SI: You did it! You’re officially a rookie for SI Swimsuit 2021. Tell us what this moment feels like.
KJ: I’ve tried and failed as a petite model for over three decades and now my dream is coming true. I think I am still in shock that I won. It’s the weirdest feeling -- it hasn’t sunk in yet!
SI: Who was the first person you told when you got the big news?
KJ: My daughter Abigail.
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SI: You’ve had quite a few incredible career moments. From appearing in Miley Cyrus and Green Day music videos to Beauty Blender and Third Love campaigns -- you’ve done it all! What makes this moment different from the rest?
KJ: This moment is not about a job, it’s a moment of awakening for women over 50 to be validated! We deserve a platform to show how amazing we all are and SI is providing that. Short models need a voice in the industry and -- guess what? -- short girls can model, too.
SI: If you could give advice to the next wave of SI Swim Search hopefuls, what would that be?
KJ: Know who you are, know what your platform is, work hard and make those videos and posts even when you aren’t feeling motivated or worthy because they could motivate someone else!
SI: What has been the most challenging part of the SI Swim Search journey?
KJ: Waiting to hear who won during the voting had me so anxious. I was moping around driving my husband nuts wondering how I was going to pick myself back up yet once again after it all ended.
SI: What about the most rewarding part?
KJ: All of the messages, tags and videos from fans saying that I inspired them. And, of course, getting to feel sexy in a bikini on a beach with the best team ever.
SI: Doors are about to blow open for you. Name two brands or companies you’d love to work with.
KJ: Now that I’ve landed SI Swimsuit, working with Victoria’s Secret, Cover Girl and walking high-fashion runways with the tall girls would be dreams come true.
SI: If you could shoot your rookie spread anywhere (dreaming in a perfect COVID-free world), where would you pick? Who would you want the photographer to be?
KJ: The Egyptian pyramids would be amazing and, of course, Yu Tsai would be my dream photographer.
SI: Lastly, what’s next for you?
KJ: Well, first and foremost, I think I need to hit the gym to prep for my rookie spread -- haha!