Call her the Raquel Welch of the Gulf War generation. Inspired by her Vietnam Veteran Dad’s experiences, sportscaster and supermodel Leeann Tweeden spends most of her free time supporting the troops.
And with the holidays approaching, she’s gearing up for another USO Tour overseas. With nearly 10 tours, she’s gaining Welch-esque popularity with those in uniform.
Born June 13, 1973, in Manassas, Virginia, Leann set out to try her hand at modeling. She reportedly deferred her acceptance to Harvard to concentrate on modeling full-time. Finally, two years after moving out to Colorado, Leeann got her first break when she won the Venus International Fitness Model Search contest in 1992. Since then, she has appeared in magazines, calendars and the Fredericks of Hollywood catalog.
But celebrity status takes a back seat to bringing smiles to the faces of those in uniform. It’s a motivation first sparked by her Dad, an Air Force veteran, who showed her an autographed picture of Welch.
“I asked him where he got it and he said he got it when she [Raquel Welch] came to visit the troops in Vietnam. I was so young and I didn’t know about the USO, I knew who Bob Hope was but I didn’t realize all that these entertainers had done for their country,” Tweeden told troops in Iraq in 2004. “I couldn’t understand why they would visit soldiers in a war zone. My father answered, ‘These are people who really care about the men and women who are out there serving our country.’”
And quickly it became a passion in her adult life. When someone asked her if she was scared she replied, “I’m not scared enough to not go and show my support.”
She’s even become a favorite of top brass.
“To me, the coolest stuff is flying in the aircraft. I’ve ridden in Black Hawks, Chinooks, even Air Force Two—the vice president’s plane,” she told editors at the FHM men’s magazine. “Back home, I’ve been inside The Tank. That’s a room at the Pentagon where the joint chiefs, and all these Department of Defense people have meetings. I was invited inside there by General Tommy Franks.”
Leeann has also made her presence felt on television, with an appearance on EdenQuest (co-starring Pamela Anderson), Star Search, The Vicki Lawrence Show, Entertainment Tonight, and Jerry Springer. Her biggest break to date was her role on ESPN2's Fitness Beach, in 1996.
A self-admitted tomboy who is known to pal around with famous jocks and extreme sports enthusiasts, she’s covered everything from lingerie, playing cards and comics, to fitness and bikes.
An avid dirt bike rider and traveler, Leeann spends January and May of every year announcing Motocross events for Pace Motorsports. While she has realized parts of her dreams, Leeann would love to become a female sportscaster. She does, however, have her own column for Racer X Illustrated, a motorcycle newspaper which also featured a layout of hers. Leeann hosts Bluetorch, a television show showcasing extreme sports such as surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding, and appears on FoxSports as well.
But above all, she recognizes that all that she has today has come at a price paid by someone else, and she remembers to tell that to the troops wherever she meets them.
“I realized that we [entertainers] couldn’t do what we do if it wasn’t for what you guys and girls have done and those before you.”