Sports Illustrated: Did you have experience modeling before submitting an IG video or showing up in-person for #SISwimSearch?
Miki Hamano: Yes, I have been working as a model, mostly in LA and San Francisco, for the past two years.
SI: You’re signed with Wilhelmina, but you didn’t tell your agents that you were attending the #SISwimSearch opening casting. What gave you the courage to try this on your own?
MH: We don't have SI Swimsuit in Japan, so when I learned about it it in the US I really wanted to work with them! I had some obvious fears about being chosen. As many models will tell you, no one lands every job they audition for, and with this one there were thousands of women chasing the same dream. Sometimes the client is just looking for something else–someone taller, different hair color, etc. I didn't want to tell my agent unless it was confirmed, but when I got the email I called them within 30 seconds! You never know how things will turn out unless you try it.
SI: What was your casting experience like in Miami?
MH: It was my first time doing something like this–going to an open-casting call for a huge publication. I had to walk a swim show the day before the SI Swimsuit casting, and I got home around midnight, took a three hour nap, and headed to stand in line at the casting at 4:45am.
The 6 hour wait was easy because I made friends with the amazing women in line with me. We talked about everything under the sun and time passed so quickly! Getting a callback from the casting was a very emotional moment. I couldn’t believe it at first. I read the text about a hundred times.
I couldn’t sleep that night because I was too excited for the next day! I’d say the best part about the casting was that I was able to meet many wonderful people from all over the world. They all had stories to tell and it was very empowering. It reminded me that women have the power to transform this world!
SI: What does being a part of the SI Swimsuit model search mean to you? How do you plan to use this platform?
MH: For me, being a part of #SISwimSearch means that I get to inspire women like me, especially Asian girls who dream to be a model. In Asian culture, parents usually teach us to choose a traditional career path and focus on that. As a result, many young women give up on their dreams without even trying.
I gave up on my dream when I was a kid because my parents taught me that I couldn’t be a model. It was only when I moved to America that I started believing I could really do it. I want young people to know that nothing is impossible and we need to dream big!
Since I was chosen for the Sweet 17, I have received DMs asking me about the modeling industry, SI Swim castings, and other things related to modeling. I love it when I get questions like these because when I started modeling a couple years ago, I had no one to ask.
SI: What was your reaction to being named Playboy's Miss March 2019?
MH: I was shocked when I first heard the news! I didn’t expect that at all, but I remember that it made me so happy and honored to be just the 3rd Japanese Playmate in their 65+ year history. It’s an honor to be recognized by such an iconic magazine, while also standing a little ways outside of their traditional viewpoint. I like the new direction they are taking the magazine.
SI: You came to the US from Japan for the first time when you were just 19 years old. What was the hardest part about that transition? What was the best part?
MH: The hardest part was communicating because I didn't speak English. The best part was everything else. I'm naturally open-minded and curious, I love exploring new surroundings. I still remember my first time eating Mexican food and I loved it so much!
See photos from our unforgettable runway show at Miami Swim Week: