The ladies of #SISwimSearch and heating up the pages of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. The final six women of the model search competition traveled down to Paradise Island, The Bahamas, to shoot with photographer Yu Tsai, and the results are going to blow you away.
Say hello to Manuela Hernandez. This Colombian-born babe just recently moved from Miami to New York City to pursue a full-time modeling career. You can count on this beauty for some serious #fitspo on Instagram. She'll definitely make you want to go throw a few punches at a Rumble boxing class! We caught up with Manuela to chat about everything from her unique fashion sense to how her life has changed since #SISwimSearch began.
Sports Illustrated: How has becoming an #SISwimSearch finalist impacted your life?
Manuela Hernandez: Becoming an #SISwimSearch finalist has made an incredibly positive impact on my life. When I submitted my casting video I was going through a very hard time, overcoming an eating disorder and learning to love myself again. I was ready to give up on modeling and just focus on finishing school and getting a job. Being chosen as one of the finalist and having Sports Illustrated believe in me showed me that it wasn’t time for me to give up and that I needed to believe in myself. This opportunity has taught me to love myself for who I am, appreciate my Latina curves and has helped me set an example for so many girls and women out there that are trying to come into this industry without fitting into that standard mold. Like I’ve said before, this opportunity saved me and I will forever be grateful for that.
SI:Have old friends that you thought you would never hear from again reached out to you?
MH: Oh so many people! People that used to talk about me now reach out “showing support” or saying how happy they are for me. It’s funny because in high school and early years of college, people who I thought were my best friends made fun of me for posting selfies and pictures on Instagram when I first started working on my social media. They would tell me that I needed to stop posting so many pictures alone and stop being so “into myself”. Well, I’m SO glad I never listened to them and always did my own thing because here I am, casually living my dream of being featured in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Magazine and in the top 6 finalists of #SISwimSearch!! What a way to prove the haters wrong!
SI:Have you made any major life changes since #SISwimSearch began? Maybe moved across the country?
MH: I’ve made a huge life change since #SISwimSearch began. I made the decision of quitting my part-time job (that basically paid all of my bills for the past 2 years) to move across the country from Miami to Los Angeles to become a full-time model. This has honestly been one of the biggest chances I’ve taken, but nothing worth having ever comes easy. I believe in making sacrifices and working hard to achieve your goals and dreams...and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
SI:Are your parents prepared to see your sexy photos?
MH: My mom and my grandparents are the closest people to me and they cannot wait for the issue to come out. I don’t think my grandparents in Colombia really understand the level of sexy that’s coming, but they have always wanted to see me in a magazine so they are super excited for that! My family has been very supportive of my journey, especially now that they see that my hard work is paying off and that I am healthy and embracing who I am without trying to change a thing.
SI:You have a really unique sense of style. Where do you get your inspiration from?
MH: Why thank you! Honestly, I worked at a boutique as a personal stylist for two years and I have to give all credit to that. I learned so much about fashion like staying on top of trends, putting outfits together and really thinking outside of the box when dressing myself and other people. It’s funny because when I first started working for them, I would model for their Instagram, which is what reassured my love for being in front of the camera and got me to pursue a career in modeling.
SI:Where do you hope to see yourself in a few years?
MH: I hope to see myself everywhere in a few years! I hope to see myself happy traveling the world, working in different countries and hopefully be able to establish myself more in the industry. My goal is to represent latinas and middle models on an international scale and demonstrate that you don’t have to be a certain size to work in fashion and live your dreams.
SI:What’s it been like to gain more of a following on social media? How have you handled everything from inspiring other women to dealing with the new haters?
MH: Gaining more of a following on social media has been very interesting. Daily I get messages from girls saying how it’s motivating to see me breaking barriers. These girls are the reason why I try to keep my page relatable and sometimes share some personal struggles. It’s not easy being vulnerable on a platform that seems to only highlight our lives at the perfect moment, with the perfect lighting, and perfect angles. But for me it’s so important to be relatable to my followers and inspire them to never give up on what they’re passionate about. I am just getting started, but it has truly been a unique experience to be able to tell my story and have people look up to that.
When it comes to haters, I try very hard to not let them get to me. I have to say, I am very thankful because the majority of my followers mainly show love. Although I will get the occasional hater that sneaks into my DMs, but I just delete it and don’t give it the time of day. Growing up I’ve always had to deal with a lot of bullies and haters. Now that I am vibrating at my highest frequency and literally living a life I’ve been dreaming of for years, I don’t let any negativity in whatsoever. Nothing can take these special moments and my happiness away from me!
See all of Manuela's stunning photos from SI Swimsuit 2019: