Norfolk, Va. - Meet 28-year-old Alesha Ray.
She's 5'10 and about 160 pounds.
"Most people look at me and say, oh, she must be a bikini model."
A compliment indeed; but a perfect example that what you see isn't always what you get.
What's behind Alesha is a 2,600 pound car -- and yes, she's in position to lift it!
For Alesha, this is pretty normal. She's the 9th Strongest Woman in the Nation.
It's about 5:30 p.m. in the evening when Alesha walks through the doors at Brute Strength Gym - and when she does, "I become a beast".
But let's rewind to earlier in the day. Let me introduce you to Alesha outside of the gym.
What does she really do for a living?
"Thank you for calling Fidelis billing, this is Alesha."
Before Alesha becomes a beast, she's an administrative financial advisor.
So how did Alesha begin strong women competing? Here's the thing -- before she became a competitor - she had one thing on her mind. And it wasn't training to lift cars.
"My only goal was to lose five pounds."
What started as a weight loss journey became a journey no one ever expected.
"No, no way, cause she was always a girly girl."
"I wasn't able to do a push up. I couldn't do a pull up."
In fact, growing up, athleticism was never a priority for Alesha.
"She was always doll babies."
"I loved to read to my dolls. And I absolutely loved glittery things."
So the road, "from doll babies to iron, to dead lifts with tires" was nothing more than an unexpected journey.
"Never saw myself doing this."
The thrill of the unexpected kept Alesha going: the thrill of proving herself against all odds.
"When it's not expected of you, you always want to try to do more. Just to prove to yourself that you really can do it."
Alesha began this journey just four years ago. Since then, she's lost 47 pounds, has ranked first at multiple state competitions, and is even making Team USA for the Arnold World Competition.
On a regular day, Alesha starts light -- and by light, we're talking a 700 pound tire. It's sitting on a 200 pound frame. Ok, but maybe that's too easy; so her trainer adds weight. By weight, we mean people.
"You're going to pull again. You pull that one, we're gonna put another person on...and we're going to keep going until you can't do it."
By now - there's well over 1,000 pounds sitting on this frame.
But there's even more to this Strongwoman when Alesha's not flipping tires, or trucking 500 pound yokes across the gym.
She's at yet another job, holding on to one of her childhood dreams.
"I find joy in doing hair."
Yes, the Strongwoman competitor is also a hairstylist.
"Yeah, I try not to hurt my clients. I'm kind of heavy handed," she says.
Perhaps Alesha has redefined what a strong woman really is. For her, it's not just about tangible strength.
"There's days when you have to be mentally strong and you have to be emotionally strong."
Each day, she has to balance.
"When you do three different things and you try to be good and efficient at all of them, it definitely requires balance."
When asked if Alesha is the strongest woman in Hampton Roads, her mother says: "Yes, yes. The strongest in Hampton Roads."
"Without a doubt."
However, when you ask Alesha that question, she says: "It's something to definitely strive for. You never stop striving."
A humble Alesha, indeed -- a beast who says it's far from easy.
"It's nothing for me to be lifting and crying at the same time, because that's just how passionate I am about my sport."
That, and striving to be stronger than who she was yesterday.
"I'm going to do my best, but I'm going to push myself farther than what I did."
Right now, Alesha is on a long road to nationals. a rigorous training process that involves preliminary competitions, and of course, a lot of cars. Her next competition is in Indiana in June.