Photography by Rachel "Nikki" Moreno-Whipple
Hair & Makeup by Monica Kalra
Fresh off the stage from the 2019 Arnold Amateur, Jennifer Jordan was still processing her second place win in the Masters division and fifth place in the Open division when a swarm of young girls from the event’s gymnastic competition surrounded her. They wanted photos.
It was Jennifer’s sixth competition since she began figure bodybuilding in 2015, but the first time she had been met with so much enthusiasm from the younger generation. Jennifer scooched in beside the excited tweens, still in her sparkling stage getup, smiling from ear to ear.
This was the moment Jennifer was replaying in her mind over and over again while on her flight back to West, Texas. She had meant something to those girls. She had an influence on them. Before the three hour flight was over, the trajectory of Jennifer’s fitness career had changed.
“I had a gaggle of young girls just surround me and want pictures with me. It made me realize in that moment that I can really reach these girls.”
Growing up, Jennifer, 39, was a self-described band geek who was anything but naturally physically inclined. Though she tried out for various sports, she never seemed to make the team. Instead, she threw herself into girl scouts, eventually becoming a leader like her mother and sister.
Fitness actually didn’t become a cornerstone of Jennifer’s life until a decade later while she was working in Hawaii as a data analyst. Attending a local gym for one of her typical unstructured workouts, Jennifer was stopped in her tracks when she asked a woman with beautifully sculpted shoulders her workout routine.
Inspired, Jennifer began training with a plan; something that could stay consistent no matter where she moved for work. “Every time you [move], you start over. It’s a new chapter in your life and it can be stressful,” says Jennifer. “So having the routine, something familiar and comfortable, something that you’re in control of, it really helps.”
It wasn’t long after learning about figure competitions that Jennifer signed up for her first. Unaware that it really wasn’t done, Jennifer told her very first coach she planned to step on stage in just eight weeks, opposed to the typical three to six months. Against all odds, Jennifer not only stepped on stage, but actually won first place in the Open and Novice divisions at the 2015 NPC Texas State Championship. She was hooked.
Jennifer, a figure champ, didn’t discover her potential with fitness until later in life, when she was inspired by a strong woman at her gym.
“It was like I finally found my people that I could relate to,” she says. “It was just that family feeling.” Sharing her journey online, Jennifer developed a following providing that same sense of belonging for thousands of women looking to commit to their fitness goals. And by 2019, young girls were also turning to Jennifer, and her persona “Bench Press Betty,” for inspiration. While her 1950s pinup getup highlights Jennifer's love for the era and love for Hawaii, its main purpose is to honor her late grandma, Betty. “She was my biggest cheerleader in everything I did growing up,” says Jennifer. “I really wanted to find a way to honor her in what I was doing in bodybuilding and my platform.”
With the excitable tweens she met at the Arnold and her own soon-to-be step-daughter as inspiration, Jennifer brainstormed how to create a space where the next generation of women could find the confidence to dream bigger. “I want a summer camp for young and impressionable girls to empower and inspire them like I have been,” says Jennifer. “Part of the summer camp will be to teach them valuable life skills. To give them that self confidence. Teach them leadership skills and independence.”
To launch the camp in an accessible way, Jennifer needed two things: to raise funds and to gain recognition as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. It was a full circle moment when Jennifer swapped out selling girl scout cookies for her own line of Bench Press Betty seasonings. Since February 2022, the custom blend seasonings, ranging from Boogie Woogie Bagel to Lady Luck Lemon Pepper, quickly gained popularity at local farmer’s markets, specialty stores and fitness conventions.
Betty’s helps Jennifer raise funds and recognition for her empowering summer camp for young girls. www.benchpressbetty.com
In July 2023, just a month after she plans to tie the knot, Jennifer will be hosting 100 girls for the first ever Supergirl Summer Camp, a passion project three years in the making. Throughout the week-long day camp, girls ages seven to 13 will be exposed to a variety of professions through themed days, keynote speakers, and engaging activities. Teens between the ages of 14 and 18 will be invited to volunteer and get leadership experience with the hope that they too will leave the week feeling empowered to pursue their dreams.
“I want to create a legacy that outlives me because I won’t have children of my own. Most people’s children are their legacy,” says Jennifer. “We live in a society now where it is either instant gratification or instant rejection—the bullying goes far beyond the schoolyard. We can give these girls a strong foundation, they can take it and run from there.”