Last week, Branford’s Jodi Harrison-Bauer, portfolio in hand, headed down to Miami to prepare to take her place in line among a sea of 20-something females starting at 5 a.m. Friday, July 12.
At 58, she was seeking to become the first Sports Illustrated swimsuit model over the age of 50 who’s not a celebrity or full-time model.
“I saw there were no specific age categories,” the owner of JodiFit in Branford told the ShoreLine Times. “That was my loophole to go for it.”
Little did she know the turn to fame her life would take.
By last Friday, the face of the trailblazing mother of two was gracing the cover of the New York Post. During the weekend, her story spread across the globe, from the Toronto Sun, to the Daily Mail and the Sun in the UK, to Russia Today, as well as sites in New Zealand and Australia, among others.
Her Instagram account pictured her hobnobbing with SI cover star Camille Kostek (formerly of Killingworth), Olivia Culpo, and Brooks Nader, and getting tips from 55-year-old actress-model Kathy Jacobs.
And that’s not even counting her precedent-busting selection for round 2, ranking her among the top 60 contestants from the thousands seeking to launch themselves into stardom from the open casting call.
For the two-time champion in the Fitness America and Fitness Universe Pageants — and newlywed last month after a divorce 17 years ago — that distinction is just icing on the cake, it seems.
“Whether I’m chosen or not. I’m doing this as another way to share who I am and encourage others along the way that it’s not too late to try something new,” said Harrison-Bauer, who combines 10 hours of resistance training and weight lifting with cardio each week to maintain her fitness, prior to the competition.
“I’m 58 and I’ve never felt so confident in myself. I want to get my message out to all ages, but especially women over 50, to ignore expectations by being bold and stepping out of your comfort zone.”
In her 40s, Harrison-Bauer began competing in fitness shows, becoming, and appearing on the cover of Generations Magazine. At age 50, she opened JodiFit in Woodbridge to train women of all ages, shapes and sizes, attracting a client base that spans from millennials to boomers. JodiFit on Branford’s Main Street followed three years later, in 2014.
Vying for inclusion in the swimsuit issue amplifies her message that age limits are something women impose on themselves.
“We don’t have an expiration date stamped on us,” she said. “We are good forever.”
It was also a life-changing experience.
“I stepped outside my box, honored myself and stood in my truth,” she said, thanking plus-size model Myla Dalbesio for helping her “empower all women, but especially those over 55 years old whose voices need to be heard.”
Count Branford’s Deidre Kovaci, 49, a client of Harrison-Bauer’s, as among the locals drawing inspiration from her trainer’s latest feat.
“Jodi’s mission is to show that women can look, and feel, fit and fabulous at any age. She lives that mission. She’s lived it by putting herself out there in Miami. I can’t wait to congratulate her.”
Follow Harrison-Bauer on Instagram at @jodifit.