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Belle of the Ball: East Hall's Tierra Benton models and starts for the Lady Vikings

POSTED: February 7, 2008 5:03 a.m.
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East Hall basketball player Tierra Benton poses for photographers from Jezebel magazine.

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In regard to Tierra Benton, East Hall teacher Steve Pettit said, "She’s got a bright future."

With a 4.07 GPA while taking an Advanced Placement course load at East Hall, she’s ranked 12th in her class; modeling shots of her in Macy’s catalogue and Jezebel magazine, region championships in three different track and field events and a tireless will on the basketball court; a limitless future is more like it.

Benton, a senior power forward for the defending Class AAA state champion Lady Vikings also sings and shows that ability off once or twice a season when she belts out the National Anthem before hitting the hardwood for her team.

"Singing is not something I’ve ever wanted to do, but I’ve always wanted to be a model," Benton said.

The story goes that when the Lady Vikings starter was around the age of two she told her parents that she wanted to be a "walker."

"They (Marcell and Taunya Benton, her parents) were like, ‘Whoa, oh God, she’s going to grow up to be a prostitute,’" Benton said.

Things were quickly cleared up when, while watching a runway show, Benton looked at her mother and said, "Mommy, that’s what I want to be."

According to Benton, a collective sigh of relief permeated the television room that night.

Benton began modeling at age 13 or, to put it a better way, she was discovered at age 13.

Colonial Lakeshore Mall was having a model search and Benton signed up, as a result she was signed with Race Modeling Management, a firm that recently moved its home base from Atlanta to New York City.

"There was a bit of a dead period after I got signed because I was too young to do the work," Benton said.

In January of last year Benton’s modeling work began and it hasn’t slowed down since.

In the past year she’s done work for Jezebel magazine, Bronner Brothers Hair Show, Grip magazine, Macy’s catalogue and 3 Suisse, a French clothing catalogue that had a shoot Benton was part of in Miami.

There are times when Benton travels for modeling every weekend and there are times when she travels two weekends out of a month. A typical photo shoot for the 17-year-old lasts five hours to two days.

According to Benton, shoots are nothing like what is seen on television.

"It’s not like you have to be in a freezing cold pool, posing and all that," Benton said. "They want to get the best work out of you so they make you very comfortable. There’s music playing in the background and the photographer talks to you the entire time and asks you if you need anything, they take it to a personal level."

The only time, according to Benton, that she was uncomfortable during a photo shoot was when she had to lay on top of jagged rocks posing with diamonds ranging from $7,000 to $10,000.

"Wearing that jewelry made up for the rocks," Benton said.

"In November I did a job in New York for Rainbow Apparel which is a juniors store," Benton said. "I did a couple of shoots with good photographers and they took pictures of me for my book."

The "book" Benton is referring to is her modeling portfolio which she hopes to build to a strong enough level that when she moves to New York post-high school graduation, she won’t be put on a developmental level by an agency but rather be able to begin working in the modeling business immediately.

"I want to get up there and work," Benton said. "I have contacts from Ford and Click, two really good modeling agencies, and they want me, I just need to get up there (to New York).

A teenager carrying a grade point average of over 4.0 with aspirations, not to go to college, but to immediately begin her modeling career.

"My daddy’s behind me," Benton said. "Daddy never thought I would go to college and do a traditional type thing and my mom wants me to model so she’s behind it too."

Benton’s love for the modeling business stems from simplicity, "It’s easy," she said. "I feel like they pay me too much for what I do. You want to pay me to take a picture of me? Ok. I get to play dress up everyday and the travelling is fun. I’d much rather do that than kill myself on the court everyday and be tired," she added with a laugh.

If Benton were to continue her basketball career on the next level, anything less that "killing herself on the court...and being tired," would be uncharacteristic.

The senior Lady Viking makes all the hustle plays for her team and does the little things that don’t amount to much in the stat column, but are of the utmost importance for a team looking to repeat as region champions.

Benton started playing basketball in eighth grade, "The coach told me that I wasn’t going to play a lot but that she would develop me. That was my favorite coach (Debbie) Wiley. She’s the reason I’m playing now," Benton said.

She also admitted that her desire to play basketball was a direct result of the clique of friends she began hanging around in middle school.

"I decided to pick friends were all basketball players, so I started playing basically because they did," Benton said.

When she arrived in high school, Benton was skinny and weak and admitted getting pushed around. Last year, her junior season, during East Hall’s state championship run Benton was called upon to give quick breaks to best friend and fellow post player Sada Wheeler.

"I got in a little bit last year but with Sada being Division I (college basketball material), I was just kind of there to give her a break," Benton said.

"This year I had to step up. Everyone thinks I’ve improved but this is the way I’ve always played. It’s just this year I am getting to do it. Coach Rider took me aside at the beginning of the season and said that he was going to have to use me and I have risen to the challenge I think."



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