Twenty years ago, Linda Hamilton thrilled female audience members when her character emerged in the movie "Terminator 2," doing amazing pull ups with a clearly defined muscular physique, never seen on a woman in a blockbuster movie before. Dallas Malloy, then 14, was impressed and began lifting weights the day after seeing the film.
"I immediately started strength training after seeing that movie and then I saw, "Pumping Iron 2," starring Bev Francis, who was one of the first really big females from Australia. I kind of patterned myself after her," Malloy said in an interview after speaking at the recent Burbank International Film Festival.
Since 1991, Malloy has taken an interesting journey down an unconventional road that included boxing, bodybuilding, music and acting.
Malloy describes herself as androgynous, has a noticeably deepened voice from using steroids while she was professionally bodybuilding and is still very muscular with an otherwise petite frame.
"At some point, the words 'feminine' and 'masculine' just lose meaning, because maybe I'm just me. I've wrestled with this complex issue and I'm figuring it out as I continue to learn and grow," Malloy said.
Malloy made international news headlines in 1993 when, at 16, she sued the U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation for discrimination because it did not allow females to participate in boxing. She won the case and her first sold-out boxing match against a female opponent, which opened the door for American women to participate in the sport.
Malloy's mother, Marilyn Hilton, was the one who pushed her to contact the ACLU after seeing the amateur boxing rule book, which read, "no female boxer shall compete." Hilton said she understood her daughter's passion and drive to compete.
"I was very conflicted about the boxing. I was proud of her for wanting to do something so unique, but I had always felt that boxing was a sleazy sport. I didn't like it … but I valued her independence over my own thoughts," Hilton said.
Malloy said she doesn't remember either of her parents being thrilled about the boxing but they were conservatively supportive because they knew she was going to do it anyway.
Hilton was also astounded by her daughter's creativity and musical ability. She said Malloy is compulsive and never does anything half way.
"How many 5-year-olds come and tell you they want piano lessons? I knew it came from her heart. She would also write music and fill up every composition book I bought. I was extremely proud when she won a music contest in middle school — but not surprised, because she's very talented," Hilton said.
Malloy said she was a very sensitive child at a new school in Bellingham Wash., when a period of intense bullying from a couple of kids gave her a feeling of inner weakness and was probably a catalyst for her desire to become physically strong.
"I am deeply empathetic and I hated school. The bullies were abused kids themselves and there was some physical violence involved. I was different and became attracted to masculine things. I was hurting, but I kept everything inside, thinking I could handle it. I got migraines," Malloy said.
Malloy is featured in the opening scene of the film "Jerry Maguire," as Tom Cruise narrates about the state of sports and the camera shot reveals that the boxer he is talking about is a very young woman responsible for having the ban lifted on women in boxing, changing the sport forever.
"It was a great experience to work with Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe. Tom asked me a lot of questions about boxing and then stayed for my whole scene even though he was wrapped for the day — I was very touched by that. Every time the movie plays on TV, I still get recognized," Malloy said.
In 1996, when "Jerry Maguire" came out, it was not a happy time for Malloy. In fact, although she was physically strong, her life was being consumed by the weakness of addiction and an abusive relationship, which was coming to a head.
Malloy said alcohol took the edge off after she moved to L.A. with her mom after her parents divorced. She said she had a series of jobs, then drugs came into play. She said she used cocaine, speed and whatever else she could get.
"I was unemployed and unemployable. I did some extra work, got a terrible agent and lived on what little money I had left. Then I met a man and moved with my cat to Oklahoma, where I truly hit rock bottom," Malloy said.
Malloy said she crashed her car and was one step away from being homeless when she got sober. She says she has stayed that way for more than 14 years. In 2004, she felt she was being called back to Los Angeles, so she ended a 7-year relationship and left Oklahoma, got her personal training certification and began to focus on bodybuilding.
In 2007, Malloy became fully immersed in body building, which required training 3-4 hours every day, a progressively strict diet, going without water before shows for the "shredded look" and even steroid use to achieve the results she wanted. She said she did five shows in two years and took first place in the last two shows, qualifying her for the nationals.
"Being so deprived and pushing your body to extreme limits makes you crazy. I relied heavily on my spiritual practice. Bodybuilding is so much about the aesthetic. I used the steroids and hormones because I wanted a certain look and it gave me that extra 20%. It's part of it. If you're going to do it, go all the way," Malloy said.
Today Malloy is a personal trainer and is focused on her acting career. She said she would one day like to see her life story on screen and said at one point Paramount bought the rights to it, but the deal fell apart.
She is taking the first step toward that goal by starring in a documentary on her life by filmmaker Antoine Arditti, who met her through a chance encounter last year and was fascinated by the fact she doesn't fit any label.
Arditti said he decided to do the documentary because he feels that Malloy has the power to inspire others.
"My encounter with Dallas immediately gave meaning to my stay last year. I was fascinated by her life experiences and seized by the singularity of her way of life. Dallas creates her own unique identity by breaking society's taboos and codes. Her steadiness and courage facing critics impressed me," Arditti said.
Malloy recently played a transgender minister on the now defunct series, "Eli Stone."
"People have told me I'm an inspiration to some who are dealing with gender issues. I've been confused for transgender many times. People think I get offended, but that's their own judgment. I don't get offended," Malloy said.
Malloy has been featured on "True Blood" as a Dallas vampire, "Animal Planet" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live." She is also slated to be a commentator on CNN for the upcoming Olympic women's boxing segment. She said she is also going to be starring as a superhero in a comedic short she is co-writing with Israeli director Yuval Shrem.
"I like the idea of her being a superhero. Dallas has a very unique look, voice and personality that is different than other actresses, especially for a comedy," Shrem said.
Malloy said she has a clear goal now.
"To be the greatest actor I can possibly be. To continue improve till the day I die. Movies have changed my life and I love that," she said.
CASSANDRA M. BELLANTONI is a freelance reporter and producer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.