Sports Illustrated: Did you have experience modeling before showing up in-person for #SISwimSearch?
Florinda Estrada: Yes, I actually have had a bit of modeling experience before showing up for #SISwimSearch! With my previous agency, I went to lots of castings and did book a few jobs over the years, but I was always in need of a little more development as a model, and a little more guidance throughout the business in general.
Now though, I feel super grateful to be signed with an agency and managed by a team that’s helping me do just that. I think it’s really important in any working relationship; just making sure that everybody’s on the same page, and that all parties know what part they're playing in helping to facilitate each other’s growth. I do have to say #SISwimSearch is my first “big time” modeling opportunity. And boy, am I here for it!!
SI: You were selected Camille Kostek to win a "golden ticket" and skip the line to go straight into castings in Miami. What did that initial support from the current cover model mean to you?
FE: Ahhhh! It was everything. Before actually meeting Camille, I’ve always vibed with her personality, solely from watching her talk, and interview, and engage on social media. She’s one of those people whose got something that you can’t really put your finger on, but it makes you feel good.
Some people call it the “it” factor. But I call it the “confident, friendly, non-judgmental, humble, unapologetically willing to follow her heart” factor. And to have received a golden ticket from a woman like that? It actually meant a lot to me. It made me feel like because Camille–a past winner of #SISwimSearch and current SI Swimsuit cover model–saw something in me, I had the responsibility of not letting her down!
But it did something amazing by not adding pressure or stress like some may imagine it would. It just reminded me to go into that interview room and continue being myself since honestly, that’s what got me there in the first place.
SI: What was your casting experience like in Miami?
FE: My casting experience in Miami was incredible. I showed up at 6am to get on a line that was already around the corner! It started to rain, but I ended up befriending the really incredible girls that were all around me, so waiting in line for four hours in the rain bactually turned out to be a fun experience.
After four hours of waiting, we got to meet Camille and she ended up giving me her golden ticket! I was over the moon!!! At first I didn’t know what was happening, but once I figured it out, I was amped! She brought me to the interview room and I waited for 4 or 5 minutes before sitting down with Janine and Darcie.
While I was waiting, I said to myself “Flo. You just fast tracked the line because Camille saw something in you. You better knock this out of the park.” Interviewing with Janine and Darcie was more like having a casual conversation with my friends back home–super laid back and comfortable to say the least. After that, I did my best to keep myself busy before potentially getting a callback. And when I finally did get that message, you better believe I called all of my loved ones in tears.
Day two was even more amazing. I got to know so many incredibly beautiful, inspiring, talented, kind women, including the models themselves! I can go on and on about how awesome the whole experience was, but honestly, when I think back to all of it, I really can’t believe that it got me to this very moment. I literally just showed up with a ton of love and excitement in my heart. As a developing model, I’ve been so conditioned to hearing “no” or “maybe next time” that I went in with zero attachment to any outcome, and just a little bit of hope. And somehow that was enough!
SI: What does being a part of the SI Swimsuit model search mean to you? How do you plan to use this platform?
FE: Being part of SI Swimsuit model search is so much more than just having the opportunity to work with one of the most iconic brands in the industry. It’s more than potentially getting a spread in the future. It’s more than maybe one day becoming a cover model. It’s more than glamour or beauty. Being part of this is much, much bigger.
SI Swimsuit is making waves that so many have been afraid to make. They are waves that were inevitable, but it’s always just been a matter of who would start making them first. And clearly, SI Swimsuit has decided to do that in a big way. They’ve decided to be a leader in making waves. They’re changing the whole entire energy and approach of a huge industry.
And they’re not just doing it by encouraging inclusivity. They’re literally inspiring humanity. They’re reminding people that we’re all beautiful and unique in our own ways, while also highlighting the fact that at the end of the day, we’re all still the same. They’re reminding people that societal norms can change.
Being part of #SISwimSearch means I get to be part of that. I get to be a part of something I genuinely believe in, and I get to utilize the platform to remind people of who we all are at our core: loving, beautiful, flawless, deserving human beings.
SI: You mentioned that you are a signed model, but that you aren’t currently on your agency’s curve board. What keeps you motivated to continue to pursue a career in modeling despite being discouraged or told “no.”
FE: One million people can tell you “no.” But if you’re passionate about something, decide to give it your all, and just commit to being your self throughout that entire process, if there is a “yes” out there for you, you will get it–even if it takes years and years of trying.
A little hope infused with the belief that I would eventually get my “yes” is what has kept me going this long. And look, I got mine! Cause even if my #SISwimSearch journey ends at the Sweet 17, I already won.
SI: Who has been your biggest modeling inspiration?
FE: Hunter McGrady! She is just so elegant and graceful, but also has such a sexy edge. I think she kind of reminds people that we can be many things all at once and that we don’t have to pick how we want to be and stay that way forever.
I love that she just owns whatever she models and really exudes confidence in her photos. I had the pleasure of meeting her at an event last summer. She was the sweetest! She was so friendly, so pleasant, and so willing to just take a few moments of her time to speak with people and take photos with fans who were there. To be honest, there’s nothing more inspiring than outside beauty that matches inside beauty–and that’s Hunter!
See photos from our unforgettable runway show at Miami Swim Week: