Name: Ashley Byrd
Hometown: Amite, La. by the way of Greensburg, La.
What inspired you to try out for SI Swim Search?
"When I decided to pursue my modeling career, SI was one of the first magazines I aspired to be a part of because I was enamored by the beauty and strength of the women both on the cover and inside the magazine. I found myself being drawn to their stories and making connections with their narratives, finding bits and pieces of them that resonated with me and affirmed my visions."
What would it mean to you to win Swim Search?
"Fruition. In 2019, I made one of the toughest decisions of my life. I moved thousands of miles from a small town in Louisiana to Los Angeles with nothing but my dream in tow. I left my job, my friends and my family to pursue this dream. It was by far the biggest risk I had ever taken. Winning would mean more than just being in a magazine and it is much bigger than me. It would mean that when my dreams become a reality, it would not only impact me but also thousands of people from my hometown and inspire them to follow their dreams, too."
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What has been the best part (so far) about being a part of The Swimfluence Network community?
"The best part thus far is being able to connect with a diverse network of women. This community provides a safe and encouraging space. It allows me to show up as my authentic self. This empowering group of women makes me feel seen and heard. I also get to reciprocate that energy in hopes of making them feel the same."
How did you prepare for the SI Swim Search photo shoot?
"I prayed, intentionally meditated and surrounded myself with positive energy."
Who was the first person you told the good news to?
"My siblings. I set up a family group call and told them the exciting news."
What is your favorite SI Swimsuit memory?
"I have two favorites. First, it was seeing Danielle Herrington on the cover in 2018. That girl delivered. Second, Tyra Banks on the cover in 2019 at the age of 45. That comeback definitely helped me realize that there are no limits. Women are powerful and unstoppable."
What advice would you give to your younger self?
"I would tell my younger self that dreams don’t have an expiration date. Although modeling was something I always wanted to do, I didn’t have the knowledge or resources to make it more than just a childhood ambition. I thought I was “starting late,” that I had missed my window of opportunity, but it seems that I’m right on time. :-)"
What changes would you like to see in the world?
"A change I would love to see in the world is for people to truly be treated equally. I am part of two marginalized communities: I am Black and I am a woman. Being a part of both of these minorities has allowed me to experience both pride and prejudices."