Christen Harper Is So Glad She Had Katie Austin to ‘Lean on’ During Swim Search

The SI Swimsuit models and real-life BFFs were named co-Rookies of the Year in 2022.
Christen Harper and Katie Austin.

Christen Harper and Katie Austin.

Christen Harper is getting mushy. The SI Swimsuit model gushed about her best friend and 2022 co-Rookie of the Year, Katie Austin. The two applied to the franchise’s Swim Search program together in 2021. 

“It’s so important to be able to have people that can relate to what is going on in your life,” the 29-year-old said. “I got to do this whole Swim Search process with my best friend, Katie Austin. It’s been just so nice to have each other to lean on through this, through the ups and the downs.”

SI Swimsuit editor in chief MJ Day surprised the models with their Rookie of the Year news in a video call.

“This whole brand is what you guys represent—fabulous people supporting each other, doing their thing, bigger and better all the time,” Day explained. “Really motivated, smart individuals that keep creating opportunities for themselves and keep growing. You do it for each other, and you do it for random strangers and you do it for us. It’s pretty awesome. There’s never been two more worthy people.”

Austin and Harper were discovered through the brand’s open casting call. Both women were selected as finalists along with 11 other models and were photographed in Atlantic City, N.J., in 2021. They were named co-winners that September, and, as a result, were featured in the 2022 SI Swimsuit Issue.

“What an absolute insane honor to be named ROOKIE OF THE YEAR by @si_swimsuit along with my best friend @katieaustin,” Harper captioned an Instagram post announcing the news last October. 

Austin shared her own excitement and wrote, “OHHHH MY GOOOOSHHHH. WE’RE ROOKIES OF THE FREAKIN YEAR BABY @christenharper !!!!💫🤯 Thank you endlessly to @si_swimsuit for not only changing my life this year and naming us ROTY, but introducing me to my bestie. I feel so grateful to be a part of this brand and movement. It really is exactly what it stands for.”

As rookies of the year, the duo secured their spots for the 2023 edition. Austin’s photo shoot in the Dominican Republic has already begun.

“It’s just so amazing to have that support [and] have someone to confide in,” Harper continued while on a panel during 2022 launch week. “It’s so hugely important, like we all need that.”

Ananya Panchal


Ananya Panchal is a NYC-based Lifestyle & Trending News writer at SI Swimsuit. Before joining the Swim team, the Boston University Alum worked for culture & entertainment beats at Bustle, The San Francisco Chronicle and the TODAY Show. When Ananya is not writing or doom-scrolling on social media, she can be found playing sudoku, rewatching One Tree Hill or trying new restaurants. She's also a coffee and chocolate (separately) enthusiast.