Get to Know 2023 Swim Search Finalist Jena Sims

The 34-year-old is a non-profit CEO, fashion designer and soon-to-be mom.
Jena Sims.

Jena Sims.

Hometown: Jupiter, Fla.
Occupation(s): Non-profit CEO/Fashion Designer/Brand Ambassador
Age: 34

Jena Sims is a non-profit CEO, fashion designer and brand ambassador from Jupiter, Fla. The 34-year-old is the founder and president of HBBQs, Inc. (Has Been Beauty Queens), which puts on the Pageant of Hope™, an international event that focuses on confidence, self-esteem and appreciation of inner beauty for children and teens in challenging environments, now considered the most inclusive pageant in the world. Sims attended Belmont University and won her first pageant in 2005, which inspired her to pass the empowering feeling along to kids and teens who need it most. In 2022, she developed an annual partnership with her organization and Best Buddies where she now serves as the chair for the Best Buddies “Champion of the Year” Gala. Sims has secured partnerships with Steve Madden and Oneone Swimwear to design golf shoes and swimsuits that fit a variety of body types. In her spare time, she travels with her husband, pro golfer Brooks Koepka, and their black Lab, Cove.

Please list five fun facts about yourself.

  1. I am a self-proclaimed Krispy Kreme connoisseur and can eat an entire box of original glazed doughnuts in one sitting.
  2. I acted in a film with Morgan Freeman.
  3. I have a Bahamian driver’s license.
  4. I helped design and launch Steve Madden’s first golf shoe line.
  5. I can do a backflip off the side of a boat.

What inspired you to try out for SI Swim Search?

“Being a part of SI Swimsuit has been my dream since I saw Tyra Banks on the cover in 1997. It was my earliest memory of what true beauty felt like. SI Swim Search brings the dreams of that big foreheaded little girl right to my fingertips. I submitted myself last year and it wasn’t my time yet, but the experience was truly invaluable and allowed me to work through my limiting beliefs: fear of judgment and rejection. I’ve always believed in going after what you want, and this mentality has served me well in helping achieve milestones in business, hobbies and even making the first move on my now husband! So, I guess you can say this is me being me: putting myself out there and making the first move. I’m so thankful I did because this SI Swimsuit community has already changed my life for the better.”

What would it mean to you to win SI Swim Search?

“The first thought that comes to mind is how grateful I’d be to have the support and backing from this platform to catapult the Pageant of Hope™. We’ve held events in Ukraine, South Africa, Guatemala, plus many destinations all over the U.S., celebrating thousands of kids and teens facing challenges. Helping these incredible participants from all over the world feel beautiful on the inside so closely parallels the mission behind SI Swimsuit: It’s not about the body, but who’s in that body. My passion is helping people and spreading joy. Together, I know we can make a positive impact in the world.”

What has been the best part (so far) about being a part of The Swimfluence Network community?

“The Swimfluence Network has redefined my meaning of ‘community.’ The women I’ve met throughout my years in this sisterhood have been with me through some of my highest highs and lowest lows. Most recently, I was able to bond with Katrina Scott at a baby shower for another member of the SI community. We are in the early stages of planning an event together in Los Angeles benefitting Baby Quest Foundation. Seeing her as the first visibly pregnant model in the magazine, and even now still chasing her dreams is inspiring, as I’m preparing to start a family of my own very soon. I also met Summer Wilson at an SI [Swimsuit] launch party and can now say she is now one of my best friends. She volunteered at two Pageant of Hope™ events and was a model for my very first OneOne Swim shoot for the summer 2022 launch!”

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

“My husband, who was in the car next to me. To paint the picture for you, we were on the tail end of a two-and-a-half-hour road trip to a friend’s house for a dinner party. I had a podcast going, Siri was yelling ‘Turn left!’ and something in the chaos told me to check my email. I froze, came to and screamed, “OHMYGOD! I made the top 12!” Brooks turned to me so sincerely and said, ‘I’m so proud of you, congratulations… can you tell me the gate code?’”

What is your favorite SI Swimsuit memory?

“My favorite was when Kate Upton shot her cover in Antarctica. It’s always been a goal of mine to travel there. I’ve watched the behind-the-scenes videos on repeat! I got goosebumps for her because I felt like I was there in the moment. SI Swimsuit is memorable for always making a statement, year after year.

My favorite SI Swimsuit memory that I was a part of has to be at the Swim Week 2021 runway show. The event had concluded, and I was walking towards the model exit so I could congratulate the girls I knew in the show. An assistant quickly pulled me into the model dressing room and told me I wasn’t supposed to be out yet. She had mistaken me for one of the models. That brief moment gave me such a confidence boost, and I’m not ashamed to say that it made my whole year.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“If it won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it.”

What changes would you like to see in the world?

“I’d like to see stricter gun control laws. Firearms are the No. 1 cause of death among American children and teens in the U.S. right now. This year alone, there have been 13 school shootings—that is 13 too many (at the time of this interview; as of May 9, the number has risen to 19). I went to school in Nashville, so that instance hit very close to home. Overall, I wish people would be kinder to each other in the world.”

SI Staff