Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Model Search 2023 Embraces Diversity With Pregnant Model, Plus-size
Sports Illustrated has narrowed down the finalists for its next supermodel rookie of the year. Seven women have been selected as potential cover girls for 2024’s Swimsuit Issue as part of the magazine’s Swim Search contest.
Achieng Agutu, Jena Sims, Nina Cash, Penny Lane, Berkleigh Wright, Sharina Gutierrez and Brittney Nicole are still in the running after the amount of finalists was narrowed down from 12 to seven in June. Voting for the 2023 Swim Search competition takes place now through Aug. 31.
Ever since Sports Illustrated launched its inaugural Swimsuit Issue in 1964, models from around the globe have sought to land the coveted cover spot. Seeking to expand its model pool, the publication debuted its open call Swim Search in 2017.
In recent years, SI has diversified its cover girls by featuring women of all ages and sizes. The Swimsuit Issue’s editor-in-chief, MJ Day, has led the charge. “I believe that real change comes from within,” Day, who’s worked for Sports Illustrated since 1999, wrote in 2022’s Swimsuit Issue. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do in my role at SI Swimsuit: to look inward — grow, evolve, learn and unlearn to better bring all women’s voices to our brand.”
Here, get to know the seven finalists for SI’s 2023 Swim Search.
Achieng Agutu walks the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Show’s runway on July 7 in Miami. getty images
Agutu, an influencer from Kenya, has long dreamed of covering Sports Illustrated. “I have had SI [Swimsuit] on my vision board since I moved from Kenya to the U.S. in 2013,” she told the publication in 2023. “The brand truly empowers, motivates and validates the voices of all women. With my own platforms, I’ve tried to do just that as well.”
Agutu, who describes herself as “an education baddie,” is fluent in four languages and earned her master’s degree in international marketing and business analytics at Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Nina Cash walks the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Show’s runway on July 7 in Miami.GETTY IMAGES FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATIONS
Hailing from Long Beach, California, Cash is a model and retired university associate dean. The mother of three is passionate about volunteer work that helps people and animals in need.
“Not only is SI Swimsuit empowering women to embrace and celebrate their uniqueness, but the brand is also showing children (who will become adults) that celebrating one’s uniqueness, is in fact, beautiful,” Cash said in a 2023 interview with SI.
Sharina Gutierrez walks the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Show’s runway on July 7 in Miami.GETTY IMAGES
Gutierrez has been a model since the age of 12, booking campaigns with brands including Estée Lauder, Ralph Lauren and Reebok. Speaking to SI, the Riverside, California, native said that her children, friends and family inspired her to join the Swim Search.
“To be a part of the SI Swim team would mean being a part of an empowering tribe of game changers who use their platforms to uplift one another and advocate for the change this world so desperately needs,” Gutierrez added.
Penny Lane walks the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Show’s runway on July 7 in Miami.GETTY IMAGES FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRA
Lane, a health coach from Cheshire, England, began modeling as a teenager. “I share Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s passion for promoting healthy body standards, particularly in the fashion industry,” she told the magazine. “It is heartening to see that there has been a shift towards more inclusive and body-positive representations in media and advertising, but there is still a long way to go.
Brittney Nicole attends the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2023 Issue release party at May 19 in Hollywood, Florida. GETTY IMAGES FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRA
A Navy veteran, Nicole began her modeling career just one year ago. Since then she’s walked the runway at New York Fashion Week and booked the cover of Now Weddings magazine. In an interview with SI, Nicole revealed that Tyra Banks was her primary inspiration for joining the Swim Search.
“I remember seeing [Banks] on the cover of SI in 1997,” she said. “She represented so much to me as a young Black model, paving the way for others to come. Watching her throughout the years working with the brand motivated me to pursue the same.”
Jena Sims walks the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Show’s runway on July 7 in Miami.GETTY IMAGES FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRA
As a former pageant queen, Sims launched her nonprofit Has Been Beauty Queens to empower young people living in challenging circumstances. “Helping these incredible participants from all over the world feel beautiful on the inside so closely parallels the mission behind SI Swimsuit: It’s not about the body, but who’s in that body,” Sims told the magazine.
Berkleigh Wright walks the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Show’s runway on July 7 in Miami.GETTY IMAGES FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRA
When Wright isn’t working as a technical account manager and analyst, she’s a cheerleader for the Denver Broncos. She’s also no stranger to swimsuit modeling, having posed for the Denver Broncos cheerleaders’ swimsuit calendar in 2019. “Being a member of the Sports Illustrated family and having this powerful platform would help me further myself as a mentor and reach a wider audience of our youth,” Wright said in an interview with SI.