Shelley Beattie, Bodybuilder Who Is Also Deaf

Shelley Beatty
Shelley Beattie achieved fame as a bodybuilder and American Gladiator. sinbad97

Shelley Beattie was born August 24, 1967, in Santa Ana, California. She began losing her hearing because she accidentally swallowed a bottle of aspirin when she was three years old. She became deaf in one ear and had partial hearing loss in the other. Her speech reading skills were quite excellent and no one knew the extent of her hearing loss until she was in the sixth grade. She received a cochlear implant the year prior to her death and was happy to hear her chickens and people in her life.

When she reached puberty, her bipolar disorder became difficult to control. As a result, her teen years were spent in a foster home because of her behavior. 


When Beattie was 14, she started weightlifting as a way to deal with the isolation of hearing loss and the instability of her home life. She held high school track heptathlon records. In 1998 and 1989, she held the national and world records for speed in a co-ed handcar team. In addition, she held a world record for bench pressing -- 315 pounds. By the time she was 22, she had become a professional bodybuilder. She won multiple bodybuilder competitions. 

Television and Movie Career

What really brought Beattie to the attention of both the deaf and hearing worlds was her participation on "American Gladiators," a sports competition television show. She was "Siren" on the program of the same name from 1992 to 1996. Being Siren got her publicity in magazines such as People magazine in an article, "Siren's Song," and on the cover of Deaf Life magazine in July 1991 and again in December 1992.

Beattie also appeared in the 1993 movie Hot Shots! Part Deux, playing herself as Siren.


Beattie became a spokesperson for health and fitness organizations. She worked in group homes for the mentally and physically disabled. She was married to her coach John Romano. Besides bodybuilding, art, drums, and animals also held Beattie's interest.

She attended Western Oregon State College (but never earned a degree), studying special education and psychology. In addition to bodybuilding, she was also into sailing, holding a spot on the first all-women's America's Cup sailing team.


On February 12, 2008, Shelley Beattie hanged herself. She passed away four days later without regaining consciousness. She was only 40 years old. At the time of her passing, she was survived by her life partner Julie Moisa.


Beattie is one of the deaf Americans included in the book Great Deaf Americans from Deaf Life Press. Muscular Development magazine reported it was planning a tribute to Beattie after she passed away. Deaf Mosaic #807 (1992) had an interview with Beattie.


Starke AM (2008). Life Story: Shelley Beattie.The Oregonian.Retrieved September 29, 2015, from - This page includes quotes from Shelley Beattie.

Updated by Melissa Karp, Au.D.