Long ago before making his way to the music scene, Leon Budrow was hitting the stage in a much different way. Before all the dancing and the singing, Budrow was flexing his physique as a professional fitness competitor in the National Gym Association, a natural division of bodybuilding.
Budrow was inspired to pursue fitness early on in life, noting his biggest influence to be his high school gym teacher, Mike Spinka. Budrow recalls looking up his high school role model with an eager desire to learn.
“I’ve been very fortunate to find many great mentors in my life, and Mr. Spinka is by far one of the best influences I’ve had growing up. I owe a lot of my successes to his classes and teachings.”
As a high school gym rat, Budrow recalls the school’s great strength and conditioning program as being one of his favorite classes. Inspired by the knowledge he was learning, he took his conditioning to a whole new level by joining the wrestling team.
Post graduation Budrow continued to hit the gym hard, working out in his home garage as well as joining his local gym. After having gone through a breakup with his high school sweetheart, Budrow decided to focus his energy on himself, setting a goal to enter his first bodybuilding competition.
“Spinka was a competitor, which really inspired me to want to get on the bodybuilding stage. I told myself I would do it for years, but it wasn’t until that breakup that I finally decided to go for it.”
Budrow not only went for it, he became hooked, going on to compete in six shows that year, earning himself a Pro Card in the NGA Men’s Physique Division.
“I was really proud of myself to earn that Pro Card. It was a great feeling, and definitely a memorable accomplishment.”
With six shows under his belt, including five top two placings, Budrow began to make a name for himself in the natural fitness world. He competed across the country in multiple states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts. It was then that he decided to get into modeling, earning two full articles in PhillyFit Magazine and NaturalMag International.
“It was really cool to be featured in those magazines. Fitness modeling and fitness competitions really launched my modeling career and boosted my confidence.”
New to the stage, Budrow admits he was quite nervous for his first show, but the now stage friendly star was not about to let nerves get the best of him.
“That first show was a nerve racking experience.” Budrow describes. “I went by myself and didn’t know anybody there. It was also my first time ever going on stage, especially in front of so many people. I was nervous, but knew I could do it and knew that I had to do it for myself, to grow from this experience.”
Budrow took to the stage with a child like wonder, learning from his fellow competitors and making friends along the way. In fact, he became reunited with an old friend at his first show, which propelled him to love the sport even more.
Despite achieving great success in the sport, including six shows, two top five placings, and a pro card – Budrow lost the desire to compete when his best friend Jon passed away the day before his final show.
“Jon was a great friend of mine, and his death hit me really hard. I didn’t even want to show up for that show anymore. He was the first person to encourage me to enter the Men’s Physique Division in the first place. It was really hard to be there that day, but I know he was with me.”
That would be the final show Budrow would compete in.
Following Jon’s death came the death of Budrow’s fitness idol, Greg Plitt. Budrow expresses that he is incredibly glad to have met his idol before his passing, a decision he made completely on impulse.
“One random night at midnight I decided to drive out to the Arnold Classic to meet Greg. It wasn’t planned at all, I just felt this strong need to go out there. So I drove eight hours on no sleep to the event. It ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made, as he passed away later that same year.”
Had Budrow never made that impulsive decision to drive out to Ohio, he would have never met his fitness idol.
“I remember the first thing I said when I met him was that I was sorry if I smelled bad from sitting in the car for eight hours. He laughed really hard at that” Budrow explains. “He then told me something I will never forget, telling me that I had an edgy look and a confidence about myself that he rarely sees. I’ll never forget that, and often look back on him saying that for motivation whenever I feel down on myself. Those words really inspire me to keep going in all that I do.”
Though he now admits he wishes he continued on with the sport, he admits his competing days may remain behind him, though today he now has a renewed passion for fitness.
“When I stopped competing, I also stopped working out as much as I did. I certainly didn’t fall out of shape, but I lost a passion for it. Now that I am a professional dancer and a music artist, the passion for the stage has been back in full force, just in a different way. I am happy to say that I’ve found my love for fitness again as well.”
With the coronavirus causing major shut downs across the country, including local gyms, Budrow has redirected his energy by picking up his old training habits again, using his home gym as an outlet during the pandemic.
“I’ve been working out every day during this quarantine. I’d say I am in better shape now than I was prior to the lockdown. I’m very fortunate to still have my home gym set up and to be able to find that fire again.”
With a renewed passion for fitness, Leon looks forward to hitting the dance floor again in the best shape possible. Having left the bodybuilding stage, he exchanged one spotlight for another when he become a male dancer for the World Famous Hunk-O-Mania Male Revue.
“It really sucks that our dance shows were postponed due to the virus, but I am very excited to start dancing again.” Budrow exclaims. “I can’t wait to get back on stage when things return to normal and the shows open back up.”
More than ready to “take it off” for the show, Budrow also looks to jump back into the modeling scene as well.
“I’m definitely ready to rebuild my portfolio. I can’t wait to get some new modeling pictures.”
Lights, Camera, Action – We are equally excited to see where Budrow’s renewed fitness journey leads.