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 Erin Willerton. This hilarious British bombshell has been making us laugh since we met her in Miami last July! Have we mentioned that this girl has got beauty and brains? Erin finished writing her dissertation just a few weeks ago, earning a degree in philosophy. We caught up with her to chat about everything from how she balanced being a model and a student to handling social media haters.
Sports Illustrated: How has becoming an #SISwimSearch finalist impacted your life?
Erin Willerton: In so many wonderful ways. Not only externally in terms of the incredible opportunities it has brought me, but internally. I feel as though I have really found what makes me happy and ignited a confidence that I had lost somewhere in my teen years. Being a student from the UK, I had always dreamed about an opportunity like it, however I didn’t even have a modeling agency before. The notion of an “open” casting is very important because it means that truly anyone can take part!
SI: How did you hear about the open casting call in England?
EW: My sister saw it on Instagram and showed me. I knew that it was a big risk just to show up but I ended up having the best week of my life! For me, it just shows that any woman from any place or background can achieve anything if they just put themselves out there!
SI: Do your friends at University understand the process of #SISwimSearch?
EW: My uni friends have been following the journey ever since the casting. They call it a Hannah Montana situation because 9-5 I’m sat in the library in my track-pants, and for the last few months I’ve been whisked away to the most exotic places by SI. I’m very lucky to have such supportive and humble friends.
SI: How have you balanced graduating with your budding modeling career?
EW: Working hard and not taking any of the surreal moments for granted. A degree is something that I will have forever and was always important to me - however, the last year has offered me so many incredible modeling opportunities too. So instead of picking one or the other I decided to work as hard as I could at both! I can’t wait to finish my degree in June and see what the world has to offer.
SI: How do you plan to use your philosophy degree? Or will you be transitioning into full-time modeling?
EW: My dissertation that I’m currently writing is about the lack of diverse practitioners within the field of philosophy. At undergraduate it’s about a 50/50 gender split and then we drastically lose female philosophers in university departments and journal articles. I would love to be a model/ female philosopher. There’s much to say epistemically about what some people expect models to have to say in the world of philosophy, I would love to prove some of them wrong.
SI: How do you think your parents/friends/family will react to your super sexy photos?
EW: My parents/ friends/ family couldn’t be more supportive. The people around me, and all the incredible women at SI understand that a woman may express herself in any way she pleases, whether she be a philosophy student or a full time swimsuit model! Also one of my favorite historical heroines, Hedy Lamarr, simultaneously maintained an academic career while being one of the sexiest women of all time!
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?
EW: Social media has definitely helped me in so many ways. It’s an interesting one as it means the industry has changed so much for models, but it does, of course, entail that we are exposed to new forms of criticism. I think one has to take it as they will though - and think of all the wonderful positives and opportunities social media can offer. I’m also lucky to say that I have followers from all over the world now - something SI has exposed me to. This is so important to me, as I’d love to use my voice to spread positive messages to a multitude of people.
See all of Erin's beautiful photos from SI Swimsuit 2019: