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Tanaye White Is Encouraging Women Everywhere to ‘Own What You Have’

The SI Swimsuit model opens up about representation and acceptance.

Tanaye White is perfectly imperfect. It’s taken her most of her life to understand that perfection is not realistic. “I think that for young girls out there, more than ever, there is so much pressure to be perfect, have the perfect life, the perfect clothes, all of that,” the Connecticut native shares in SI Swimsuit’s Beauty Evolution video series. “I have always been a person driven to have perfect everything, and I realize as I’ve gotten older that really destroys your experience of living.”

She hopes to instill this life lesson in others. “I really try to champion women, young girls, adult girls to just really own what you have, own the moment,” she continues. “It’s O.K. if you don’t have a perfect life. Just embrace what you do have. There is really so much to be thankful for that we don’t even have to worry about what we don’t have.”

If it wasn’t for this mindset, White, 28, may not have had the courage to leave her career as a senior communications analyst in Washington, D.C., to pursue modeling full-time in 2019. Having joined the SI Swimsuit franchise during the 2020 Swim Search cycle – when she was named a co-winner – she is now doing everything she can to continue to advocate for a more diverse and inclusive modeling industry. While there have been large strides for diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry, there’s still a long way to go. White explains, “Usually when I show up to a photo shoot, it’s like nine times out of 10 that the hairstylist doesn’t know how to do my hair, so I usually show up to set with my hair already done. I do it myself.”

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Despite knowing there is always more to be done, the University of Maryland graduate is happy with the progress. “I think that the industry has done incredible things to make sure that we are pushing a more inclusive space,” she says. “I hate the fact that we live in a world, especially with the modeling industry, where we still have tokenism. You’ll have a runway show, but there will only be one Black girl or one Asian girl and everybody else is just white.”

Continuing to hold the decision-makers accountable is something she has no problem doing. Says White: “I think that while we are having conversations about having an inclusive spectrum of diversity, we still have to have the conversations about what are you truly doing to push that envelope forward and are you doing it effectively to make sure that we have the representation that we have all been wanting to see for decades.”

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