Not only does this model look great posing as a Marine, she’s also great at being one in real life.
The “World’s Hottest Marine” Shannon Ihrke has got it all — brains, brawn and beauty.
“I love modeling just like I love the Marine Corps," the 30-year-old Minnesota native told InsideEdition.com.
She and several other bombshells from the Armed Forces went viral earlier this month for a patriotic photo shoot for an upcoming calendar.
“Everyone that did the calendar was in the military, which is cool because I’ve done calendars where all the girls are dressed like they’re in the military but not all of them are,” Ihrke said. “We all knew how to hold a gun, we all knew how to walk strategically and tactfully move, so that was cool.”
Ihrke explained that she spent four years stationed in South Carolina and in Illinois before she moved to Chicago to pursue modeling.
“For the first 10 years of my life, I thought I was a boy,” the Marine-turned-model said. “Then I remember getting my pictures back from my first photo shoot and being like, ‘Look at this, I actually look like a girl.’”
She said it was toward the end of her four-year commitment to the Marines when she began visiting friends in Chicago and was introduced to the world of modeling.
A friend was putting together a runway show and asked her to participate, Ihrke said. After the show, other photographers began reaching out to her to do different shoots, and her modeling career skyrocketed.
“I went from feeling like a guy every single day … to having my hair done and my makeup done and my nails done,” she said. “I loved it. I was like, ‘Oh, I do still have this girly side to me.’”
Ihrke said things worked drastically differently in the modeling world, and it took her a couple of reality checks to transition into civilian life.
“In the Marine Corps, if someone tells you ‘no,’ you can prove them wrong,’” she said. “In the modeling world, if someone tells you ‘no,’ there’s nothing you can do. You’re not it.’”
Ihrke said she also had a hard time with her temper, noting that it would be perfectly acceptable to scream at someone who cut her in line while in the Marines, but as a civilian, “I can’t do that, I have to just chill.”
But her entry into the Marine Corps was quite different than her early life too.
She said she never imagined herself joining the Armed Forces growing up in a “one-horse town,” but after graduating high school at 17 and starting college, she began rethinking her life.
“I was going to college full time and I had two jobs. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, by the time I graduate college, I’m going to be in so much debt,’” Ihrke said. “I felt like I was doing everything I’m supposed to be doing and I’m still not making ends meet.”
Her academic adviser told her to look into joining the Armed Forces if she needed help with tuition, and after quickly falling in love with the Marine Corps, Ihrke shipped out a month later.
Almost immediately, Ihrke said she felt out of place as a woman.
“On the way to boot camp on the plane, I’m like, ‘What have I done?’” she recalled. “I’ve always been athletic and stuff but like literally they say it’s a man’s world, but the Marine Corps is a man’s man’s world.”
But she rose to the challenge and took criticism as a way to improve.
“You walk in with a target on your back. People are looking at you, like, ‘Can she keep up?’” Ihrke said. “As a female, you have to work twice as hard to be as good as them and you have to work three times as hard to be better.”
She thrived with the help of her female mentors and said her greatest accomplishment was proving to herself that she could do whatever she set her mind to.
“When you push yourself to the limit, you’re amazed at what your body can really go through,” she said.
These days, she is going back to her roots, working as a horse trainer at a ranch and teaching children to ride. She is also pregnant and preparing for motherhood.
“It’s just been a real mix of the two sides,” she said. “Now with horses, it’s like I’m out there getting dirty, I smell like barn but I still like to get my makeup done and do photo shoots.”