2024 Rookie Achieng Agutu Is the Hype Woman Everyone Needs

The model, content creator and confidence queen will appear in the 60th anniversary SI Swimsuit Issue in May.
Achieng Agutu

Achieng Agutu was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico. 

If there was an official internet-wide hype woman, it would be Achieng Agutu. Known for the motivational content she creates, the vivacious 27-year-old uses her platform to encourage her followers to be themselves, no matter what.

The Kisumu, Kenya, native brought that infectiously positive energy to the set of her 2024 rookie SI Swimsuit photo shoot in Mexico, where she posed for photographer Yu Tsai. Agutu, one of seven Swim Search co-winners in ’23, will make her debut in the forthcoming 60th anniversary SI Swimsuit Issue, out in May.

“Achieng Agutu, also known as ‘The Confidence Queen,’ embodies the spirit of empowerment and self-love,” MJ Day, SI Swimsuit editor in chief, says. “Her relentless advocacy for body positivity and dedication to spreading words of motivation and daily affirmations make her an exceptional addition to our 2024 rookie lineup. Her journey serves as a powerful reminder that embracing ourselves fully, with radical self-acceptance, is not only O.K. but essential for living our most authentic lives.”

While on location, we caught up with Agutu to talk all things Swim Search, her rookie photo shoot, beauty and more.

Achieng Agutu

Achieng Agutu was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico. Swimsuit by Analina and earrings by SOKO.

“My story is worthy of being listened to and celebrated”

Agutu, who has a bachelor’s degree in public relations and Spanish and a double master’s in international marketing and business analytics, says being a 2024 SI Swimsuit Issue rookie feels “iconic.” While some photo shoot sets she’s been on in the past have felt more formal, Agutu describes her time on location with the brand as “warm,” “chill” and “fun,” like a laid-back “family reunion.”

“Shooting with Yu Tsai is like shooting with your best friend,” she says. “I call myself the Internet Bestie, so it’s fun to have somebody else hype me up. He’s there like, ‘Oh you can do this, more this, more that.’ And it’s just so vibrant and fun and exciting. Having him and having [Swimsuit editor in chief] MJ [Day], as well, at the shoot is amazing. Because MJ is Queen Mother to me and to many, many SI [Swimsuit] girlies. It’s just exciting to have her there because she’s so grounding and nurturing and reassuring and it’s fun to have a mix of Yu Tsai and his hype and a mix of MJ and her calmness reminding you like, ‘Yes, it’s a good shot, you look fabulous.’ So I feel like I’m just in the best hands possible.”

Agutu, who names 2016 SI Swimsuit Issue cover star Ashley Graham as the brand model who has influenced her the most, says she’s thrilled to share her story through an outlet that aligns with her own goals of uplifting other women and inspiring confidence along the way.

“My story is being told on this platform, [and] it’s so reassuring to me that my story is worthy of being listened to and celebrated,” she says.

Achieng Agutu

Achieng Agutu was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico. Swimsuit by Analina and earrings by SOKO.

“Just do it. Put yourself out there”

When applications for the 2023 Swim Search opened, Agutu chose to put herself out there and throw her hat in the ring for the open casting call. In doing so, she’s now fulfilling her own dreams of appearing in the annual SI Swimsuit issue while also inspiring other women to be comfortable in their own skin.

“There’s been a lot of women who have reached out to me since I announced that I was going to be a [2024 SI Swimsuit] rookie who have just said like, ‘You don’t understand how huge this is for us, you don’t understand how special this is for us to see someone who looks like us in the pages of SI [Swimsuit],” Agutu shares.

Agutu has, in part, created her platforms to serve as the support she wishes she had when she was younger because, as she notes, “it would have changed so much how I lived my life.” She recalls a recent direct message from a 17-year-old girl in particular who shared that she was struggling with self-love and feeling comfortable in her body that really resonated.

Achieng Agutu

Achieng Agutu was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico. Swimsuit by Analina and earrings by SOKO.

“After I announced that I was going to be a rookie, she was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t wait to buy the magazine’ and, ‘I’m going to put it in my room,’ and, ‘You don’t understand how huge this is for me and my friends,” Agutu adds. “I think it’s kind of full circle for me to see all the work I’ve done getting to a point where it’s helping someone.”

Joining the SI Swimsuit family, Agutu says, has allowed her to build upon her existing community of women who love and accept themselves just as they are. And as for future Swim Search hopefuls, she says don’t wait for the “right” moment to apply—just jump in, like she did.

“Do it. You just have to do it. You can’t wait for the motivation. You can’t wait for the inspiration. You can’t wait for somebody to push you and do it. Just do it. Put yourself out there,” she urges. “If I listen to the people who are telling me like, ‘Yeah, but there’s so many other people who are applying, like why you?’ If not me, then who? If not you, then who? If not now, then when? Like, you just have to do it.”

Achieng Agutu

Achieng Agutu was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico. Swimsuit by Analina and earrings by SOKO.

“Someone being confident is somebody living in their truth”

It should come as no surprise that Agutu defines beauty as the confidence that results in being your true self.

“I think it’s beautiful to see someone just live so vibrantly and vivaciously and happily in their skin and in themselves, so I think beauty is confidence,” she says. “Confidence is such an important part of someone’s being. I know it’s hard to get there, but I think that’s what’s so beautiful to me. Someone being confident is somebody living in their truth and being themselves and I think that’s just so fun because then we just don’t have one person. We have all these people who are living the way they want to live, whether it’s being quiet or loud or happy or whatever. It’s just everybody living differently and that’s the beauty in it.”

One of the ways in which Agutu practices what she preaches is by being in tune with herself in the present moment. While she describes going through a season of self-doubt last year, she notes that she did a lot of intentional work to get herself where she is today: loving her entire being.

Achieng Agutu

Achieng Agutu was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico. Swimsuit by Analina and earrings by SOKO.

“I love everything about my body and about my skin. I don’t think I can pick one thing [that I love most] because then that’s unfair to every other part of my body that I’ve worked so hard to love,” Agutu says. “Right now, I’m just really obsessed with my soul and I feel like I’ve done so much work to get myself there and so much work to heal myself.”

It’s that message of unwavering self-love that she hopes women of all ages will take away from learning her story.

“I want to tell the girls, don’t let your body stop you from living your best life, O.K.,” Agutu encourages. “Honey, if you’ve got that stomach, embrace it. If you’ve got those stretch marks, embrace it. Live your best life, honey. I am going to be in the pages of SI Swimsuit 2024 because of that.”

Cara O’Bleness


Cara is a trending news writer/editor for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. A passionate writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience in print and online media, she loves storytelling and believes that words have the power to change the world. Prior to joining the team, Cara worked as a writer and editor across a number of content verticals, including food, lifestyle, health and wellness, and small business and entrepreneurship. In her free time, Cara loves reading, spending time with her family and making her way through Michigan’s many microbreweries. She is a graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism.