I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Leah Ward not more than a few months ago. Since then we’ve had some sequel photo sessions and a bevy of side projects. Truly she is someone who is going all in with her chips at the table to grow her career in the health and fitness industry. The following interview details how she got started and some of the various things she is working on and how she is marketing herself to future success.

James Patrick: To begin, what got you interested in being on stage as well as in front of the camera?
Leah Ward: I grew up playing sports and have always been competitive – but after my third knee surgery I knew I had to find a sport that allowed me to still feel the competitive rush while still taking care of my body. I am very into nutrition and learning about improving my overall health so after a few years of debating whether or not to compete I decided why the heck not and just give it a try. Well, here I am now and found my new passion!   

JP: How did you go about selecting which photographers you wanted to work with to build your portfolio?
LW: Actually a lot of research goes into this. I knew right of the bat if I was going to invest time and money for a shoot, I wanted my pictures to represent me so I was looking for class, professionalism, and most importantly, have the opportunity of being published.

I went about the process looking online, social media, and researched fitness models I looked up to and who they have used and went from there. And yes, you happened to be one of them.

JP: Share with us a little about the direction you’ve had with your portfolio and what you’re trying to showcase.
LW: My portfolio is very important to me because it helps show viewers who I am without having the opportunity to talk or chance to get to know me. I am very picky and precise with the style of shoots I do and want it to represent the actual person people see in my photos.

JP: You’ve started to rapidly mass an online following, what have been your strategies to do this?
LW: I want to show people I am a real person with an average life. Being a small town Texas gal, I am very down to earth and like to post things that anyone can relate to. I decided a year ago I wanted to change my life around and I have been very humble and grateful for everything I have experienced this year alone. I guess all I can say is me being me has helped with my following. At the end of the day, be true to yourself.

JP: What are some other ways you’ve gone about marketing yourself?
LW: Networking is key! I have been very fortunate to come across inspiring and motivating people in the industry who have helped me from ground zero. Other than social media presence (Facebook & Instagram @leahwardfitness).

I compiled a media kit created by James Patrick and it has helped in so many ways. Not only is it unique and creative – but it represents me! It’s basically like a photo album of my career and has helped make my life so much easier by cutting time in half when it comes to marketing myself.

JP: You’ve also begun to develop a new business, can you share a bit about that and why you chose to do it?
LW: Yes I am so excited I am finally getting that up and running! I am launching 4WARD Fitness which is online fitness training that will offer customized diet and weight training plans for both fitness competitors and lifestyle clients. I want to help people change their lifestyle to become healthier and not just call it a “fad” diet. I am very personable when it comes to this because I am so enthused to help and truly excited to get to know the ins and outs of my clients and what works and doesn’t work for them. Everyone’s body is different and that is what I am going to specialize in. Diagramming the best type of foods and workouts for an individual yet being realistic.

JP: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, good or bad, about the fit talent industry thus far?
LW: I am very optimistic when it comes to this. I see everything whether good or bad as a blessing in disguise and take everything I experience as a learning lesson. Being a part of the WBFF has really helped me become connected with the fit talent industry and has also helped me grow as an individual. My advice for anyone is to be the person you truly are whether it is on stage, off stage, or behind camera. 

JP: What comes next in your journey as a talent and business owner?
LW: I have so much in store for the future! Once one goal is checked off the list, I add another! I plan on expanding my business 4WARD Fitness nationwide and continue to compete. I want to become more involved in the WBFF as I feel they do an awesome job marketing and helping athletes achieve their goals. At the end of the day I am happy when I know I made someone else happy.

Special thanks to Leah Ward for being a part of this feature. You can connect with her through her Facbeook page at www.facebook.com/leahwardfitness or through Instagram and Twitter @leahwardfitness