Not many Americans have a body that resembles Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in his heyday. But in Zimbabwe—where many residents are skinny from poverty and food shortages—images of the weight-lifting legend can seem almost supernatural.
That was certainly true for Wayne Mutata, who didn’t know people could look like Schwarzenegger until a missionary gave him several exercise magazines, including one with “Ahnold” on its cover.
Mutata asked the missionary where the magazines were from. Her answer: America. “So I associated America with a place where fitness was king—and I wanted to be like those guys on the magazine covers,” says Mutata.
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In his home country, “health isn’t a big deal,” he says. “There are skinny people but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy.”
So Mutata booked a one-way ticket to the United States. Upon arriving, he quickly found work at a retirement community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania—a rural farming town.
While that may seem like an unlikely landing spot for a fitness-driven émigré, Mutata says working with seniors taught him a lot about how the human body works. He later got a job at a performance and conditioning center.
Along the way, “I lost friends because I was working three jobs Monday to Sunday,” he says. “I didn’t party or go out. But that stuff—the moment you subtract that from your life, you’d be surprised how positive you become, and how much money you save.”
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Now 28, Mutata owns two gyms in Pennsylvania, and is fast closing in on his dream. Though he doesn’t quite look like the Governator—yet—“I’m planning to compete in my first physique competition this year,” he says.
In addition to building up his fitness portfolio, Mutata also works with several charities, including Stick-N-Move, which teaches boxing and life skills to disadvantaged kids.
“My ultimate goal isn’t my own success,” Mutata says. “I just want to be remembered as a guy who helped people.”
That’s what really matters when you’re gone, he adds. “Nobody cares about the money you have or had. They care about what you gave back.”
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