SI Swim mannequin Ashley Byrd, a former building employee, on buying and selling in her laborious hat for bikinis: ‘So surreal’

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Ashley Byrd was decided to change into a mannequin – so she took on the position of a building employee.

The Amite, Louisiana, native had huge desires that went past her small city, and her grueling gig not solely gave her the funds she wanted to make her targets a actuality, however she developed a gaggle of lifelong mates alongside the way in which. Now, these buddies are cheering her on as she makes her mark on this yr’s Sports activities Illustrated Swimsuit problem.

Byrd, a finalist within the 2022 SI Swim Search, was chosen amongst 1000’s of submissions to be photographed by acclaimed SI photographer Yu Tsai. The winner of the annual casting name will change into a rookie within the 2023 problem.

Ashley Byrd is a finalist within the 2022 SI Swim Search.
(Yu Tsai/Sports activities Illustrated Swimsuit)

Byrd spoke to Fox Information Digital about why she was so decided to observe in Beyonce’s footsteps, the most important lesson she realized in her temporary building stint and why she is feeling hopeful now greater than ever about her future.


Fox Information: What was it in regards to the SI Swim Search that made you wish to strive it out?
Ashley Byrd: Actually, it’s one thing that I’ve been eager to do for years, however I might one way or the other discuss myself out of it. I simply thought, “They’re not going to concentrate to me.” However lastly, I made a decision I wasn’t going to overthink it anymore… So I grabbed my tripod and my telephone and I simply filmed a video explaining why I felt I might be a great match. I figured, no matter occurs, occurs. It’s out of my palms now. Nicely, right here we’re *laughs*.

Fox Information: Rising up, have been you conversant in SI Swimsuit?
Byrd: At first no as a result of the place I come from, modeling isn’t this huge factor. And I grew up enjoying sports activities – I needed to be a WNBA star. However as I bought older, I considered modeling and eager to do my very own factor. I bear in mind seeing Beyonce and Danielle Harrington on the duvet. Once I noticed them, I felt empowered, like “I might do that.” It was inspiring for somebody like me, a Louisiana woman *laughs*. I didn’t assume I might be an SI mannequin, however I actually was going to strive. They inspired me and gave me the drive to make my very own mark.

Ashley Byrd said she was inspired the SI Swimsuit covers of Beyonce and Danielle Herrington to try out for the SI Swim Search.

Ashley Byrd mentioned she was impressed the SI Swimsuit covers of Beyonce and Danielle Herrington to check out for the SI Swim Search.
(Bruce Talbot)

Fox Information: You initially have been hesitant to check out for the Swim Search. What was your response to studying that you just’re a finalist?
Byrd: I couldn’t cease screaming *laughs*. Who would have thought that after the primary time, I might hear, “Hey, you’re shifting on to the following step.” I used to be actually in full shock. As a result of bear in mind, I did cease myself from attempting earlier than as a result of I didn’t assume I might do it. And eventually, I simply did, with out giving it a second thought. I actually wasn’t pondering I used to be going to be chosen. I used to be simply glad that I lastly tried it in spite of everything these years of speaking myself out of it.

I simply bear in mind saying “Thanks Jesus” time and again after I bought the information. I believe each lady desires of being an SI mannequin in some unspecified time in the future in her life. So once I lastly bought that decision, I couldn’t cease screaming. I even needed to apologize once I bought the information, however I used to be informed, “Go forward, have your second.” And I did. By some means, this lady from a small city in Louisiana made it this far.


Fox Information: Is it true you labored in building earlier than modeling?
Byrd: Sure, ma’am. I did building for a few years. After I graduated faculty, I had just a few jobs. However building took place as a result of I knew I needed to maneuver ultimately to both Los Angeles or New York to pursue a modeling profession. And dealing in Louisiana building meant extra money. I wanted to save cash rapidly to make that occur. So I attempted it.

Ashley Byrd worked in construction before she pursued a modeling career.

Ashley Byrd labored in building earlier than she pursued a modeling profession.
(Courtesy of Ashley Byrd)

I assumed it was going to be a short-term gig. However I labored in building for years. I began off working within the scaffolding space which is pure laborious work nonstop. After which I moved on up. At first, it felt intimidating, however I’ve at all times been a tomboy and comfy round guys. My brothers are my greatest mates. So I knew methods to deal with myself round a gaggle of men. I’m additionally very social. I might discuss to anyone.

Once I first entered the development business, it was actually completely different. The second these guys see a lady, oh my God, they’re in all places *laughs*. However you change into one of many guys in a short time. You even gown like them. And I simply tailored. For me, it was all about enterprise. It was a stepping stone main me to the place I wanted to be, which was to in the end pursue the modeling business. However one factor about building is you meet folks from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures.

I’ve at all times liked that. And these are people I nonetheless maintain involved with. They change into household. So it was a tremendous expertise. And it made me notice I might deal with something. If I might deal with the development business, then I might sort out any problem that comes my manner. I used to be working throughout freezing climate within the wintertime and whereas burning up within the summertime. It requires a unique sort of hustle. So modeling? That is a breeze compared *laughs*.


Ashley Byrd said that despite earning a great income in construction, she had her sights set on the modeling world.

Ashley Byrd mentioned that regardless of incomes an excellent earnings in building, she had her sights set on the modeling world.
(Courtesy of Ashley Byrd)

Fox Information: Did any of your building buddies have something to say about you being a finalist within the SI Swim Search?
Byrd: Oh, they’re so happy with me. They couldn’t cease congratulating me. They’ve been shopping for the problem and taking photographs with it. They’re thrilled that I made my dream occur. In building, it’s straightforward to remain in that groove. The cash is nice. We’re getting paid each week. You’re making over a thousand {dollars} every week. However it’s exhausting work. You’re working six, typically seven days every week, 10 to 12 hours a day. However we love that cash.

It’s straightforward to get caught up in it and neglect about your desires or plans. So I’m completely satisfied I made a decision to depart as a result of I did discover myself staying a bit longer than I anticipated. It was straightforward to get snug. However in the future, I simply needed to take a step again and determine what I actually needed to do with my life. And I knew I had this dream, and it was solely going to occur if I adopted by way of with it. So I took an opportunity. And I’m so glad that I did. It’s so surreal.

On days when she felt discouraged, Ashley Byrd said she relied on prayer and meditation to cope.

On days when she felt discouraged, Ashley Byrd mentioned she relied on prayer and meditation to manage.
(Laretta Houston)

Fox Information: Your SI shoot happened within the Dominican Republic. What was that like?
Byrd: It’s a wonderful vacation spot. From the second you step off that airplane, you’re instantly welcomed by so many individuals. They’re so grateful that you just made it there. Individuals are so attentive to you and wish to just be sure you have top-of-the-line experiences ever. Every little thing felt like a dream. The expertise made me really feel seen and valued as an individual. The climate was wonderful, the meals was unimaginable, and the seaside was simply paradise. I had the time of my life.

Ashley Byrd said it took years before she had the courage to try out for the competition.

Ashley Byrd mentioned it took years earlier than she had the braveness to check out for the competitors.
(Veronica Sams)

Fox Information: How did you bodily put together in your shoot?
Byrd: I’m an athlete, so I work out repeatedly. For me, it was about psychological preparation. I needed to be in an excellent psychological house. I needed to take all of it in with out overthinking once more. So I did numerous praying and meditating earlier than my shoot. SI could be very inclusive, so that you’re not anticipated to indicate up wanting a sure manner. You’re anticipated to indicate up wanting such as you. So I by no means had that second of, “My shoot is developing, I have to be on the health club all day, every single day.” On the finish of the day, I needed them to see who I’m as an individual. I needed to be me.


Ashley Byrd said she's proud to be part of SI Swimsuit's most diverse issue to date.

Ashley Byrd mentioned she’s proud to be a part of SI Swimsuit’s most numerous problem thus far.
(Alanna Gilbert)

Fox Information: This yr’s problem is being celebrated as essentially the most numerous ever.
Byrd: And I believe that’s so vital. Once I began my modeling journey, it was extremely tough for me. You need to have the ability to choose up {a magazine} and really feel seen. You wish to really feel that you just matter and your options are stunning. Getting that recognition as a mannequin makes you’re feeling worthy. And it’s a privilege to know that somebody can choose up the journal and really feel seen since you’re part of it.

I’ve tried out for loads of companies and jobs prior to now. I heard loads of nos. As a mannequin, particularly a Black mannequin, it may be very disheartening. Even I felt like I wouldn’t get seen as a result of I don’t have 100K followers on social media. That may take a toll on you since you begin to consider you’re not ok. However SI’s message is, “You’re stunning, and also you matter.” They’re exhibiting different manufacturers the way it’s accomplished, and it’s attainable. And other people need this.

Ashley Byrd said fitness is  a part of her daily lifestyle.

Ashley Byrd mentioned health is  part of her every day life-style.
(Bruce Talbot)

Fox Information: After continuously getting rejected within the modeling business, what stored you going?
Byrd: That’s powerful as a result of I felt so discouraged. I’ve accomplished this all on my own. I moved from Louisiana to LA so I can open extra doorways for myself. However I didn’t have the sources or help to pursue modeling. It’s been tough. I attempted breaking into the New York market and once more, numerous nos. I used to be so down that I didn’t know what to do. I began to marvel if I made a mistake.

However as rapidly as I had that thought, I instantly considered my different help system – my mates, who have been cheering me on. And thank God for that. Throughout these moments once I needed to surrender, they’d inform me, “Look how far you’ve come – you’ve bought this, maintain going. If it doesn’t occur at present, that’s OK, strive tomorrow.” They inspired me to maintain attempting. They made me really feel prefer it was attainable once I tried to persuade myself that it wasn’t. These nos don’t have an effect on me as a lot now as a result of I do know I can do that. I simply need to carry on pushing till I get that door absolutely open.


Ashley Byrd now resides in California.

Ashley Byrd now resides in California.

On this business particularly, you’re going to listen to numerous nos. You’re going to spend some huge cash constructing your portfolio and ensuring your photographs stand out. However through the years, I’ve developed some thick pores and skin since you completely need to have that to outlive this business. I select to wish and meditate, particularly on days once I do really feel discouraged. It may be tough, however God doesn’t offer you challenges you possibly can’t overcome.

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