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Get Ready for Swim Search Finalist Ashley Byrd at Miami Swim Week

This SI Swimsuit model was also just featured in the new Ciara “Jump” music video.

Growing up in small town Louisiana, Ashley Byrd never thought being a model was in the cards. While the 5’ 10” former college basketball player holds a master’s in public administration, it wasn’t until after several career changes, including a stint in construction, when she decided to pursue a career in fashion full-time. The 2022 SI Swim Search finalist is now getting ready to show her stuff at the SI Swimsuit runway show at PARAISO Miami Beach for Miami Swim Week.

“I’ve always been sure of myself. I’ve always been into adventure, exploring and trying new things,” says Byrd. “And I always knew that I wanted more. I thought I would be a basketball player because I love sports. I didn’t know I could be a model because nobody pushed for that growing up in my community. I didn’t know how to get started. I went through it all alone because I knew there was just something more for me.”

Byrd made the leap and moved to Los Angeles, where she attended a Swimfluence Network event and gained a community of encouragement.

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“When Danielle Herrington appeared on the cover [in 2018], I was like I need to do this,” she says. “But I talked myself out of it for years because I didn’t think I fit into a certain category. What pushed me was when I attended the SI event in L.A. That in-person one-on-one with some of the SI team members made a huge difference. They told me not to worry about a script and just tell us about you. That pushed me to stop procrastinating, make the video, and just be me.”

In fact, the Southerner credits SI Swimsuit for helping her dream even bigger.

“SI has helped me discover a passion of my own. It made me realize that sharing my story can inspire someone else,” says Byrd. “I love how they empower women and that I get to be a part of a community that’s always encouraging, uplifting and wants to see you do your absolute best. I didn’t grow up with that. So being surrounded by a group of supportive women is amazing."

Adds Byrd, “It’s O.K. to leave your comfort zone. You don’t have to be a product of your environment. It’s O.K. to get out. It’s want more. Your circumstances don’t have to define you. I’ve never talked about my background before SI, and they’ve given me the safe space to do that and hopefully help others.”