Sports Illustrated: Did you have experience modeling before submitting an IG video or showing up in-person for #SISwimSearch?
Ariadna Gutierrez: Yes, I did. In my hometown, Barranquilla, Colombia, I started modeling around age 15-16. Right after I graduated high school, I really wanted to pursue a modeling career. It had been my dream since I was a little, so I left my hometown to follow that dream not knowing if I was going to make it.
There were hardships, I had to work really hard, I had to be disciplined and super responsible, and was lucky enough to score some modeling jobs that eventually paid the bills. Although it was hard, I never gave up and never wanted to give up. There was no “plan b.” All of my siblings had gone to college and my parents wanted me to go to as well, but I wanted to show everyone that I was capable of making it.
SI: What was your casting experience like in Miami?
AG: I went to the casting thanks to my agency. They surprised me when they called to let me know that I had to be present for a casting, not knowing that it was for SI. They believed in me and I am forever grateful for that.
Once I was there, I thanked God that I was even being considered for such an amazing opportunity. I was nervous, but super happy and amazed that I was there. I consider myself a very positive person, and I thought, “I am going to show who I am and do my best, but in case this doesn’t happen, wow I was there and I loved it.”
I was lucky enough to be chosen. It’s been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me in my modeling career. This casting was a light that shined for me to keep on dreaming and to keep working hard for that dream. It was an amazing experience to be there representing my country and my Latin community. I will be forever grateful to not only my agency, but to the SI team.
SI: What does being a part of the SI Swimsuit model search mean to you? How do you plan to use this platform?
AG: Being part of the SI Swimsuit model search is really a dream. I need to pinch myself. I can’t believe this happened. Since I was a little girl, I’ve been dreaming of an opportunity like this. Knowing that the best, most amazing models have been a part of this magazine, it is mind boggling to me that I have been given the opportunity to show who I am and represent where I come from on a global platform such as SI.
SI’s mission and message to empower women is inspirational and I am truly humbled and grateful that I was considered. It has been a dream come true. I am living the best experience of my life. I am so happy that I can be a part of SI’s family because I identify with SI’s motto that all women are special, unique and worthy. I want to voice that to everyone. We are ALL special, unique, capable, worthy. This platform reaches so many. It is amazing that I could be one voice that spreads such an amazing message.
SI: Many people know you as the Miss Universe contestant who was wrongly crowned by Steve Harvey. How has that experience worked in your favor? What positive things have you been able to accomplish thanks to that originally-unwanted attention?
AG: I believe that Miss Universe changed my life. It was a moment where I suddenly went from being Miss Colombia to being the wrongly crowned girl at the Miss Universe pageant.
At that moment in time, I thought I was living one of the most horrible experiences of my life, personally and professionally. I was representing Colombia, and did not want to disappoint a whole country that was counting on me. With this experience, I’ve learned that from the darkness we can create light.
Of course, I was sad, depressed, and even embarrassed, but the truth of the matter is even though I went through that, it’s opened so many doors that might not have been opened if that moment didn’t happen. I am very lucky that that moment has brought me here, where I am able to represent not only my country, but the Latin community.
SI: What is something your fans don't know about you?
AG: Something my fans may not know is that I became a vegan after my father passed away in 2018. I always try to promote a healthy lifestyle–eating healthy and clean. I think this is a very positive message that we have to give people more and more because your health is most important thing. After my father died of cancer, it changed the way I saw life. It made me more conscious of the choices I was making with my nutrition.
SI: What does being a part of model search mean for you as a Colombian?
AG: Being part of the SI Swim model search is definitely a dream come true. I know that being the only Colombian representing my country makes so many people proud. I want to make my family, my fans, my country, and the Latin community proud of me. This shows that if I can do it, anybody can do it. Don’t let a moment deviate you from your path or from your dreams. With hard work and tenacity, you can get there.
See photos from our unforgettable runway show at Miami Swim Week: