The Halifax Plantation resident used her Marilyn Monroe impression to land a spot on the Bravo TV show.
by: Julia Ambrose
Leesa Marie Benz, a Marilyn Monroe tribute artist who lives in Halifax Plantation, has been cast in the upcoming season of “The Real Housewives of Orlando,” to air this summer on Bravo.
Benz was first discovered in 1995, on Marilyn Monroe’s birthday, June 1. A look-alike competition was being held to promote the new Marilyn Monroe postage stamp, and she was encouraged to enter the contest.
“I had three months to get ready,” she said. “So I really had to study her. I had a strong resemblance to her, and then with tweaking the makeup and the hair, and getting clothes, old vintage clothes, it just kind of all came together.”
After Benz’s Marilyn debut, she went on to win Mrs. Ormond Beach 1999 and Mrs. Daytona Beach 2000. One of the photographers she was working with then kept in touch and informed her, years later, of the audition for “The Real Housewives of Orlando.”
She was apprehensive. She recalls telling him, “I don't even live in Orlando, and I'm not a housewife anymore.” He responded, “You're going to be perfect for this.”
After the casting in November 2021, she landed a position on the show, which debuts this summer.
Through the filming process, Benz has learned what it takes to be on a professionally made show, which requires about 30 hours of filming for a 20-minute episode. Patience was “truly a virtue” for her as she would film for eight hours a day. She describes the experience as “once in a lifetime” and although there might be a little bit of TV drama on the show, it is all part of the fun.
In order to be "Marilyn ready," Benz takes her time in the morning after getting plenty of sleep. When watching “The Real Housewives of Orlando,” she said, there will be a lot of jaw dropping moments, with participants talking about each other behind their backs, but the cast says a prayer before filming to keep a positive environment.
The filming feels authentic, she said, because the director places actors in a setting and allows them to simply start a conversation.
The mansions and sets she is working in makes her feel like “a million bucks for a day,” she said, and she hopes that this opportunity leads right into the next adventure.