Majiziya Bhanu created a stir during the women’s competition at the Mr. Kerala competition the instant she walked out onto the floor. For many, it was the first time they had ever seen a weightlifter who wore a hijab.

“It is only after their names are announced that one realises that the contestant is a Muslim,”the 23-year-old Bhanu told NDTV. “I feel proud to wear the hijab, which is a part of my identity. It does not limit me in any way but gives me dignity and strength.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Just Lift And Train Hard. Be Healthy. Have Fun And Enjoy Life.

A post shared by Majiziya Bhanu (@majiziya_bhanu) on

Bhanu would go on to stun the crowd further when she won the women’s competition in Kochi in February. As NDTV notes, Bhanu’s victory was all the more startling considering that she only started weightlifting two years ago while she was still a student in dental school.

But like many Indian athletesboth male and female — Bhanu, who is from a small village in Kerala, struggled to find facilities to train in. In order to pursue her weightlifting goals, she would travel almost forty miles after classes to train at a gym in the nearby city of Kozhikode.

But training in an often all-male environment was not easy at first.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Women Not Only Love Diamonds, But Are Also Strong Like Them.

A post shared by Majiziya Bhanu (@majiziya_bhanu) on

“In the initial days, men used to stare at me as I had my hijab on. But soon they realised that I was as serious as them in my workouts. Then all the eyes disappeared,” she recalled.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

The Best View Comes After The Hardest Climb.

A post shared by Majiziya Bhanu (@majiziya_bhanu) on

Since devoted herself to weightlifting, Bhanu has been named the strongest woman in Kerala three times by the Bodybuilding Association of Kerala. She isn’t stopping there. She’s currently setting her sights on the World Arm Wrestling Championship, which will be held in Turkey next month.

GET YOUR SLICE OF SOUTH ASIAN POP CULTURE

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

 I read and agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.