Lifestyle Style Meet the Diverse Class of 'Sports Illustrated Swimsuit' 's 2022 Swim Search Finalists This year's group of empowering changemakers includes an astronaut, high altitude climber, lawyer, CEO and cancer survivors who are all using their platforms for advocacy work. Read on for their inspiring stories By Staff Author Published on March 8, 2022 12:24 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos 01 of 14 Fearless Females To kick off International Women's Day, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit announced its powerhouse group of women who have made it to the next round of the brand's annual Swim Search. Out of the thousands of submissions, this year's finalists were selected to be flown down to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana for a photo shoot with acclaimed industry photographer YuTsai. The winner will be featured in the 2023 issue. In honor of Women's History mont, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit will also be shining a spotlight on a large scope of female changemakers by creating daily covers highlighting some of the industries leading women in sports, entertainment, science, fashion and more. Plus, the brand is launching an eight-episode digital series "How She Built It," hosted by model Kate Bock who will be interviewing powerhouse women who have launched incredible brands and have amazing stories to share. 02 of 14 Manju Bangalore Occupation: Actor, Nonprofit Executive Director Physicist How many bathing suits do you own? Growing up in Oregon and not having a proper beach, I didn't have many — but I'm now finally building out my collection! I'd say I have around 6 now. What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search? It's such an immense honor. In my callback, I talked about my "why" for submitting to SI Swimsuit: to make my 12-year-old self proud and to inspire other young girls and women to pursue their wildest dreams. As a kid, I was often left out because of the color of my skin, my sexual orientation, and my gender. Being a part of Swim Search means I get to fully embrace the parts of me I was rejected for — and inspire others to do the same. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: My first memory of SI Swimsuit must have been seeing Kate Upton in the early 2010s! SI Swimsuit has created such a beautiful community of diverse, multifaceted women that really remind us that we as women are limitless. 03 of 14 Hillory Fields Ernesto Lopez Occupation: Travel ICU Nurse How many bathing suits do you own? I own 42 bikinis! What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search? Being a part of Swim Search means I get the chance to be surrounded by a diverse group of beautiful, courageous and influential women who are aiming to leave their mark. I'm honored. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: I remember when I was 12 years old and the first season of America's Next Top Model aired. My cousin and I watched the first few episodes together and that's when I had my first look at Tyra Banks' Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover. From there, anywhere I went, I noticed an SI Swimsuit magazine either on a coffee table or a newsstand. It somehow solidified that modeling would become a part of my future. Full circle moment here guys. 04 of 14 Victoria DeHart Vesce courtesy of Victoria Vesce Occupation: Law School Graduate, Grief Support Advocate and National Brain Tumor Society Spokesperson How many bathing suits do you own? A gazillion! What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search: Being a part of Swim Search is a dream come true. I'm surrounded by an incredible group of women who are so uplifting and who I now consider friends. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. Being a Brain Tumor survivor and after losing my mom from the pandemic, Swim Search has given me the opportunity to continue shining her beautiful light and love that she gave me and inspire others to keep moving, living, and celebrating yourself and your strength despite life's obstacles and heartbreaks. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: Ever since I was in middle school, I was OBSESSED with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. I remember when I got older and got into modeling that I would be in the mirror mimicking and practicing poses from the greats like Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley and so many more! The way SI Swimsuit has celebrated women and shown that you can be sexy, smart, career oriented, that you can have it all and don't have to choose really has inspired the way I live life now! 05 of 14 Gigi Robinson courtesy of Gigi Robinson Occupation: Founder of It's Gigi LLC, Podcast Host of "Everything You Need Is Within" How Many Bathing Suits Do You Own? Probably close to 30! What does it mean to be a part of the Swim Search? Being a part of Swim Search means so much to me, because I never dreamed I would be here! Being chosen as a finalist for this role means I get the opportunity to show other people just how true going after whatever you want, despite adversity you face, is possible. When I was 11, I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which is a connective tissue disorder leaving bruises all over and braces to seemingly hold my body together. This invisible illness has challenged my own mental endurance, friendship and academic relationships so much that I had nothing else to do but speak out. My experiences have taught me that when you use your voice and stay true to yourself, there is nothing you can't accomplish, which is why I wanted to represent chronically ill women in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. There is strength in being different and SI Swimsuit owns that fully! First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: I grew up looking at photography in magazines more than anything. As an artist, I have spent YEARS studying different posing, lighting and images that have been featured in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. I have admired Yu Tsai's work and it has always been my goal to shoot beside him one day as an assistant. I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to be on the other side of the camera! Aside from that, I have always admired the supermodels who graced the cover. Looking at Hunter McGrady and Emily DiDonato in the issues, I couldn't help but admire their beauty and confidence. It has inspired me to find my own version of beauty despite standards; which has encouraged me to achieve the most and go after it even when people don't believe in you. 06 of 14 Sarafina El-Badry Nance courtesy of Sarafina Nance Occupation: Astrophysicist, Analog Astronaut and author How many bathing suits do you own? This is so embarrassing but I only own one! What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search? As an astrophysicist and a BRCA2+ breast cancer previvor, being a finalist for Sports Illustrated Swim Search is an absolute dream that I still can't believe has come true. So much of my life has been about breaking into spaces that I never felt like were meant for me, and to be that source of representation in Swim Search is an unbelievable privilege and gift. I honestly can't believe it. When I was a kid, I fell in love with astrophysics, but as an Egyptian-American woman, I rarely saw scientists who looked like me. I had to fight through feelings of non-belonging and learn to advocate for myself in order to pursue my dreams of studying the stars. I'm so proud to join SI Swimsuit's group of powerful, driven women who are changing the world, and to be the multi-hyphenate woman that young Sarafina would have wanted to see when she was a kid. SI Swimsuit shows that women can pursue our dreams, defy stereotypes, and be anything we want to be. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: While I remember seeing SI Swimsuit magazines as a kid, my most important memory is when I saw Allyn Rose, a fellow breast cancer previvor and double mastectomy patient, in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. I was TOTALLY blown away by how gorgeous she was and how confident she was in her scars. I was so empowered by how she shared her story to encourage others to embrace their bodies. Her representation inspired me to share my story with others, to advocate for increased awareness around genetic testing and genetic mutations, and to empower others to take control of their health. 07 of 14 Drew Dorsey Occupation: TV Host, YouTube Personality, Model How many bathing suits do you own? Somewhere in between too many and I need another one. What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search? Being a part of Swim Search is such a dream and has been on my vision board for years. To see it come to fruition feels unreal. This was my second year auditioning which goes to show that you should never give up on your dreams because the craziest thing that could happen is they'll come true! I feel so honored that there's a whole generation of Black women now who will get to see themselves represented in me. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: Of course Tyra and my queen/religion Beyoncé. Kate Upton's 2013 cover also changed my life because she looked incredible and I was like omg yes having Double D's won't stop me from being able to model! 08 of 14 Kelly Crump How many bathing suits do you own? Honestly I do not know the actual number which means I have more than I should have given I live in a cold country! I am the person that tends to take between 15-20 suits on holiday because I need ones to snorkel in, lay out in, ones that I can play paddle ball in. I like variety! What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search? It has already been such an inspiring experience due to how MJ Day and her team have structured the search and how they have built the "Swimfluence" community. The fact that they are completely changing the game in regards to "Pay with change" and the amazing, smart, beautiful and diverse people they are putting in the magazine just makes me so proud that I have been given a chance to be a part of it all! I never thought I would ever even have the chance to submit myself for the magazine but here I am at 42-years-old living with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast cancer and that dream has come true! I am humbled and inspired by all the women I have met through The Swimfluence Network, and I'm excited to hopefully inspire others through my own story. I want to give hope, encouragement and inspiration to others to follow their dreams in life. To remind them that every day given is a gift, that they are amazing and that the small moments in life are what can really make you happy! First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: I remember when I first saw the magazine come through the letterbox as a young girl. It was the 25th anniversary edition with Kathy Ireland on the cover in this yellow bikini which was the beginning of my love for swimwear, beautiful travel locations and the beautiful women! Each year I would watch the behind the scenes shows on the making of the magazine and dream about visiting all these exotic locations. It gave this small town girl from NC inspiration in regards to fashion, beauty and travel. I have seen every issue each year since then! I love how the magazine has evolved over the years and how it now focuses on empowering and supporting strong beautiful women from all backgrounds. 09 of 14 Michelle F. Steffen Christian Beliera Occupation: Fashion Law Lawyer and Model How many bathing suits do you own? I'm not really sure but more than I can think of! I go crazy about just a couple of them and I end up wearing two or three per season. This last summer it was a black one. What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search? Being a part of Swim Search means freedom and versatility. It represents the possibility of being everything at once without being judged in a negative way. It means showing myself not only as a model but as a human being with personal flaws, imperfections and most importantly, showing a more complete version of who I am by telling my story. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: Ashley Graham's 2016 cover. I couldn't believe my eyes because I wasn't used to seeing curvy models in my home country or pretty much anywhere. 10 of 14 Nicole Petrie richard baron rodriguez Occupation: Model/Caregiver How many bathing suits do you own? 25 What does it mean to be apart of Swim Search? There are a handful of companies that I've dreamed of working with since I first started modeling. Companies that would make me feel like I'd "made it" in the industry, and SI Swimsuit is definitely at the top of that list. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit has made so many models who they are today and they work with the most amazing people. That's why I am so honored to be a part of this year's finalists and even more so because I get to represent and be a voice for caregivers all over the world, spread awareness for Frontotemporal dementia, and show anyone going through a similar situation that they are not alone. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: Probably seeing the cover on the magazine racks when I went grocery shopping with my mom as a little girl. I remember always being fascinated with the magazines and the covers have always been so beautiful and well done. I think a lot of young girls look up to the women in the SI Swimsuit Edition and I was no exception to that. Now, to be able to shoot with them and hopefully take one of those magazines home to show my mom that her daughter grew up and accomplished that goal of being in the issue. It's a real dream come true. 11 of 14 Ashley Byrd Occupation: Model How many swimsuits you own: As much as I love bikinis, you would think that I have plenty, but in reality, I think I only own about 10. What does it mean to be part of Swim Search? Being part of this search is such a tremendous honor. SI Swimsuit, and all the other beautiful women that are also part of this journey, allow me to show up in these spaces as my authentic self and let me know that that is enough. This is about more than just modeling and it is bigger than just me. Having the opportunity to experience this process is not only a win for me, but a win for my entire community. It serves as a real life example of the beauty and talent that exists in even the smallest town AND it helps remind all the other little girls and boys that they can manifest their wildest dreams into reality. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: One of my first SI Swimsuit memories was in 2007 when Beyoncé graced the cover. Seeing this beautiful black woman on the cover really lit a fire in me and by this time, I was trying to figure out how to get to LA or New York to pursue my dreams as a model. After that, I continued to follow the magazine. When Danielle Herrington made the cover in 2018, I thought, "This is what I want." I want to see more beautiful black women who look like me be part of this experience and this community. I see the intentional effort that SI Swimsuit has put into being more inclusive in a world where traditional beauty standards predominate over the industry. This is the type of community that I want to be a part of. 12 of 14 Mady Dewey courtesy of Mady Dewey Occupation: CEO & Co-Founder, Herd Social How many bathing suits do you own? I only have 8...which is honestly shocking considering the beach is my favorite place! What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search: I'm still pinching myself, it's a dream come true. For so long, I tried to tell myself modeling was not possible for me given my career in tech and my naturally curvy body. So often women are put in a box, told they have to pick which side of themselves is most palatable to the room they are in. It's an honor to be a part of a community that truly celebrates women for all that they are, and all that they aspire to be. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: In 2012 when Kate Upton was on the cover, I remember sitting with my mom (a long-time SI fan) obsessing over how powerful she looked on the cover. It's been a dream of mine to be in SI ever since! 13 of 14 Lotta Hintsa Occupation: High altitude climber and endurance athlete How many bathing suits do you own? I live a life of a nomad, because I go where the mountains are, so all my swimsuits are in multiple locations around the world. I honestly have no idea how many bathing suits I own. But there's always at least 5 at hand, no matter where I am. What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search: It's such an honor! I have always seen SI Swimsuit as an advocate for strong women and a brand that is redefining femininity in this world. I hope my authenticity as a woman in extreme sports can help support that messaging. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: I visited the United States for the first time in 2009 and bought my first SI Swimsuit magazine. My immediate impression was that the magazine celebrated female beauty in a fearless way, and ever since I've been a huge fan! 14 of 14 Ashley Callingbull Occupation: Actress, Model, Motivational Speaker How many bathing suits do you own? A girl can never have too many! What does it mean to be a part of Swim Search? It means the world to me! Indigenous representation is so important and it's an honor to be supported and have my voice and work amplified through the sports illustrated swim team. First memory of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: The '90s era made me proud to see diverse and strong women gracing the covers of a magazine that shows more than just a face. We are women with a mission, and I'm excited to see the diversity and inclusion continue!