Cheryl Haworth as seen in STRONG!, a film by Julie Wyman.


  • Cheryl Haworth
  • Jackie Berube
  • Casey Burgener
  • Natalie Burgener
  • Michael Cohen
  • Roger DeGarmo
  • Doreen Fullhart
  • Kerri Goodrich
  • Mitch Glicken
  • Chandler Harper
  • Zack Harper
  • Carissa Gump
  • Beth Haworth
  • Bob Haworth
  • Katie Haworth
  • Shiela Haworth
  • Cara Heads
  • Rachel Christen Hearn
  • Nancy Holscher
  • Hilary Katzenmeier
  • Anthony Markin
  • Don McCauley
  • Bob Morris
  • Dennis Reno
  • Melanie Roach
  • Amanda Sandoval
  • Leo Totten
  • Dennis Snethen
  • Emmy Mirleanny Vargas
Executive Producer:
Original Score by:
Associate Producer:

* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Strong! (2012)

Opened: 07/18/2012 Limited


Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Home, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Sports Documentary

Rated: Unrated

Cheryl Haworth is a young woman with a big dream: to be the strongest woman in the world


Cheryl Haworth is an Olympic athlete, a weightlifter who has competed in three Olympic games, winning the bronze medal in Sydney in 2000, and held the title of National Champion for eleven consecutive years. Weighing close to 300 pounds, Cheryl uses her size to her competitive advantage in a sport that has traditionally been the province of men. STRONG! tells the story of Cheryl's weightlifting career, the rigors of training for competition, and her personal experience of being big in a culture that values women who are small.

Cheryl entered the weightlifting world at age thirteen, after seeing women weightlifters at the gym. With her parents' support, she began training and entering competitions. At fifteen, she was the American national champion, and at seventeen she competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the first time the games included a women's weightlifting event.

Cheryl cites her large size as a plus, something that makes her sturdier and more stable, enabling her to lift weights in excess of 300 pounds. She is conscious of what she eats and follows a good, clean diet, but her fast metabolism and the need to maintain her strength and build muscle require her to take in additional calories in the form of daily protein supplements. She has always been strong, even as a child, and now her strength is a tool she puts to use in her chosen sport. Explaining the two competition events--the snatch and the clean and jerk-- Cheryl notes that weightlifting is not just about heaving a weight over your head; it requires timing, flexibility, and knowing how to use inertia and gravity to make the weight move as if it's a part of your body.

As in other sports, injuries are an issue in weightlifting, and Cheryl has suffered several ligament tears in the course of training and competing. After sustaining an injury at the 2003 Junior World Championships, she experienced a loss of confidence and had to work hard to rebuild her mental, as well as her physical, ability to lift weights. In the four-year cycle leading up to the 2008 Olympics, Cheryl went on to set a world record at the 2005 Pan American Games, lifting 161 kilos, or 352 pounds.

After graduating from college, she moves to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where the training regimen is much more stringent and intense than the training she was used to at her local training facility. Team USA is training in preparation for an important competition: the 2007 World Weightlifting Championships in Thailand. But because Cheryl develops multiple injuries at this crucial moment, Cheryl can't train at her fullest, and she begins to feel left behind as she witnesses the progress of her teammates. By the time her injuries are treated, she has very little time to train. Nevertheless, she scores well enough in Thailand to help the American team secure four Olympic slots.

Following the competition in Thailand, Cheryl begins to question her dedication to the sport, feeling that she can no longer do what she likes to do. She starts to think about life after weightlifting and looks into joining the Coast Guard, noting that she would have to lose a significant amount of weight to meet the requirements. Confused about what to do with her life, she is clear that she wants to lose weight but be healthy, to wear nice clothes, to be whistled at once in a while. During these years of intensive training, romance has been non-existent for Cheryl, and she has paid no attention to make-up or clothes. She knows she is a good person but feels that people like you better if you're smaller. She admits to feeling big, heavy and cumbersome, to feeling unhappy in her body--a body that's good for weightlifting, which she now sees in a more negative light for keeping her trapped. In spite of her desire to be more attractive, Cheryl maintains a realistic image of herself, knowing that she is a "good person, good to talk to and [has] a good personality."

Discouraged and tempted to quit, Cheryl talks about how strength has changed for her - it's not just about lifting heavy things or succeeding on the platform anymore: it's about perseverance and grappling with disappointment and loss. Her strength in the end is that she ultimately decides to stay true to this new strength, and to see her athletic commitment through the major goal of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

By the end of the film, Cheryl has quit weightlifting but has not yet defined a clear path for herself. As she looks into the future, she is both scared and excited not knowing what the next phase of her life has in store.

Director's Statement

I made STRONG! because Cheryl Haworth inspires me.

At first it was her image that spoke to me - a 17 year old 300 pound girl standing proud and triumphant, barbell overhead - flouting conventional ideas of femininity and completely exploding our assumptions about what an elite athlete looks like. These images flashed through the mainstream media in 2000 after Cheryl medalled at the Olympic Games at Sydney -- the first Olympics to include Women's Weightlifting.

Images wield huge power in our culture. In these images of Cheryl, I saw a solution to a major societal problem: our extremely narrow standard of beauty, and the limited scope of bodies that we consider healthy, powerful, and valuable. Rather than seeing role models of successes they can strive toward, young girls and women receive the resounding message that their shape and appearance are wrong, in need of constant monitoring and correction. Bodies that are too big, too tall, too short are seen as imperfect, and fat on the body is seen as ugly, a sign of gluttony, laziness, or even failure. These negative stigma effect young women and all people - resulting in a culture where eating disorders are widespread, and where a diet industry that fails to help the vast percentage of people lose weight earns $55 billion dollars a year. Most troubling and ironic, these skewed ideas about what a healthy, active body looks like discourage people from inhabiting, celebrating, and living actively in the bodies they have.

In these images of Cheryl Haworth weightlifting, I saw the potential to inspire others, particularly girls and young women, to feel strong and powerful in bodies of all sizes, to find and pursue their talents, and to not be limited by the usual narrow scope of bodies that we'd imagine to be athletic.

Nearly eight years since I started following Cheryl's story, I remain inspired - only now it's not just her image, but her character that get me. Cheryl's integrity, and her way of navigating challenges offer a model for moving through life's opportunities as well as life's disappointments and setbacks. During the process of making STRONG! I've been humbled and instructed by Cheryl's skill as a competitor - the amazing concentration that she musters on the platform - combined with her ability to relax and center herself through her rich connections to family, friends, her community, and the world that surrounds her.

It's been daunting and disheartening to see that even a champion like Cheryl is affected and sometimes stymied by the real limitations that large women face in our culture. From negative stigma, to limited access to clothing, chairs, healthcare, health insurance, employment, the challenges are formidable. But Cheryl's process of acknowledging and grappling with some of these challenges has also re-fueled my original commitment to fight against these limitations.

I intend for STRONG! to provide girls and young women - as well as people of all sizes - with a sense of empowerment: the possibility of feeling pride in their bodies and excitement about being active at whatever size, and at whatever level, they can be. Some people say that it doesn't matter what you look like, or how your body is shaped - "it's what's on the inside that counts" -- but I strongly disagree: I believe that all bodies can be seen and recognized, on their own terms, for their uniqueness, their beauty, and their strength.

I'd like the documentary to invite discussion about health - an awareness that the term "health" can mean many things, and a skepticism about health being defined by weight or Body Mass Index. I'd also to help audiences discuss the stigma and sense of ostracism that large women experience; I hope that the film engenders a sense of indignation about and resistance to those limits.

I invite audiences to view STRONG!

- for the pleasure of Cheryl's company - the opportunity to get to know an amazing athlete and a unique, compelling character. - for the experience of learning about the little-known sport of Olympic Weightlifting: a sport that is graceful, acrobatic, and incredible to witness, and

- to gain a new perspective - to re-conceptualize the body image dilemmas that most of us grapple with on a daily basis, and to ultimately to experience a sense of confidence, power, vitality, and fun in our own bodies.

-- Julie Wyman (Director/Producer)

About the Filmmakers

Julie Wyman (Producer / Director)

Julie Wyman is an award-winning filmmaker and a performer, writer, and professor. Her 2004 film, Buoyant, screened at MoMA New York, the Walker Arts Center, the La Jolla MoCA and at festivals internationally. Her full-length documentary, A Boy Named Sue (2000) aired on Showtime, the MTV's Logo TV, and screened at festivals internationally, winning the 2001 Sappho Award for Best Documentary and receiving a nomination for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's Media Award for Best Documentary. Wyman's writing has been published in the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest and an edited volume entitled Scholarly Acts. Wyman is also a member of the artist/activist collective BLW whose performance work, has been featured at venues including the Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Southern Exposure Gallery, San Francisco, Pilot Television, Chicago, and the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford. Wyman holds a an MFA from the University of California, San Diego. She is currently a Professor of Digital Filmmaking in the Cinema and Technocultural Studies Department at UC Davis.

Vivian Kleiman (Executive Producer)

Vivian Kleiman is a veteran documentary filmmaker, producer and writer whose work has been honored with the George Foster Peabody Award, Organization of American Historians' Eric Barnouw Award, International Documentary Association's Outstanding Achievement Award, and a national Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement. She has collaborated with San Francisco-based ITVS on several co-productions broadcast on national PBS including Roam Sweet Home, Forgotten Fires, First Person Plural, Hope Along the Wind, Maquilapolis and the recently completed The Key of G (which won top prize at its premiere in May at the SF International Film Festival Golden Gate competition). She served as Senior Producer/Series Director of The Meaning of Food, a three-part series broadcast on national PBS funded in part by Knorr Foods. A longtime collaborator with landmark filmmaker Marlon Riggs with whom she co-founded Signifyin' Works, her credits include Tongues Untied (Additional Camera) and Color Adjustment (Producer/Research Director). She also supervised the posthumous completion of his final film, Black Is...Black Ain't. Ms. Kleiman also served as a member of the adjunct faculty at Stanford University's Department of Communication Graduate Program in Documentary Film & Video Production for 9 years.

Jennifer Chinlund (Editor)

Jennifer Chinlund has edited many documentaries, both historical and contemporary in subject matter. Several of her films have been on the POV series: The Self Made Man, Discovering Dominga, Baby It's You, and Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter, which was also nominated for an Academy Award and received an Emmy. Other broadcast credits include Secrets of Silicon Valley, Beyond the Call, and Butte, America, all three broadcast on Independent Lens; Coming to Light, Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian on American Masters; Ishi, the Last Yahi on American Experience. Her films have also been shown at many international festivals, including Sundance, Berlin, San Francisco, and Tribeca.

Vicky Funari (Editor)

Vicky Funari is a documentary filmmaker and editor. She directed and edited the feature-length documentaries MAQUILAPOLIS, Paulina, and Live Nude Girls Unite!. Her short films include skin*es*the*si*a and Alternative Conceptions. Her work has screened in many of the world's most respected film festivals, including Sundance, Locarno, Havana, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Tribeca, and Guadalajara. Her films have received many awards, including the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Awards, San Francisco International Film Festival; Lifetime Television's Vision Award, Hamptons Film Festival; and Audience Award for Best Documentary, Women's International Film Festival of Barcelona. Her films have aired nationally on PBS, HBO/Cinemax, and the Sundance Channel. She is a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow and a MacDowell Colony fellow.

Anne Etheridge (Director of Photography)

Anne is a Los Angeles-based cinematographer who works in feature film, television and documentary. Her recent credits include "Duck," a feature film starring Philip Baker Hall, Bill Cobbs and the AFLAC ducks. "Duck" was released theatrically in 2007. Additionally, narrative short films that Anne has photographed have been internationally and nationally recognized, including "South of Ten", which was selected to be screened on opening night at the 2006 New York Film Festival before Stephen Frear's "The Queen", and "Sissy French Fry", which was selected as the Comedy Grand Prize winner at the PlanetOut Short Film Awards in 2006. Documentaries that Anne has shot have aired on Showtime and have screened in film festivals around the world. A graduate of the American Film Institute, Anne is currently photographing shows for MTV, The History Channel, The Food Network, and The Learning Channel (TLC).

Sara Mott (Associate Producer)

Sara is a Bay Area-based filmmaker and a graduate of Reed College. Her credits include work on the documentaries Prison Town, USA (POV 2007) and River of Renewal (Best Documentary, 2008 American Indian Film Festival). She also served as an Associate Producer for the documentary Our Summer in Tehran (2010) a co-production with ITVS directed by award-winning filmmaker Justine Shapiro. In addition to her work in documentary, Sara taught media arts to Miwok and Maidu youth for several years and has served as a mentor in the American Indian Film Institute's Tribal Touring Program. She is currently an MFA candidate at Stanford University.