Meet Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's 2020 Model Search Winners: 'Both Women Represent Persistence'
The breakout stars of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's annual Model Search are finally here — and this year, not one, but two amazing models, Tanaye White and Kathy Jacobs, were selected as the 2020 Swim Search winners.
Starting with an open casting call last July in Miami where thousands of both new faces and established models got the chance to meet with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit team, the magazine narrowed down the group to 16 diverse finalists by the end of 2019.
From there, each model shared their story and showed why they would be a great addition to the brand. Then six finalists (Brielle Anyea, Clarissa Bowers, Christie Valdiserri, Jamea Lynee, along with Jacobs and White) were flown to Turks and Caicos in February to be photographed for the 2020 issue (which hit stands in July) by longtime SI Swim photographer Yu Tsai.
In the end, White and Jacobs were both named the winners and secured a spot as a Rookie in the 2021 issue.
"We are so excited to announce this year's Swim Search winners are Tanaye White and Kathy Jacobs! Both women represent the power of persistence, hard work and what it means to follow your dreams," Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor-in-chief M.J. Day tells PEOPLE.
White, 28, is a Georgetown University graduate who quit her job at the largest defense and aerospace agency to try out in 2019. She participated in the Swim Search for the past two years. "She's incredibly resilient and strong, and brings so much value to our team. She's shown such tenacity in achieving her goals," Day says.
After learning she will be featured in SI Swim's 2021 issue as a Rookie, White said her stomach was "flipping nonstop."
She tells PEOPLE: "I’ve dreamed of what this moment would look like for years and I cannot believe it’s happening! My stomach is flipping nonstop. My life will be forever changed. I hope my testimony shows people that you can do anything you put your mind and heart towards."
White's SI Swim Rookie counterpart, Jacobs, a 5'3", 56-year-old model that proves age is nothing but a number, hopes her win "inspires others not to give up on themselves."
"If I can do it, you can too! You are not too old. You are not too short. You are not too 'whatever you think you are,'" Jacobs tells PEOPLE. "When you fall down, put on your big girl pants — or in my case a bikini — and try again. I am so excited for what the future holds and this is just the icing on the cake!"
Day says she's excited to continue making more strides towards inclusivity and diversity in SI Swim with the help of Jacobs and White.
"Kathy unapologetically shows the world who she is and stands behind everything she believes in. We love her for that," Day says. "Both women collectively represent what Swim Search stands for — an inclusive and empowered place for individuals to be seen and be heard."
Interested in entering the 2021 Swim Search? Entries are now open! Visit swimsuit.si.com/siswimsearch2021 for more info.
- Rachel Lindsay on Getting Death Threats Following Interview with Former Bachelor Host Chris Harrison
- Rob Lowe's Son John Owen Reflects on Getting Sober and Leaning on His Dad: 'He Never Gave Up on Me'
- John Mellencamp Says He's Surrounded by 'Angels' After Surviving Heart Attack and Rock 'n' Roll Life
- Photographer Anwar Hussein Shares the Private Stories Behind His Famous Photos of Princess Diana in New Exhibition