Even in a plain black sweater and jeans, it's impossible to miss Olivia Burns, with her wide green eyes and pillowy lips. It's hard to believe, then, that the winner of the inaugural Maxim Cover Girl competition almost gave up on modeling altogether. "I used to just dream of being a model," says Burns, who lives in Wellington, Florida, "but I felt like you had to be really tall to do it."
Fortunately for Burns—and the rest of us—she didn't give up. Last fall, Maxim went in search of the sexiest undiscovered potential cover models in the world, and we put it to a vote. After a three-month public voting process, Burns was crowned the first-ever winner of the Maxim Cover Girl competition, beating out over 10,000 entrants.
It was the first time a leading national men's magazine has selected a cover girl through a democratic vote. And our readers responded with fervor: The contest drew over 18 million unique visitors with more than 27 million impressions.
As the winner, Burns received a check for $25,000, an exclusive appearance on Maxim's cover, and a feature spread in this month's magazine, all shot by legendary fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon. Each of the top ten runners-up will be featured on a page in a future issue of Maxim. By all accounts, the contest was an enormous success, and more Cover Girl contests are in the works.
Not only did we crown our first democratically elected cover girl, but the contest was also for a worthy cause: Twenty-five percent of proceeds from the contest went to Homes for Wounded Warriors, a charity founded by former NFL All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen that builds handicapped-accessible homes for wounded veterans.
It almost didn't happen for Burns. At 5'6", Burns missed the height minimum for certain modeling agencies, but thankfully, after speaking with local agents, she soon discovered that her stature was not a career-breaker.
"They said height isn't everything," she says. "Even though it was a little bit restricting, I was able to do a lot of print modeling." The 21-year-old started modeling for apparel brands when she was 16 years old. Her mom paid for a photo shoot with a local photographer, and then things started to happen. "I've kind of forgotten about wanting to be tall," she jokes.
But as time passed, she shifted her focus to a career in real estate, and modeling became a side gig. One day in August changed everything for her: Burns' mother sent her the link to the Maxim Cover Girl competition the day before it closed. She decided to give it a go and asked friends and family to spread the word.
Burns beat out thousands of gorgeous women from around the world to take the crown. A friend contacted her to let her know she had won. "I was actually in disbelief," says Burns, "because I wasn't checking the page the last day and I had a friend tell me, 'Olivia, you won.' It was so crazy, and I was so excited. I was almost crying."
Now Burns is thinking about pivoting her career into full-time modeling. And as the Maxim Cover Girl, she'll surely have ample opportunities.
One thing will stay the same, though: Burns is an accomplished equestrian and plans to continue horseback riding. She competes six to seven times a year and rides at least five days a week. She also trains horses at her mother's farm. Burns goes to the gym almost every day to strength train and do cardio exercises, but she says riding helps her maintain her toned figure.
"It's a totally different workout, and almost every time I go out there, it's a full cardio workout," she says. Burns is a self-avowed animal lover. She works part-time as a veterinary technician and has fostered approximately 65 dogs with her mother. "It's super rewarding because you get to save lives," she says.
Burns says anyone she dates has to love animals—and yes, she's single. "I do like someone who's affectionate and shows they care and has time for me," she says. "Someone that loves animals. Someone who's laid-back and chill."
She has an idea for the perfect date, too.
"I would love for someone to take me out on a boat for dinner," she reveals. "That would be a dream date. I've seen that in movies, and it looks amazing." Take note, gentlemen.
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