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

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Ashley Byrd was decided to turn out to be a mannequin – so she took on the function of a development employee.

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

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 turn out to be a rookie within the 2023 situation.

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 comply with in Beyonce’s footsteps, the most important lesson she realized in her temporary development 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 desirous to do for years, however I’d 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 cellphone and I simply filmed a video explaining why I felt I may very well be match. I figured, no matter occurs, occurs. It’s out of my arms now. Effectively, right here we’re *laughs*.

Fox Information: Rising up, have been you accustomed to SI Swimsuit?
Byrd: At first no as a result of the place I come from, modeling isn’t this massive factor. And I grew up taking part in sports activities – I needed to be a WNBA star. However as I acquired older, I thought of modeling and desirous to do my very own factor. I keep in mind seeing Beyonce and Danielle Harrington on the duvet. After I noticed them, I felt empowered, like “I may do that.” It was inspiring for somebody like me, a Louisiana girl *laughs*. I didn’t assume I may very well be an SI mannequin, however I definitely 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’d hear, “Hey, you’re transferring on to the subsequent step.” I used to be truthfully in full shock. As a result of keep in mind, I did cease myself from making an attempt earlier than as a result of I didn’t assume I may do it. And at last, I simply did, with out giving it a second thought. I definitely wasn’t considering 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 keep in mind saying “Thanks Jesus” again and again after I acquired 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 acquired that decision, I couldn’t cease screaming. I even needed to apologize once I acquired the information, however I used to be informed, “Go forward, have your second.” And I did. Someway, this lady from a small city in Louisiana made it this far.


Fox Information: Is it true you labored in development earlier than modeling?
Byrd: Sure, ma’am. I did development for a few years. After I graduated faculty, I had a couple of jobs. However development happened 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 development meant extra money. I wanted to economize rapidly to make that occur. So I attempted it.

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

Ashley Byrd labored in development 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 development for years. I began off working within the scaffolding space which is pure exhausting work nonstop. After which I moved on up. At first, it felt intimidating, however I’ve all the time been a tomboy and cozy round guys. My brothers are my greatest buddies. So I knew learn how to deal with myself round a bunch of men. I’m additionally very social. I may discuss to anyone.

After I first entered the development business, it was definitely totally different. The second these guys see a lady, oh my God, they’re everywhere *laughs*. However you turn out to be one of many guys in a short time. You even costume 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 finally pursue the modeling business. However one factor about development is you meet individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures.

I’ve all the time liked that. And these are of us I nonetheless maintain involved with. They turn out to be household. So it was a tremendous expertise. And it made me understand I may deal with something. If I may deal with the development business, then I may 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 distinct form of hustle. So modeling? That is a breeze as 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 important earnings in development, she had her sights set on the modeling world.
(Courtesy of Ashley Byrd)

Fox Information: Did any of your development friends have something to say about you being a finalist within the SI Swim Search?
Byrd: Oh, they’re so pleased with me. They couldn’t cease congratulating me. They’ve been shopping for the problem and taking pictures with it. They’re thrilled that I made my dream occur. In development, 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. Nevertheless it’s exhausting work. You’re working six, generally 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 joyful I made a decision to go away as a result of I did discover myself staying slightly longer than I anticipated. It was straightforward to get snug. However sooner or later, I simply needed to take a step again and resolve 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 befell within the Dominican Republic. What was that like?
Byrd: It’s a phenomenal 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. Persons are so attentive to you and wish to just be sure you have among the best experiences ever. Every thing felt like a dream. The expertise made me really feel seen and valued as an individual. The climate was wonderful, the meals was unbelievable, and the seashore 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 on your shoot?
Byrd: I’m an athlete, so I work out usually. For me, it was about psychological preparation. I needed to be in an important psychological house. I needed to take all of it in with out overthinking once more. So I did a number of praying and meditating earlier than my shoot. SI could be very inclusive, so that you’re not anticipated to indicate up trying a sure manner. You’re anticipated to indicate up trying such as you. So I by no means had that second of, “My shoot is arising, I must be on the health club all day, each 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 various situation to this point.
(Alanna Gilbert)

Fox Information: This yr’s situation is being celebrated as probably the most various ever.
Byrd: And I believe that’s so necessary. After I began my modeling journey, it was extremely troublesome for me. You need to have the ability to decide 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 are feeling worthy. And it’s a privilege to know that somebody can decide up the journal and really feel seen since you’re part of it.

I’ve tried out for loads of companies and jobs previously. 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 imagine you’re not adequate. However SI’s message is, “You’re stunning, and also you matter.” They’re exhibiting different manufacturers the way it’s achieved, and it’s doable. And folks need this.

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

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

Fox Information: After continuously getting rejected within the modeling business, what stored you going?
Byrd: That’s robust as a result of I felt so discouraged. I’ve achieved 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 assets or assist to pursue modeling. It’s been troublesome. I attempted breaking into the New York market and once more, a number of nos. I used to be so down that I didn’t know what to do. I began to surprise if I made a mistake.

However as rapidly as I had that thought, I instantly thought of my different assist system – my buddies, 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 acquired this, maintain going. If it doesn’t occur right this moment, that’s OK, strive tomorrow.” They inspired me to maintain making an attempt. They made me really feel prefer it was doable 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 totally open.


Ashley Byrd now resides in California.

Ashley Byrd now resides in California.

On this business particularly, you’re going to listen to loads of nos. You’re going to spend some huge cash constructing your portfolio and ensuring your pictures stand out. However over time, 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 troublesome, however God doesn’t offer you challenges you possibly can’t overcome.