Name: Sarafina El-Badry Nance
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Occupation: Astrophysicist/Analog Astronaut/BRCA2+ Breast Cancer Previvor and Advocate/Author.
What inspired you to try out for SI Swim Search?
One of my friends, who has been super supportive and wonderful throughout my mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgeries, suggested that I try out. I was nervous, but really wanted to share my story as both a woman in science and a breast cancer previvor. I wanted to show that women can pursue our dreams, defy stereotypes and be anything we want to be, no matter what!
What would it mean to you to win Swim Search?
Throughout my life, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that I don’t need to fit into a box. Winning Swim Search would be a phenomenal opportunity to prove just that. Women can be anything we want to be: astrophysicist, advocate, analog astronaut, model. I would be so honored to represent my science and breast cancer communities, and equally thrilled for the platform to continue to push for change.
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What has been the best part (so far) about being a part of The Swimfluence Network community?
I’ve already met so many brilliant women who are changemakers and leaders, and can’t wait to meet so many others! I’m blown away by the talent, drive and passion that so many of these women exemplify. They inspire me to be the best version of myself.
How did you prepare for the SI Swim Search photo shoot?
I was juggling research for my Ph.D., memoir writing and prepping for the SI photo shoot, and let me say that was A LOT but so so worth it and so fun. I mostly tried to stay calm and enjoy the ride. I worked on eating clean, getting lots of sleep and taking care of myself. I went skiing the weekend before the shoot with a group of friends which was such a fun way to de-stress and celebrate!
Who was the first person you told the good news to?
My fiance, Taylor, who couldn’t believe it! Then I called my parents, who were equally thrilled and stunned. I think my dad laughed in disbelief for a solid 10 minutes.
What is your favorite SI Swimsuit memory?
Definitely seeing Allyn Rose, a fellow breast cancer previvor and double mastectomy patient, as a part of the 2019 SI Swim Search. I saw her story right before my mastectomy, and was so in awe of her strength and beauty. She was the source of representation and confidence that I needed, and I’m so grateful that she paved the way for women like me to be a part of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that I’m capable, that I’m enough. To never listen to those who tell you that you’re not good enough for something…because you are!
What changes would you like to see in the world?
The last couple of years – COVID-19 pandemic, backlash against racism and violence against BIPOC, economic inequality, worsening climate change, the increasingly devastating Russia-Ukraine conflict, etc.– have displayed in stark relief that our interconnected world is also fractured by global inequities. Those inequities severely inhibit the potential, health and safety of so many people around the world, and many of the global challenges that have surfaced over the last few years are unfortunately shouldered most by marginalized groups.
It is my hope that by dismantling systems of exploitation and oppression, improving and valuing science literacy, and working towards equitable redistribution of vital resources like vaccines, health care, education and wealth, we can tackle planetary crises and move forward towards a stronger, happier and more unified world.