The May issue of Maxim features five covers with five different models, all in patriotic swimwear in honor of the issue’s “Tribute to the Troops” theme. But only one of the models — WLUP-FM 97.9 spokesmodel Shannon Ihrke (aka the Loop Rock Girl) — actually served in the military.
The 25-year-old former Marine is shown on her cover giving a salute and wearing a bikini top with the stars and stripes.
“I got a text at 7 in the morning Wednesday from my friend who was at the airport, saying, ‘Congrats on getting the cover of Maxim,’ ” Ihrke said Friday by phone. “I was freaking out. I wasn’t expecting to get on the cover. It was surreal. I was like, ‘I have to go get that magazine.’ ”
The Walker, Minn., native said she dropped out of St. Cloud State University to join the Marine Corps when she was 19 because she was worried about paying back student loans and the dim job market. Ihrke was also motivated by the fact that an adviser told her she wouldn’t last long in the military.
“I loved the challenge,” Ihrke said. “I’m the kind of person that when someone says I can’t do something, I make it my mission to prove I can.”
Ihrke’s next challenge was modeling. Not long after she was named a finalist in Maxim’s Hometown Hotties contest in 2011, she decided to leave the Marines to pursue modeling full time. To improve her chances of succeeding in such a competitive field, Ihrke believed she had to live in New York, Los Angeles, Miami or Chicago. She decided on Chicago because she knew the city well, having been stationed in Rock Island her final two years in the Marines.
In 2012, she was crowned Loop Rock Girl — a position that sees her star in her own calendar and make promotional appearances on the radio station’s behalf. But rather than part with her after a year to look for a new Loop Rock Girl, as is tradition, the station told her last year she could keep the title, Ihrke said.
It was an offer Ihrke couldn’t refuse. She enjoys getting dressed up and wearing makeup. It’s a nice change of pace to what she was used to in the Marines.
“I didn’t wear makeup for four years,” Ihrke said. “I looked like a guy. This is my time to be super girly.” Her mom, on the other hand, wasn’t as excited about her modeling career — at least not in the beginning.
“My family is a very Christian and conservative family originally from a small town in Minnesota,” Ihrke said. “When I started modeling, my mom said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ She wanted me to stay in the Marine Corps. They’re super-supportive now. My dad took pictures of himself holding a stack of the (Maxim) magazines.”
And how have her former peers in the Marines reacted to her Maxim fame?
“They still don’t believe it,” Ihrke said. “They’re like, ‘I can’t believe the (Marine) who used to yell at me to clean my room is on the cover of Maxim.’”
email@example.com | Twitter @TribLuis
For more celebrity news in Chicago, go to chicagotribune.com/luis