By W.G. Ramirez
Louis Zwick is the man responsible for making sure Musclemania works to perfection in every aspect. He has his crew, top-notch, but Zwick knows what he’s doing when it comes to fitness shows, competitions and the online production.
Musclemania is a powerful brand, because of Zwick.
And over several decades, he’s comes across some of the most talented and well-sculpted personalities that have performed under Musclemania’s umbrella, being a mentor to many – probably many more than he hasn’t.
And it’s because of those relationships he’s formed, there is loyalty to Zwick and Musclemania.
That includes Mike Peele, who nabbed the Fitness America Weekend title last month during the tour stop in Las Vegas. Peele outdistanced David Duma by 1.8 points after an old-school, hip-hop, lip-sync styled performance that had flavors from the 80s to the present.
OLD SCHOOL MEETS NEW SCHOOL
The sample Missy Elliott used at the start of Work It, of Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic Three’s 1984 hit Request Line, caught everyone’s attention – “DJ please, pick up the phone, I’m on the request line” – while Rock Master Scott’s scratches slammed into Elliot’s “WTF” and Peele’s routine was off and running.
It might have been fitting the show was in Las Vegas, as his performance wreaked of Vegas’ late 80s and early 90s club scene, before they were inside hotels and corporations somewhat eliminated the town’s lively and intimate setting for nightlife.
With a bit of comedy blended in between Rhianna’s “Bitch Better Have Money” and a hint of Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Ni**as In Paris” mixed over the top, Peele hits you with a classic move used in off-Strip routines by Vegas club performers during lip sync contests: the phone prop. Some last minute gyrations for the ladies, to Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” to Adele’s “Hello” brings it to a close.
Two minutes and 15 seconds.
That’s old school Vegas.
That’s Fitness America, and for all intent purposes, Musclemania.
And just two years into competing, Peele is hooked. He loves performing, he loves the rush of the training leading up to performing and he loves the camaraderie. He also loves Zwick.
“Lou is like my fitness father,” said Peele, who felt terrible about missing Las Vegas in 2014. “He said, ‘Michael, next year…’ and I said ‘I PROMISE!’
“So now I’m here.”
The significance of Las Vegas. It’s the Super Bowl for Musclemania. Teams from around the world converge for this event. This year’s number was a record setter, with more than 600 competing in the two-day natural bodybuilding show – the largest of its kind.
“Other shows, I feel, are just a little stiff; it’s this, this, this – get off stage,” said Peele, as demonstrated hitting four quick poses and waving off. “Musclemania is more present yourself. You did all the work, present yourself.”
Peele, who won the Fitness title and finished third in model and 10th in physique in last year’s Fitness Universe, took sixth in physique and 10th in model last month. And despite bringing home just one trophy, back to his home in Van Nuys, Ca., it was the ability to compete another year in Musclemania, and build the “support base” as he likes to call it – as he’s too overwhelmingly humble to believe he has fans – that has made him most proud.
“When I hear my number, to be honest, I feel truly blessed,” Peele said. “You put in the work. And I’m glad I’m here this year, very glad and blessed. I wanted it, I wanted it bad – I came here to win (Fitness a second straight year). It feels good to know the judges, felt what I was doing and they also liked what I was doing.”
The 35-year-old aspiring actor, who you may see in a Lexus commercial, is also very proud of the fact he is free from enhancements, and can promote Musclemania’s natural label. He understands why other competitors under other sanctioning bodies don’t drug test, and refuses to judge them.
For him, it’s a preference.
Peele says he’s always been mindful as to what he puts into his body, from food, to seasonings, to drinks, to supplement – he is wary of everything. And he’s set in his ways when it comes to preparing for a show.
“Not to throw anybody under the bus, because everyone has their own thing, for me I don’t do any type of steroids,” Peele said. “Right now I’m pretty lean and I don’t even like it. I like to be even bulkier. There’s something about not taking a shortcut. I’m not taking away from anybody else and what they do in their brand – but I don’t like shortcuts.”
Peele said he considers any sort of enhancement a major shortcut. He knows people who do them, but he also knows no matter what you put in your body, you always have to put in work – in the kitchen and in the gym.
His support base, he adds, looks to him for guidance. Whether it’s motivational, nutrition-related, for a workout or just daily reminder on social media, he knows people are looking up to him for self-reassurance.
“I want to stay healthy (with) what I’m putting in my body and what I’m not putting in my body,” he said. “I’m always motivating them and inspiring them to do whatever they want to do and don’t take shortcuts and work your butt off,” he said. “So how would that look if you’re ‘teacher or mentor or whatever you want to call me’ is taking a shortcut.”
Peele, who has a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications: Film and TV, took some time after Fitness America but has resumed his training, and is back on his meal prepping.
With projects coming his way, whether it’s film, photo shoots or modeling, Peele will be busy until he competes in April, at one of Musclemania’s regional shows, Fitness Los Angeles.
He has appeared in such films as Stomp The Yard, Step Up 3D, and Jack ASS 2, while his dancing ability has landed him on MTV, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, BET Hip-Hop Awards and the Travel Channel during his career.
His 2016 Musclemania tour could possibly include Fitness Universe in Ft. Lauderdale, in June, before returning to Las Vegas for Fitness America next November.
It’s a win-win situation, for both Peele and Musclemania. While the widely respected organization is great for Peele’s résumé, Musclemania is just as fortunate to have Peele as an ambassador. Besides he’ll be out to defend his Fitness crown from Fitness America.
“We all like validation, and that validation from the judges is very positive,” Peele said. “It’s letting you know you’re doing a great job. Next time you come back, we want to see you more. Little pressure, but that’s fine.
“When I hear my name called on any project or anything I’m doing in a positive manner, it just feels good. It really feels good. I’ll be able to sit back and look at (all) this when I’m 80 and say: ‘Yeah, I went to Vegas and I kicked ass.’