SOUTHINGTON — Since she was 16 years old, Brianna Lee has been training to become a fitness bikini model.
Today, Lee, a 2012 Southington High School graduate, will compete against hundreds of women from around the world in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion competition in Las Vegas.
Lee arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday and has been busy with photo shoots and other pre-competition activities.
“I’m not nervous at all. I never get nervous. It’s so weird,” she said. “I’m used to it and I love it. I think gymnastics and being on the floor by myself…that made me not nervous. I’m really excited to get on stage.”
Lee, 19, achieved pro status as a bikini competitor in April at the Fitness Atlantic competition at the Oakdale in Wallingford. This will be her first competition as a professional.
“Amazing,” said Lee as she recalled receiving her professional card in April. “I was speechless.”
For years Lee trained as a gymnast. As she reached more difficult levels in gymnastics she was prone to injuries. Nervous that she would really hurt herself, Lee stopped gymnastics and was looking for another way to stay in shape and have fun.
Her mother, Kim Lee, suggested participating in a bikini competition as a way to keep active and to stay competitive.
“She said, ‘why don’t you do a show?’” Brianna Lee said. “(I was) 16 competing in my first fitness competition in Wallingford at Fitness Atlantic and placed in the top 10.”
According to the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion website, pros and amateurs from Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, and North and South America will be competing in Las Vegas. There are categories for both men and women and pros and amateurs. Brianna Lee will be competing in the Pro Diva Bikini Model category.
The first-place prize is $30,000.
“Once you hit that title, it’s a whole new world,” said Kim Lee, who is in Las Vegas with her daughter.“That’s a really hard title to hit.”
Contestants are mostly judged on their “face, figure, physical fitness, and confidence,” according to the WBFF website. There is a bikini and evening gown round.
For the past three years Lee has grown close with her mother, who helps her train six days a week for an hour-and-a-half each day.
“It’s stressful,” said Kim Lee. “There are times where there are tensions and nerves, but majority of the time she’s disciplined and focused.”
Brianna Lee also sticks to a strict diet that includes chicken, fish, or asparagus and sometimes sweet potatoes. She hopes to encourage other teenagers to stay healthy.
“I don’t have a lot of options,” Brianna Lee said. “It’s not a normal weight loss diet, it’s a competition diet. It’s so strict.”
Kim Lee has been a personal trainer for a number of years and works at Fitlife 24/7, a gym opening next week in Plantsville. Bryan Joyce, the owner of the gym, is close with the Lees and has watched Brianna Lee compete.
“I wish her the best of luck,” said Joyce. “She’s fantastic. She’s 100 percent dedicated to it and doesn’t let anything distract her.”