PEORIA, Ill (WMBD/WYZZ) — She moved from Peoria to Hawaii when she was 14 but Gypsy Russ considers this her hometown.

She loved the beach, loved to surf, and loved to workout in Hawaii but she’s been back in Peoria for nearly two years and is now representing her hometown in contest to be named Ms. Health and Fitness.

And she’s at 49.

“You look these other girls, maybe I’m not the super young one or the skinniest one,” Russ said. “But they’re looking for someone healthy and fit, looking for someone who’s strong. I feel I fit that category.”

Russ, who works out at Landmark Health Club, heard about contest and sent in her pictures on a whim. She admits she was surprised when she was selected by the national website to be in the competition.

She’s already made it past the first round of cuts in her group and is hoping to make the top ten after Thursday’s online vote. But she’s really not set on winning.

“I’d love to win it more than anything but I’d be happy just inspiring other people to get out there and be fit,” Russ said. “They see me at my age and say, ‘I can do that.’ Creating a healthier society, it’s really what I’m doing this for.”

Fitness is always a hot topic for Russ, especially during the pandemic. She hopes she can inspire people to work at it and have fun at the same time.

“You should just be comfortable with yourself,” Russ said. “You should strive to be your best.”

To cast a free vote for Gypsy Russ in the Ms. Health and Fitness contest, here’s the link