manicure and pedicure... did I mention the three layers of spray tan? Do you know how weird it is to be a dark brown lady walking into a tanning salon? I wear an obscene amount of bra padding (because most of the girls have implants, and I have B-cups at best), five-inch clear heels, I glue my flying-V sparkly bikini to my ass.
Hey you know what's funny? If the tan gets wet, since it’s super temporary, it will streak, so if you have to pee AFTER you get spray tanned, there's a lot of funny maneuvering that goes on. I mean, one drip down your leg or splash from the toilet and everybody knows you are disgusting AND you fucked up.
The rankings in the competitions seem so subjective. Are you ever like, “Please, that bitch's glutes had nothing on mine?”
Always. No one's glutes have anything on mine. Fuck ‘em.
Does your body/bodybuilding intimidate or attract prospective suitors?
Dudes generally say it's "too much," which is great because I usually think these scrawny, jeggings-wearing, womanly, gimpy assholes are not enough. I WANT MEN, not boys in women's clothing.
Are you attracted to anyone in your field?
Fuck no. I try to stay as far away from sculpted brows and chest waxing as possible. Also, in my experience, bodybuilding males are as self-conscious as I am, which I don't need at all. If we're naked and you ask me if you look fat, it's a wrap. I'm putting on my Motorhead shirt and me and these glutes are doing walking lunges out the door.
Are any of your old Brooklyn punk buddies shocked by what you do now?
Yeah. Doug Wentz, the dreamiest boy I knew growing up, said "you used to be a punk" recently. Doug, hilariously, was pursuing a modeling career for a while though, so uh... you know, whatever. No one else cares.
Let's talk nails. When did you get into these crazy manicures? Does it help with your competition look or mess with your training abilities?
Yo, I am cheap as hell. I can not bring myself to pay some chick 50 bucks to put a bunch of flowers and rhinestones and hearts and glitter on my nails just so I can go to work and chip everything off racking weights. So it started with frugality and has morphed into an obsessive thing where I do my nails every three days and have probably 100 bottles of polish and 200 dollars in Swarovski crystals and pearls in my house right now. It doesn't help with competing at all, but I will say this: a lot of times women who bodybuild get labeled manly, but nothing says feminine like a Hello Kitty manicure with pink bows and shit attached to your nails. I don't even like Hello Kitty. That manicure happened because I COULD.
What are you favorite workout tunes?
Gucci Mane, Wacka Flocka, Ludacris, and Rick Ross. Exclusively. Booty rap forever.
You said you have a crush on 1993 Varg Vikernes, but you're "not dating any more white dudes that secretly don't like black people. I'll take Fenriz." Think he'd be down?
No, but you should see this guy I'm dating right now. He looks like Glenn Danzig, Andrew WK, and Rollins had a baby. That's close enough, right? He's foxy, he's got hair on his chest, he wears comfortable pants, and he likes Sabbath. He also is not fetishizing or secretly hating my blackness. I'm not "exotic." I'm just Robynn.
Any last words of wisdom? I kind of want to go work out now.
Keep your cuticles moisturized and it'll make your hands look dainty, despite all the calluses the weights will cause.
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