Siren – American Gladiator

The American Gladiators are a new kind of American Hero. They’re strong. smart and seemingly perfect. Their beautiful buffed bods fiercely waged in competition against the not-so average everyday athlete offers all of America an opportunity to believe that determination equals success. It is irrelevant whether it is the everyday athlete or the Gladiator who wins. The point is the competition, the willingness to put yourself out there and go for it. And that, is just what these Gladiators do, on both a personal and professional level.

I got a chance to meet Siren and a few other Gladiators at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas. They were there to help the United Cerebral Palsy Association raise money. I was surprised by these human embodiments of Greek physicality. Not only were these people the ultimate in athletic ability, they were also intelligent and caring individuals. Individuals with their own unique stories. Stories that reflect the belief that success can be found with a little hard work, dedication and positive thinking. This is Siren’s story:

e.s. Siren, will you tell me your real name and a little bit about yourself?

S.B. My real name is Shelly Beatie and I am now 26. I was born in California but was raised mostly in Oregon. I currently live in Malibu but will be moving to Las Vegas before March of 1994. The New Gladiator Arena is being built over there and I was one of the women chosen for the live show. The show will run twice daily, year round. The Gladiator’s television show is a separate entity and I will be filming that as well as filming the new Camp Gladiators show for kids.

e.s. It sounds like you’ll be busy. Were you always like this?

S.B. I started off a very hyper child. I was loud, rough and hearing impaired from the age of three on. I had a progressive hearing loss that was so slow I adapted to it instead of dealing with it. I got very good at lip reading and reading body gestures. Instead of coping with my hearing loss, I learned to cope with people. It was a bad habit to break. (Ha Ha)

e.s.Do you know what caused the hearing loss?

S.B. I had an aspirin overdose when I was three and had many ear infections. I also had some surgeries on my ear. I had tubes put in them. I remember my first hearing test in the 6th grade. I heard not a single sound. I thought the machine was broken and asked them to fix it. They said it was fine and to just continue the test. I just cried and of course, I had to get hearing aids. First in my right ear then later as my hearing got progressively worse, I got an aid for my left ear.

e.s. You speak well, is verbal language your primary means of communicating?

S.B. I learned to sign in American Sign Language (ASL) and use it a lot with my deaf friends but I like to speak. I use verbal language on TV for commercials, The Gladiators and talk shows.

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e.s. How did you get started in sports?

S.B. I ran track and cross. country since Jr. High and was very, very good. I was so good I have about 5 school records that still stand today. Also, I had many scholarship offers in track but declined due to cheating a lot in high school.

e.s. that. Cheating? Tell me about that.

S.B. Well, because of my hearing loss, I faked learning and did what was needed to get by. I was good at reading other people and pretending to understand but I wasn’t doing the work and that put me in an awful position when it came to college. I knew I couldn’t do education and track not if I really wanted to learn something. I had a lot of academic learning to make up for. So State Rehabilitation paid for my school. I was able to get an education without the scholarship and was able to quit track and focus on learning. I took up body building in 1985 because I loved athletics and wanted to keep at it.

e.s. What high school did you go to?

S.B. I was a foster kid and went to 3 different schools because I was in 3 different homes during that period of my life. I really graduated from Central High School in Independence Oregon.

e.s. In what events did you hold records?

S.B. Best I ever did in cross country was 11th in state. I only did it to help me in track. I held the record in the heptathalon, 400 meter, 1500 meter relay, 400 meter relay and 200 meter. I still might have the record in the 300 meter hurdles. Also, I’m still on the boards for many power lifting records for my weight. 115 125lbs. I bench pressed 140lbs. squats were 230 lbs. and dead lift over 250 lbs. I can’t remember the rest

e.s. What College did you attend?

S.B. Western Oregon State College. I went for 4 years and worked full time in several group homes for the mentally and emotionally handicapped. Differently abled is my better word for them (smile). I worked there for 6 years and even became assistant manager. I was offered a job as manager but couldn’t handle the work load and continue body building, so I declined. But I worked there until I turned pro in 1990.

e.s. Tell me about your professional body building career.

S.B. I won USA championship in heavy weight and overall. My highest placing in the pro’s was last year in The Miss Olympia Competition. I took 3rd. This year I was pregnant so I wasn’t training to compete but I had a miscarriage in March and decided competing would be good for me. I filmed the Gladiators right after the miscarriage and then I trained hard for Miss Olympia Competition in New York November 27, 1993. I placed 7th but I think I looked as good as last year. Many people say I looked better. My posing routine was the most entertaining of the show. I don’t use steroids or drugs and that may be why I placed lower. Most of the girls use them and are so huge that they make me look small even though I’m not. You see the Gladiators have drug tests several times a year and I couldn’t and/or wouldn’t take that kind of risk anyways.

(L to R) Turbo, Siren, Sky, Tower, Jazz, Laser, Zap, Sabre, Ice, and Hawk
(L to R) Turbo, Siren, Sky, Tower, Jazz, Laser, Zap, Sabre, Ice, and Hawk

e.s. What are your current weight statistics?

S.B. Year round I weigh between 150-165lbs. Right now I weigh 157lbs. My best current bench is 315lbs, I repetition. I squat close to 420lbs and dead lift about the same as squats but during body building season my weights are not for one rep. 1 may go as low as 4 reps but not just one.

e.s. Do you consider yourself a body builder or weight-lifter and what’s the difference?

S.B. First of all I am an athlete with bodybuilding as my main form of training. Body building is, I feel, a sculpting and shaping of myself that is a very different kind of discipline than weight-lifting or power lifting. Body building is 24 hours. It means a strict diet and sleeping a certain amount of hours, at least 8. Calories are at 2300 a day and will increase slowly. Then as I get close to a contest, decrease slowly to as low as 1900 calories. I am an athlete because I don’t just body build I do many sports. I like in-line skating, kayaking, rock climbing, dancing, mainly hip-hop and jazz, running daily in deep sand and others. Those are my main areas of activity. I really hate stationary aerobics. I won’t be on a tread mill or stationary bike for anything. UGH!!!

e.s. Tell me about your eating habits and your diet?

S.B. Everyone is different. 1 don’t have an eating disorder and am very disciplined and focused. Eating 4 to 5 meals a day is plenty. I don’t feel like I need candy bars although on Sundays I eat anything I want and it doesn’t hurt me. My first meal usually consists of 10 eggs whites in a cup with oatmeal or a low fat bagel with cream cheese. My second meal is 6 ounces of ground turkey, 4 corn tortillas and one can of unsweetened pineapple. My third meal is 1 can of solid albacore tuna, 4 large egg whites and 3 ounces of oatmeal. My fourth meal is 7 ounces of chicken breast, 3 ounces of pasta and fat free mayo. For my fifth meal I just repeat one of the first four..

e.s. When did you start body building and why?

S.B. Hum. 1 started competing in 1985 but really started serious training in conjunction with track at the age of 14. I was hooked. I started for many reasons. I really was a loner and I was withdrawn a lot. I’m not very good socially so 1 channeled my anger and energy toward lifting weights and track. I was insecure, very insecure, but I slowly grew-up and out of my shell. I really balanced out in college.

e.s. Tell me about the anger and how you worked through it to find your balance.

S.B. Hum, well, first of all, my family was in denial regarding my hearing loss. I felt everyone was always mad at me and I could never figure out why I was being punished, so I didn’t talk much. They had a difficult time communicating with me and I would just nod my head, or say just neutral things so they wouldn’t get so mad all the time. Denial feeds denial. I had a lot of emotional problems accepting and understanding my hearing loss. It kept getting worse so I kept getting better at imitating, following cues, gestures and picking up bits and pieces so I could act like I understood when in fact, I didn’t. I fooled a lot of people, especially my parents, but it lead into a situation that was very destructive and I was removed from my family and put into a shelter home then foster homes. 3 foster homes.

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e.s. What turned things around?

S.B. Well, honestly my last foster home was with a family that were Christians and I really got into that life style. I wanted to believe in something good again. I was, at that time, on the road to self-destruction. I was suicidal but this family showed me things I never thought were real. I became born again and even burnt all my rock albums (ha, ha) and things like that. I was baptized again etc. I really got into Christianity full force but it was a process of healing that took place and it was the turning point for me. It made me stronger and let me know that I am a good person and I am not being punished any more. People like me when I’m happy.

e.s. Tell me about the Gladiators. When did that start and how?

S..B. Well I had just started dating my fiancé John Ramono. He knew one of the female Gladiators and found out that they needed new girls and so he called the producers and told them about me. But, they were hesitant because of my hearing loss and asked us just to send a picture. So we did and they were impressed with me physically and recognized me from magazines but were still not sure about me and the deaf thing. So John kept calling and many calls later I got to try out. I remember John telling me they were freaked and said “She’s a machine”. I broke some records like the 40 yard dash in under 5 secs and 57 push-ups in 50 seconds but they only gave me a guarantee of 2 shows out of 26. I would only be an alternate Gladiator instead of in a full-time position. The full-time position was given to a wimp of a girl named Lace. She is a stripper in real life so you can imagine how irate I was!!! But I kept my mouth shut and sure enough after one day of filming, Lace was deemed a “band-aid” (she got too beat up in the competition) and got fired.. Lace was obviously not an athlete so I felt very discriminated against. I was a better athlete but only got an alternate position and I didn’t get to be a real Gladiator right off the bat. But quality prevails. Lace got fired because she wasn’t qualified to handle the competition. That is when the producers gave the job to me. So I took over as a full time, first string Gladiator and was given the name Siren.

e.s. Do you feel discriminated against in other areas of your life?

S.B. I rarely feel that hearing people have problem a communicating with me as long as I am comfortable in saying things like “I am hearing impaired” or “Please speak slowly” and things like that. People are usually patient and I do not feel frustrated and discriminated against. It is only when people are tired, lazy or in a hurry that they don’t want to deal with me. Then it’s a problem.

e.s. Do you think the attention you get as a Gladiator out shines your hearing loss and allows people to get past the disability and see who you really are?

S.B. That’s interesting. You know, now that I have been on the show for 2 years 1, luckily, am one of the most popular Gladiators according to the amounts of fan mail. And the producers, one of them, really respects me now and sees past the hearing loss. I feel that they like my being different because it attracts a new audience and also special interest stories.

e.s. So your success in athletics has equalized your position and has helped other people see you as an individual instead of a disability.

S.B. Exactly !!! I often say on the show and in seminars that there is nothing you can’t do!!! The only thing I can’t do is hear. And yes, athletics definitely helps me see and focus on the things I can do my abilities not my disability. But still that definition has changed for me over the years. I found that my disability has made me more able and actually has been more an asset. Instead of hearing everything I can really focus more, channel my energy more and of course, not to be so distracted by noise. I’m calmer and not as tense, etc.

e.s. What was the hardest thing you’ve faced?

S.B. Well the hardest thing was being torn from my family. I can’t tell you how much that hurt and effected my self-esteem and coping abilities for years. It made it very difficult to accept my hearing loss. In fact, it wasn’t until my last hearing test that I finally could call myself deaf. I could never say that before and I still have a hard time. It’s a process and I’m growing up still. I’m still young.

e.s. Tell me about your fiancé?

S.B. We met 3 years ago in March but did not start dating until the very next year at the same body building competition. I was competing in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. We have been together ever since. I eventually moved from Oregon to California and we recently got engaged. We even married ourselves (Ha Ha Ha) not legally but on the highest point in Malibu on a rock in front of God and each other. It was really special. I don’t feel its necessary having a priest do it. We made our own vows to each other with God as our witness.

e.s. Is that when you started with the Gladiators?

S.B. I started with Gladiators in 1992 when I filmed my first season. We film from mid June to mid July each year. I also filmed this year for a second season.

e.s. What’s next?

S.B. I think I told you about Las Vegas and moving before March of 1994 for the live show with 7 other Gladiators. My other plans are to continue to compete drug and steroid free in the Miss Olympia Competition until I win. I really believe I can. I will also continue other businesses like a Sign wear clothing line. I’m trying to get it into deaf colleges and other stores. I also have fan mail to get to everyday (smile). I have posters, pictures and clothing that they sometimes ask for. Oh yeah, and a Gladiator movie in the works. I also have a commercial agent now and I have been getting commercial calls. That is fun.

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e.s. What about kids, will you try again?

S.B. That’s a good question. Believe it or not I do but I want a deaf child specifically. So we’ll probably wait in line to adopt. at least 5 more years but maybe one of my own too.

e.s. That’s interesting, why a deaf child?

S.B. Because I would never be able to deny my own deafness or lose American Sign Language. Also the bond between me and that child would be incredible. I wouldn’t make the mistakes my parents made.

e.s. What is your relationship with your parents like now?

S.B. We are close now, as close as we’ve ever been, but we are also still improving. I know that having a deaf child, I would teach her or him to be proud. That deaf is okay and special not something that needs fixing. I don’t want my ears fixed thank-you

e.s. How do you see things now?

S.B. Well, I am now only competitive in athletic competition not in life itself. I feel things come at a good pace for me. I’m not in a hurry. The Gladiators I will do as long as I can. I may even do it until I am 35 but probably not older then that. I want kids by then. 1 will continue working out. Now I work out 5 days a week. I do 1 1/2 hrs with weights and 2-3 hours of aerobic activities.

e.s. Any last words?

S.B. Never let other people define who you are. Never doubt your abilities,

by ellen stohl

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