If real beauty is about dedication, confidence, passion, drive and intellect, Hillary Biscay has us beat (and not just on the track). The former University of Southern California professor was working on her Ph.D. in American Literature when she decided to put her degree on hold and turn her triathlon hobby into a profession. She hasn’t looked back since.

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As the most prolific iron-distance competitor on the professional women’s racing circuit, Hillary is strong, fit and dedicated. In 2006, she set a standard in Ironman racing by becoming the first person to record six top-five Ironman finishes in one season and, in 2008, won her first ironman title. She’s also the first professional woman to complete back-to-back iron-distance events. And, just this year, Hillary finished 2nd at the 2010 Ultraman World Championships in Kona, where she was the first woman out of the water, broke the 21-year old swim course record by 26 minutes and completed the race in the fastest Ultraman debut time.

Not only do we admire her dedication to fitness (especially during this time of year when New Years resolutions abound!) but also the fact that she turned her passion into a profession, which is something we should all have the courage to do!

So, we asked Hillary Biscay to weigh in on Real Beauty

What do you think makes someone beautiful?
Being physically fit and strong.

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How do you deal with the pressure for body perfection in our culture?
Because I make a living with my body, I am most concerned with its meeting standards for performance, rather than societal ideals for aesthetics. I do think about being lean because that is what by body needs to be fast. When being healthy and fit is what pays the mortgage, my priority is functionality.

If you could give your younger self advice about beauty, what would it be?
I have been very focused on sports since I was a young teen, so, fortunately, my values and self-esteem were not too misplaced. I was always much less concerned about my position in any given social hierarchy than I was about my next swim meet.

What is your one, can’t-live-without-it beauty product?

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