Tabernacle, NJ – Growing up at St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church, she was a GOYA basketball star in the ’80s. Today, she is a single mother, who wants to be a role model for her two daughters and an inspiration for her community and generation.

When Vassiliki Lyras sets her mind on something, I wouldn’t bet against her, even if the odds say otherwise. In April, she entered the female fitness category of the Body By Vi 90-Day Challenge. This week Vassiliki announced she would enter the Vi-Model contest. In this competition, four male and four female contestants are chosen, thru community vote (50%) and a judging panel (50%), to be on the cover of The Challenge, a popular health and fitness magazine. In addition, the winners receive a modeling contract with Silver Model Management in NY and a photo shoot with the famed fashion and fitness photographer, Mike Ruiz.

When Vasiliki contacted me, to come out and photograph her, I have to admit that I thought, “she’s gotta be kidding.” I photographed her last year and thought she looked great for her age, but for a national fitness competition and magazine cover, it’s a long shot. I met up with her in Maple Shade, New Jersey for the shoot at Fox Meadow Fitness Center with Anthony Smith, a personal trainer. I admit I was impressed with her discipline and determination. She had forged her body notably further and she appeared mentally focused. In fact, I was a bit intimidated by her physical presence. Her grit was evident.

Growing up, the daughter of a well-known surgeon, Dr. Theodore Lyras, in Merchantville, New Jersey, Lyras was outgoing, friendly and adventurous. Some would even say, a bit of a maverick. At the age of 24, she packed her backpack, bought a tent and went and lived in Alaska for a year and a half. There, she worked in a cannery, for Fish and Game at a remote fish camp, ran her first sled dog race, and explored the wilderness she’d always wanted.

She left Alaska for one and half years only to return to the wilderness and eventually settled down, got married and gave birth, assisted by a midwife, to her two daughters at home. After nine more years and the end of her marriage, Vassiliki returned home to be near her mother and father who were up in age. But her Greek upbringing and rebel style did not evaporate.

Today, Lyras lives on a three-acre farm with her daughters. She heats her house with a wood stove, raises her own chickens and goats that she slaughters in the fall for her winter meat. She is a real country girl from the “horio” living in America. Today, in Greek-America, she’s a real oddity. On her Facebook page, she’s even has a like photo for Clint Eastwood, suggesting the type of man she mirrors as a woman.

A few years ago, Lyras became a promoter of the Body by Vi Challenge. The challenge is for people interested in weight loss, fitness, an active lifestyle, and nutrition. The company has products that support one’s health goals and promotes a healthy lifestyle. The company has grown to become the second biggest weight loss company in North America and has the #1 rating as best- selling shake as well. Lyras has found that this company represents her lifestyle and she strives to help people reach their health goals. In the Vi-model contest personal bio, she says

“I would like to be an inspiration and represent women and moms over 45 YO. I want to tell them that yes, you can still do and look like we were in our 30’s. It may be harder now since we have gravity playing against us and more muscle loss as we age than someone that is in their 20’s and 30’s, but it can be done!”

After seeing her in the gym first hand and talking with her, there’s no doubt, she can make anything come true. What a great opportunity to have a Greek woman represent us as a fitness Vi-model.