By the time she was old enough to vote, Tanya Beyer took the kind of risk few people ever take. She decided to test her looks -- and her luck -- against the world's toughest competition. She'd been modeling for only one year -- as star client at a small agency in Colorado -- but she headed for even higher altitudes, professionally speaking: to the rarefied atmosphere of the international modeling world. Unlike many of the aspirants she met, Tanya liked the work. "I always wanted to be a model," she says unapologetically. "People make fun of models, like they have to be stupid. I don't get that. You make decent money, you get to see the world -- that's stupid?" Hard to argue with that. In just 18 months, Tanya's career choice took her to Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Japan -- all before she was old enough legally to buy herself a celebratory glass of champagne back home in Colorado. These days, top models specialize. Does Tanya have a particular "look"? She laughs. "Sure, happy-smiley-face, healthy-athletic." There were modeling jobs, especially in Europe, that she didn't get because "I wasn't skinny and trendy-looking enough." Her wholesomeness is more than just skin-deep. The second of three sisters raised in Colorado Springs, Tanya blasted through a sporty youth filled with skiing, gymnastics, track and field, and cheerleading. She was William Mitchell High School's homecoming queen in 1989, and, as she recalls, "one of the last virgins in my senior class." She explains, with a mysterious smile, "I was always real shy in those situations." But Miss February wasn't shy in the classroom, where her academic exploits made her one of the top students in her class. She graduated a semester early and headed to Milan with $800 in her pocket and a meager two pictures in her modeling book. Within a week, she was encased in a slinky blue leotard, posing for an exercise article in an Italian magazine. Bodywork, as they call it in the trade, has been Tanya's bread and butter -- quite a turnaround for the shy beauty queen from Mitchell High.
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