Serge Nubret: Though bodybuilders today all seem to share the same basic look with minor variations for skin tone and muscle insertions, bodybuilding until the early oughts looked more like street racing than NASCAR if you looked at the body styles in each competition. You had your mass monsters, like Lou Ferrigno, diminutive “giant killers” like Danny Padilla, and every variation in between all sharing the same stage. There were no “classic physique” divisions and usually no weight classes- just a free for all to determine the best out of what essentially amounted to an island of tanned, jacked, and oily “misfit toys”.
In the maelstrom that invariably ensued, there was always one sleek, dark, pantherine man onstage with the roundest muscle bellies, the tiniest waist, and skin tone so dramatically dark he seemed to suck light from the surrounding physiques- Serge Nubret (b. 1938 d. 2011). At 6’ and 220 pounds, he would hardly be considered “big” by modern standards even in most hardcore gyms, but Nubret wasn’t about being big so much as he was about being pretty.
Bearing some of the most insane abs ever seen onstage at a professional bodybuilding show, Serge Nubret slinked around the stage, smoothly hitting amazing pose after amazing pose, but was never able to place higher than third at the Olympia in spite of possessing perhaps the most aesthetic physique in history. As such, he followed Sergio Oliva into the newly-formed WBBG and competed there and in the NABBA shows for the last seven years of his competitive career, winning the big shows but never garnering the respect the Weider shows did due to their supporting empire of magazines.
Tragically, Serge Nubret wound up mostly forgotten in the bodybuilding world after a stellar 25 year run as a professional, and might have disappeared from the zeitgeist completely were he not somewhat featured in the film Pumping Iron, as I’m sure many got their first taste of the preternatural aesthetic package of “The Black Panther” while watching that documentary. As it stands, however, his name should be mentioned first among “aesthetes,” nudging out the likes of Flex Wheeler and Bob Paris due to his freakish proportions and pantherine grace onstage.