Over and over again, many have joked of his strong Austrian accent and almost unpronounceable surname. Nevertheless, Arnold Schwarzenegger has gained his popularity as a world top bodybuilder, philanthropist, successful investor, Hollywood film star and later becoming the 38th Governor of California. Although, Schwarzenegger has since retired from the sports world, he has authored many books and articles meant to mentor upcoming body builders and shapers. The award winning body builder has become a role model to many by proving that through drive and determination, an immigrant can also achieve the American dream.
Arnold was born in a small village of Thal, just outside of Graz, Austria. He was christened Arnold Alois since his parents were Roman Catholics though his friends later nicknamed him Arnie. His father, Gustav Schwarzenegger was an alcoholic police chief while Aurelia Schwarzenegger was Arnold’s mother. Both Gustav and Aurelia were very strict and the rod was not spared when Arnold and his brother Meinherd went against the household’s regulations or failed to attend mass every Sunday. The family of four were known to be humble and although luxuries were foreign to them, they never lacked basic needs. In fact, Arnie recalls the excitement that the family experienced when a refrigerator was bought in the house.
However, Gustav always showed a preference for Meinherd as opposed to his brother. According to Arnold, his father suspected that he was not his biological son. On several occasions, Gustav had beaten up Arnold and intimidated his early dreams of becoming a body builder. The unfair favoritism resulted to Arnold developing a strong hatred towards his father and brother. In fact, when his father died in 1972, the award winning body builder did not attend his funeral. The same case happened to his brother who died in car crash in 1971.
Nevertheless, Gustav instilled the spirit of hard work and sporting into his sons. The boys were required to wake up early and attend to the various assigned chores around the home before breakfast. After this, vigorous exercise routines would follow conducted by Gustav who was then a military officer. The routine bore fruits as Meinhard became a boxing champion while Arnie is to date renowned as the most rigorous bodybuilder the world ever possessed. Initially Gustav wanted his son to become a policeman like himself while his mother saw Arnie as a successful student in trade school. However, Arnold had earlier showed interest in soccer when exercising but later at the age of 14 found interest in body building instead.
Arnies’s passion for bodybuilding was innate and he pursued weightlifting amid all the intimidation from his external forces. He started by enrolling into a local gym in Graz where he trained a few hours daily. He also set up a training area at home for further exercise when he was not at the gym. He frequented the theater to watch movies of the then bodybuilding stars like Steve Reeves, Reg Park and Johnny Weissmuller. Motivated by these idols that anything is impossible and determined to become a successful bodybuilder, at the age of 15 he studied psychology to understand more about the power of mind over the human body as well as becoming physically fit in his newly found career. The bodybuilding stars also infused in him the obsession with America and Arnold started his adoration for the country and a bright future that he felt awaited him there.
Although his family worried of Arnold’s obsession with weight lifting, it was more of a learning experience to the former California Governor. In one of his many quotes, he said, “I learned something from all these years of lifting and training hard. What I learned was that we are always stronger than we know.”
Schwarzenegger is one of the few individuals who have pursued yet prospered in different unrelated careers. Although many know him for his bodybuilding and weightlifting prowess, he has successfully prospered in acting, politics and business.
Schwarzenegger has remained a notable figure in bodybuilding long after his retirement in the sport. It could be because of the many fitness books and magazines he has authored as well as weightlifting initiatives he has founded. Funny enough, in an interview back in 2011, he confessed to still working out with weights for at least half an hour each day.
As aforementioned, Schwarzenegger’s childhood interest had always been in weightlifting despite all the discouragements that came from those close to him. He started weightlifting training when he was only 15 years old. From the time go, he set his ambition high, and that was to become the greatest bodybuilder of all time.
His obsession with the odd sport has in fact seen him serve a short stint in prison. This was in 1965 after he graduated from high school and joined the Austrian Army. The daring 18 year old teenager went from the Army school to participate in an ongoing bodybuilding competition in Germany. Despite being his first competition, he was crowned Mr. Europa Junior. The short experience was termed misconduct by the Army school and Arnold earned one year term in the brig, a holding area in the Army base for those who committed offenses. However, immediately after his release, Schwarzenegger resumed his training, this round with even more enthusiasm.
After his training completion in the army school, Schwarzenegger embarked on becoming who he always dreamt of; the greatest body builder in the world-Mr. Olympia. It started off after he won the Mr. Universe title in 1967. At only 20, he became the youngest bodybuilder to hold the title. Determined for more success, he won this title 5 times.
His childhood dream of moving to the USA came true in September 1968 at the age of 21 under the invitation of muscle entrepreneur, Joe Welder. While in America, he made his first attempt of becoming Mr. Olympia in 1969. Unfortunately he lost to the three-time champion, Sergio Oliva. He participated again in1970, and this time he won, becoming the youngest to ever hold the title. Interesting enough, he holds this record to date. He won the Mr. Olympia title for six consecutive times, before announcing his retirement from professional bodybuilding in 1975. He however came out of his retirement in 1980 to compete in the 1980 Mr. Olympia where he emerged a winner for the seventh time. He has officially retired from professional bodybuilding since then.
Schwarzenegger’s horizons were larger than the bodybuilding landscape. With dreams geared towards discovering America, Arnold turned to acting. It was not a smooth ride as most casting agents made many excuses of not enrolling him. From his weird looking body, a funny accent and even a name too long to pronounce. His earliest role was in the 1970s in the movie Hercules in New York where he played under the pseudo name Arnold Strong. He then made an appearance in The Long Goodbye where he played as a deaf mute hitman.
However, his initial achievement came in 1976 when he was filmed in Stay Hungry and received the coveted Golden Globe award for New Male Star of The Year. He went on to getting stirred in other films like Pumping Iron, The Villain and Jayne Mansfield Story.
Despite acting roles in the above films, Schwarzenegger had not realized the most ideal role for him. He needed a superhero and a warrior style role to feel complete. His breakthrough came in 1982 where Schwarzenegger played Canon the Barbarian and the other Canon series that followed. In 1984, he blew up the worldwide screens after starring in The Terminator as a deadly machine from the future under character name Jim Cameron. By this time, Schwarzenegger had become an international star but still went ahead to play other memorable roles in different films in the 1980s. They include, Commando, Raw Deal, Predator, The Running man, Red Heat and one of the best comedies of all time titled Twins.
The 90s further cemented his acting career, with roles in Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Last Action Hero, I’ll Be Back, True Lies, Eraser, Batman & Robin, End of Days as well as family friendly entertainment that included Junior and Jingle All The Way.
Despite his age, Arnie started off the 21st century with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Welcome to the Jungle, The Kid and I as well as Around the World in 80 days. After his retirement from politics in 2011, Schwarzenegger has since acted in several other films.
Since moving to America, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political views always contrasted with those of most of his colleagues and close friends. He was a registered Republican for many years. His first public appearance as Republican however was in 1988 when he accompanied the then Vice President of the United States of America, George H. W. Bush at a campaign rally. He also received an appointment as the chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports between 1990-1983.
In 2003, determined to succeed, he ran for the California gubernatorial seat under the Republican ticket. Despite being his first attempt in a political position, he was elected the 38th Governor of California. He also won a re-election bid in 2011. During his time in service, he promised to improve the California financial situation, protect the environment and promote new business.
Schwarzenegger seems not to be content with his achievements yet. In October 2013, the New York Post reported of the former bodybuilder’s interest into running for presidency in the future. His only hindrance being a clause in the American constitution that prevents individuals who are not natural born citizens of the USA vying for the seat.
Some have described Schwarzenegger as an ambitious man while others see him more of self parodying. All in all, Arnold’s image is controversial to the public. As an immigrant who has defeated all odds to become successful in most aspects of life, many see him as a mentor and a role model. His caring nature and a mindful heart to the needy through donations and charities portray Schwarzenegger’s selfless nature and show him as a man whose main interest is to give back the society.
Nevertheless, Schwarzenegger has had a number of controversial allegations meant to break his otherwise known strong personality. During his initial campaign for a gubernatorial seat, there were accusations of Schwarzenegger’s sexual misconduct from different women. Although he agreed to some of these allegations and pleaded for an apology, he made it clear that not everything published is always true.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has also confessed of attending sexual orgies and smoking marijuana especially in the documentary film, Pumping Iron.
Another episode that has tarnished his name was during his tenure as the governor of California. His friend and colleague’s son, Esteban Núñez pleaded guilty for manslaughter of one Louis Santos and was then sentenced to 16 years in prison. As a favor to Fabian Núñez, the father to Esteban, Schwarzenegger slashed the sentence to seven years without notifying the Santos family. Later, despite the Santos family suing Schwarzenegger for unfair treatment, nothing was done to their favor. In fact, Esteban Núñez was released from prison having served less than six years.
Schwarzenegger’s love life started after he settled in the USA. He met Barbara Outland, an English teacher in 1969. Both Schwarzenegger and Barbara have written memoirs that describe their lives with each other. Arnold describes Barbara as a charismatic woman who wanted an ordinary solid life. However, Schwarzenegger was beyond that as he was a well-balanced man and hated an ordinary life. This alone brought disagreements that according to Schwarzenegger led to their separation in 1974. On the other hand, Baker accused Schwarzenegger of infidelity something she only came to know after their separation. Nevertheless, she was sure that Arnold truly loved her.
His next affair was with Sue Moray in 1977, a hairdresser assistant in Beverly Hills. They had a smooth relationship until Schwarzenegger met Maria Shriver in 1978 and started dating her too. When Moray came to know of Arnold’s other affair, she broke up with him.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s relationship blossomed and the two got married in April 26 1986. This marriage was yet another one of Arnold’s childhood dreams realized. He had always told his friends that when he goes to the U.S, he would marry a Kennedy. Maria is a niece of President John F. Kennedy.
Together, they have four children who were born in Los Angeles. Katherine Eunice Schwarzenegger, Christina Maria Schwarzenegger, Patrick Arnold Shriver Schwarzenegger and Christopher Sargent Shriver Schwarzenegger. Both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Schwarzenegger have invested widely, including several vacation homes.
After being married for 25 years, Maria and Arnold separated in 2011. It was later revealed that, Schwarzenegger had an extra affair with one of her household employees, an event that led to him fathering a child. Although Schwarzenegger confessed the ordeal to his wife, the charismatic lady could not understand why the crucial information had been hidden from her for fourteen years. Another woman, Brigitte Nielson also came forward and claimed to have a child with Schwarzenegger.
The former governor has since then embarked on the divorce process. He has been permitted to retain ownership of their Brentwood home but also share custody of their underage children.
- Developing a Mr. Universe Physique (1977)
- The Education of a Bodybuilder(1977)
- Bodyshaping for Women (1979)
- Bodybuilding for Men (1981)
- The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding (1985)
- Total Recall (2012)
Written by: Peris Ngaruiya