SI Swim Search 2021: Kristen Louelle

Name: Kristen Louelle Gaffney
Hometown: San Diego
Occupation: Entrepreneur, mom of two crazy boys, model

What inspired you to try out for Swim Search?

This has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. When I saw the opportunity with Swim Search back in 2018, I couldn't let fear hold me back. So I put all fear and insecurity aside and truly went for something big for the first time in my life. Despite "only" making it to the Sweet 16, it was one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences I've ever had. I didn't come this far only to make the playoffs, I'm in it for the big 'ship. That's why I'm here now, I want to finish what I started, baby!

What would it mean to you to win Swim Search?

How much time do we have? This is a lifelong dream of mine. Winning Swim Search would mean opening even more doors where I can make an impact, and that really excites me. To be a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model officially, I really can't even put into words how happy and grateful I would be.

What has been the best part about being a part of the Swim Search community?

Pushing myself. Being a part of the Swim Search community means I have made an effort towards my dream. I feel motivated, determined and excited. I have made some incredible lifelong friends from this and have loved watching SI Swimsuit evolve as a brand by creating an entire community of women supporting each other and lifting each other up.

What is your favorite SI Swimsuit memory?

My favorite personal SI Swimsuit memory thus far has been finding out I made this year's top 15. I've worked so hard for this, for years truly, and it feels incredible to see your hard work pay off. It motivates you that much more. I especially love Ashley Graham's 2016 cover. That cover changed the game for not only the industry but for women as a whole.

Who is your role model?

Tina Turner for her strength. Pamela Anderson for her fearless sexiness. Topanga Lawrence for her moral compass. Adam Sandler for his groundedness (not entirely sure this is even a word but I'm going with it).

What would you tell your younger self? 

I would tell my younger self not to care what people think and that anything is possible. We each grow up in our own comfort zones and I feel like life truly began for me once I broke out of that zone. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, that's where the real growth happens and that's where dreams come true.

How are you preparing for the SI Swim Search photo shoot?

Beyond working out and eating clean, I'm taking the time to focus on my brand and strategize how to reach and inspire as many women as possible. This opportunity is beyond beautiful photos. SI Swimsuit is a huge, legendary platform with an even bigger reach. I genuinely am using this time to figure out how I can conquer even bigger dreams.

Who was the first person you told the good news to?

The first person I told the news to was my husband, Tyler Gaffney. His support over the years is unmatched and serves as a reminder that class-act gentlemen still exist. It's because of him that I got the balls to enter SI Swim Search in the first place. When I asked if I should submit again, he said "F8^% yeah. Do it for the moms and do it for you." Then he made me a spicy margarita. What a catch.

Joanna Giunta