July 18, 2014 1:30PM
Like most of the 800,000 federal employees who were furloughed during the government shutdown last fall, Callie Wheeler felt lost.
“I was working for the Kansas Army National Guard, and when the shutdown occurred, I didn’t know what to do,” said the 2012 graduate of Pittsburg State, where she was a member of the ROTC. “I started to panic a little bit.”
Then she had that moment, that epiphany that changed everything.
“I realized that I needed to stop attaching my life to my job,” she said. “There is more to life than just work. I didn’t have my regular job during that time, but that didn’t mean life had to stop.”
Graced with natural good looks and a “why not?” spirit, Wheeler threw her name and picture into the ring for the 2014 Planet Beach Cover Model competition. Voting would take place online, and the top 40 would be flown to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for a three-day competition event.
“I saw an advertisement online, and I went for it,” she said. “I thought I would tell my Facebook friends about it and see what happens.”
What happened was she ended up in the Dominican Republic competing against 39 of the world’s most beautiful women. When the top 5 winners were announced, the 2011 Pitt State homecoming queen was left speechless.
“It was totally unexpected,” Wheeler said. “I couldn’t believe I made it to the top 40, so to be one of the five winners was incredible.”
And becoming a Planet Beach cover model was just the jumping off point. Since then, she has also graced the cover of KC Fitness Magazine and competed in modeling competitions from Vegas to New York City.
“My friends think I’m crazy for hopping on a plane to New York to compete for two days before coming right back,” she said. “That’s what I like to do, though. Why not, right?”
Modeling is fun, she said. It’s a release from the daily grind. But it’s also a lot of work.
“The photo shoots alone are tough,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks. You have to focus on your smile, on your hair, and oh by the way, you have to focus on every single other part of your body, too. Sometimes I’m amazed the pictures turn out so well after all of that.
“It’s fun, though,” she said. “It’s a gratifying feeling to see the results of discipline and hard work.”
A fitness buff at heart, Wheeler said the key to staying in shape is “80 percent nutrition, 20 percent exercise.”
“Some people think that if you exercise, you can eat whatever you want,” she said. “That’s just not how it works. You have to stick to a nutritious diet or the exercise part doesn’t get you too far.”
A competition in St. Louis was her own validation of that belief.
“I had planned to go out to St. Louis for a competition and ended up with a staph infection in my arm,” she said. “I couldn’t work out for three weeks. But I stuck to my diet plan and ended up getting first.”
She does all of this, by the way, while still working at the National Guard office in Olathe.
“I went back to work once the shutdown ended,” she said. “The modeling and bodybuilding are fun things I do on the side.”
“Yeah, bodybuilding is actually getting very popular among women,” she said. “It takes about double the training time than a regular modeling shoot or competition, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a challenge, and I love challenges.”
If Wheeler gets good results from her most recent challenge, she may very well find love and fame all at the same time.
“ABC was having auditions for ‘The Bachelor’ in Kansas City, so I went up to try out for that,” she said. “Why not, right?”