Brooke Dragon, a 20-year-old Prospect native, never thought she would have a career as a bikini model.
That changed recently when she scored a sponsorship from Bodybuilding.com while being filmed for the MTV show, “Made,” with aspirations of becoming a fitness model.
MTV’s “Made” is a reality television show that focuses on teens who want to be “made” into something they aspire to be, whether it’s a singer, dancer or ladies’ man. Producers of the show assign coaches to help the show’s subjects achieve their goals, and each episode follows the transformation of the subject as they try to fulfill their objective.
“I love it now,” Dragon said of competitive bikini modeling, a division of bodybuilding shows. “It’s given me a lot of motivation.”
During the filming of the show, the then-19-year-old Woodland Regional High School graduate and current University of Connecticut sophomore changed her eating habits and adopted a rigorous training schedule to achieve the lean, muscular physique of a competitive bikini model. While on the show, she placed third in a New Hampshire bodybuilding competition in her division.
“I only had about three weeks to train for the show, so I was definitely not at my full potential,” Dragon said.
At home, Dragon teaches Zumba classes at her mother’s Prospect fitness studio, Live Love Dance. At UConn, Dragon studies nutritional sciences, although her eating and exercise habits “weren’t the best” before going on the show, she said. Since the filming of the episode, Dragon has maintained a health-conscious lifestyle so she can continue to compete.
Dragon’s episode debuted on MTV on Jan. 5. Since then, Dragon has gained a fan following.
“I got like over 300 Facebook messages from people telling me about their own fitness stories,” Dragon said.
When Dragon found out she was going to be on “Made” as a fitness model, she hadn’t expected she would be posing on a stage in a bikini. Dragon said she didn’t know bikini modeling divisions existed in bodybuilding competitions until she went on the show.
Being chosen as a subject for an episode of “Made” was a shock, she said. Bored at her computer one day, she had filled out an online application for the show and made a five-minute video about why she wanted to be a fitness model. She had almost forgotten about it when she received a phone call from an MTV producer a month later.
Eventually, a camera crew came to Dragon’s house to film her with her family for a week to see if she would be a good candidate for the show. Once Dragon’s appearance on the show was finalized, she lived, breathed and ate while being filmed at her apartment near UConn, Storrs for five weeks during the fall semester.
“I was literally with the camera crew 12 hours a day,” she said. ” I wouldn’t have traded it for the world, but I don’t know if I’d do it again.”
MTV producers assigned professional competitive bikini model Tianna Ta to coach Dragon into bikini model shape. With Ta, Dragon did two hours of cardio exercise and at least an hour of weightlifting every day. Dragon’s first training session began at 6 a.m., and she had to work hard to balance classes and her exercise regimen, she said.
“They break you down and make you go crazy,” Dragon said. “They make you do insane things. I think I grew up a bit because of it.”
MTV producers never told her what to say or how to act, Dragon said. However, she said different scenarios were presented to her and she had to react to them as she would in her everyday life.
“They would say, ‘OK, now invite your friends over and hang out,’ and then I’d do it,” she said.
To prepare for her first competition, Dragon had posing practice with her trainer in addition to her regular exercise routine. In competition, bikini models must strike specific poses on stage to make their muscles more pronounced.
“My trainer got me the world’s ugliest bikini to practice in,” Dragon said.
During one practice, she said, the producers had Dragon practice on the stage of the Joregnsen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs and surprised her by inviting her friends to be in the audience.
“That was the most embarrassing thing she had me do, but it did make me feel better about actually competing,” Dragon said.
MTV producers got over 160 hours of footage of Dragon, which was cut into a 40-minute episode.
“They could have portrayed me any way they wanted,” Dragon said, adding that she was satisfied with how she was represented on the show.
Dragon said that her sponsorship from Bodybuilding.com as a Team Bodybuilding.com Athlete wasn’t a result of an MTV setup.
“It’s real life, not just a show,” she said.
In April, Dragon is going to compete in a New York bodybuilding show to “warm up” for the Team Universe bodybuilding competition in the summer, where she hopes to place first or second in order to achieve pro bikini model status.
“This is a possible career path for me,” Dragon said.