SHALIMAR — Leah Marie Swann doesn’t see why a 5-foot, 44-year-old woman with five children can’t be on the cover of Maxim magazine.

The Shalimar resident entered the 2019 Maxim Cover Girl contest to prove women like her can follow their dreams.

“It’s going to show women that age does not matter,” Swann said. “You can stop your career, have a family and go back out there and get what you want. Don’t be afraid. The kids were such a good influence. They were like, ‘Who cares if you’re in your forties?’”

Maxim narrowed down the competition from 10,000 women, and Swann is in the mix. Readers will vote to determine who moves on.

Vote for Swann at MaximCoverGirl.com/2019/Leah-Marie-Swann.

Swann’s interest in modeling started when she was a pageant girl in Clearwater. She was in the newspaper there as the hometown contestant in the Miss Teen USA Florida pageant.

Modeling was a totally different business then, she said. Social media didn’t exist in 1990, she added.

“Back then you had to be 5-foot-11 and be very, very skinny,” Swann said. “I always got turned down, because they would say, ‘You’re just too short.’”

Things have changed — in a positive way for Swann.

“You can be short; you can be tall. You can be heavy; you can be thin,” Swann said. “They’re so much more open than when I did it before. When I got back into it, I really thought my height or my age would hinder me, but it hasn’t stopped me. Social media and the new body image in modeling have made it so much easier to do this.”

Swann once stopped modeling to raise her children. They are ages 4, 9, 14, 16 and 19.

“With my oldest having Asperger's — you have to really advocate for your child,” Swann said. “In January, my kids were encouraging me saying, ‘You can still model. I was like, ‘No, that’s past.’”

A local photographer offered to photograph her and things took off quickly, she said. She got an agent and started booking jobs.

An Orlando photographer she shot with during the summer encouraged her to participate in the Maxim Cover Girl contest. If Swann wins, she will shoot the cover with photographer Gilles Bensimon

“He was in the supermodel age of the ‘90s — the Cindy Crawfords,” Swann said. “He’s 75 now, but he’s still very well known. I’m very excited about working with him as one of the prizes.”

The grand prize is also $25,000. The money makes Swann think about her children’s education.

“I decided if I won, $25,000 divides perfectly evenly, and I would set aside $5,000 for each of them when they get to college,” Swann said.

Swann hopes locals will vote for her.

“To be from this area and represent our town in this, it would be amazing to get further,” Swann said. “The more votes you get, the closer you get toward that dream.”