Melissa Coates was the rare bodybuilder to win her professional debut. It was the prestigious Jan Tana Classic in 1996, and it was also the peak of her short pro bodybuilding career. She placed 9th in that year’s Ms. Olympia and 11th the next year. During a four-year-stretch from 1994-98, Coates’ blonde beauty combined with enough-but-not-too-much muscle landed her on six magazine covers (the more-jacked Ms. Olympia Kim Chizevsky was on zero then). But there wasn’t much money in women’s bodybuilding, and her prospects of another victory had dimmed as the champs grew increasingly diesel and peeled. Coates competed professionally for the fifth and final time in 1999.

Melissa Coates bodybuilder
Melissa Coates, Jan. 1997 Muscular Development

Melissa Coates came to bodybuilding in a roundabout way. Born in 1971 in Canada, the youngest child of an actress and a doctor, she grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, wanting to be a pro tennis player. To assist her tennis game in the ’80s, she took up weight training. Despite amateur tennis success, she had a greater affinity for barbells than rackets. She entered and won her first bodybuilding contest in 1991. Three years later, Coates won the middleweight class of the Canadian Championships, qualifying for the pros. She moved to Los Angeles and, while working various jobs, pursued her bodybuilding career for the rest of the ’90s.

Afterwards, Coates turned to pro wrestling. For nearly two decades, she moved from one organization to another, including the WWE developmental system and NWA Anarchy, and often worked local shows on the independent circuit. Among wrestling fans, she’s best known by her final character, the Super Genie, who managed the wrestler Sabu from 2014 on.

Super Genie and Sabu
Super Genie and Sabu in 2017 / Mike Kalasnik

Due to a life-threatening blood clot, Melissa Coates’ left leg was amputated last October. She died in Las Vegas on June 23, shortly after turning 50. Our condolences to her family and friends.