By Jim Muir
By her own admission Lea Brock was a tomboy when she was growing up in Benton.
“I really was a tomboy … not just part of the time, all the time,” Brock said. “My mom used to say that she didn’t know what it would take to get me in a dress. I used to hang out with the guys, I liked hanging out with them. I like sports, motorcycles and I didn’t have a lot of girlfirends. I became a girl about my sophomore or junior year of high school.”
From those tomboy days to now – to borrow a line from the old Virginia Slims commercial – ‘you’ve come a long way baby.’
Brock has carved out a lucrative modeling career and has worked extensively throughout the country. Despite her early years when she pulled away from anything feminine Brock says she always knew she would someday be a model.
“Ever since I was a little girl I always pictured myself being on the cover of magazines and being a model,” said Brock. “It’s always been a dream.”
Brock was a standout track and cross country athlete gaining All-South honors for four years and also being named All-State. She ran the half-mile, mile and two-mile during her career and was also part of a two-mile relay team that held the school record for many years.
Longtime Benton track coach Don Webb said Brock was dedicated during her high school athletic career.
“The thing I remember most about Lea is that she was very competitive and such a hard worker,” said Webb.
With the assistance of her parents Brock sought out to find a modeling agency shortly after she graduated from Benton High School.
“We sought out several agencies, which is important, and ended up with an agency in northern Illinois,” said Brock. “That’s how it got started. I went solo for a few years but right now I’m represented by two agencies from St. Louis and I also do some work promoting myself.”
Brock said she has modeled lingerie and also has been photographed while scantily clothed but said she has turned down all opportunities to be photographed nude.
“That is something that I feel very strongly about,” she said. “And I think if you are a young model you have to be very careful. You have some photographers who push you to show more and more but I’m not going to cross that line.”
Brock said social media and the growing strength of the Internet have proven to be a way that she can promote her work. She said a popular website – modelmayhem.com — that allows models to show their portfolio of work is a plus for both her and for agencies and also cuts down on both time and travel.
Brock said one of the first things she learned as a model is that “having a thick skin” is a requirement.
“It is hard and sometimes slow to get started,” said Brock. “They (agencies) will be very blunt with you and simply say, ‘no we’re not interested in you’ but you have to learn to take that and understand that most of the time they have a certain look that they are going for and you might not be that look. It is, in many ways, a cut-throat industry.”
Brock said in many ways her days in athletics helped her to understand the nature fo the modeling business.
“I think athletics helped me very much because you understand that you are not going to win at everything you do but that does not stop you from competing and trying to win every time out,” said Brock. “I was very passionate about sports and now this is a passion of mine. The last three years have been better than ever.”
Brock’s list of credits that now enhance her resume includes: “Get Wicked Clothing” online magazine, “Seductive Collections” online magazine, “House of Style Magazine,” “Hardcore Choppers,” “Thunder Road Magazine” and “Motor Exotica Magazine.” Brock has also worked for Dillards, Budweiser, Allen Stuck Jewelry Catalog, KC Trucker Calendar, Cheerz USA Calendar and hundreds of others.
Brock said her family ties to this region have played a two-fold part in her career.
“I started when I was 18 so I have 10 years invested and to be honest I’m very comfortable with what I’ve done, but I believe my location has hurt me somewhat” said Brock. “If I would have moved to Los Angeles or New York I think I could have advanced much faster.”
Much like an athlete Brock said that most models also have limited number of years for their respective career.
“Clearly there is a window of opportunity that you have as a model,” Brock said. “I think the younger the better, start as young as you can if you are really wanting to pursue this. Really, between the ages of 18 and 28 is the best years … but it still comes back to what they are looking for. Some are still working good in their late 30s. Some photographers tell me that they prefer working with older models because we know what we are doing.”
As an example to parents that interests change Brock said she had her first experience with glitz and glamour at an early age.
“I did the Rend Lake Pageant when I was 10 years old and I absolutely hated every minute of it,” she said. “So, who would have thought that I would love that kind of stuff now.”
Brock was asked to offer advice to both athletes and those in search of a dream or a career.
“The best advice I can give is that you don’t ever give up on your dreams,” said Brock “I had a passion that was so strong and when I got turned down I just kept going. Don’t let anybody get you down and don’t be around negative people.”