• Whitney

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

kari nautique, sports illustrated, swim, whitney, whitney thompson, sexy, models, miami, top model
My ride or die, Kari Nautique rode out the insane casting with me!

If you follow me on social media, than you probably already know that I am going out for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition this year. This decision is pretty random for me. Until Beyonce was on the cover, there were very few curvy women associated with the magazine. Following Beyonce, we had the Ashley Graham cover, and since then, Sports Illustrated completely shifted their usual type to include all shapes, sizes, and colors. My good friend from Russia, Katya Zharkova (@KhatyaZharkove - another plus model) messaged me a few weeks ago with the casting call. If was one of those, "Hey, did you see this? We should go!"conversations. I am from Florida and could definitely use an excuse to escape my restaurant and charity for a few days... Plus, there's always the very small chance that they might actually book me and that would seriously be a dream come true. Don't get me wrong, I am totally and completely satisfied with my modeling career. If I never modeled again, I would be perfectly content with the work that I have accomplished. That being said, Sports Illustrated is a really freaking cool job. They shoot in insane locations and they have incredible photographers. Not to mention, the press tour would be insanely fun! So, I booked my flight through American Airlines (for less than $400!) and confirmed my accommodations.

Then, I realized that I was supposed to put together some kind of audition video, but I had already missed the deadline. So, I spent an afternoon in the building that I am renovating with my husband, nice and sweaty...and dusty, and I shot this little tidbit for submissions.

But when I was working on the video, I realized that it started to become more of a political piece, commenting on the state of the country, and the importance of helping one another. So, I decided to include a little about what I do now with the Chief David Thompson Youth Initiative, a charity that I started and named after my father to help inner city kids where I live now. I had to whittle this thing way down in editing, and I don't even have a sexy shot of me half-naked, which should be an obvious prerequisite, but it actually didn't say that it was required anywhere on the website. So, the video was complete, but it still ran over, and then Instagram cut it off at 60 seconds, which means that it doesn't make a ton of sense. The gist is, "I'm a model. I've done lots of modeling. I am already a healthy body advocate, but I also run a restaurant and a charity for low-income youth. Sports Illustrated likes girls who work with charities. Pick me!" Lol I mean, I did the best that I could considering the circumstances.

I called one of my best friends, Kari Nautique ( @Kari.Nautique ) who lives in Miami and convinced her to come to the casting too. The truth is, the last time I did a casting like this, it was for America's Next Top Model. These things are what we call, "cattle calls." A cattle call is a casting for a huge job that ends with thousands of people, wrapped around the block, down the street, for hours and hours, all trying to get the same job. It is not ideal for the people auditioning, or the people holding the auditions. It is extremely difficult to get noticed during one of these. So, my advice to you if you're planning on coming is to bring a snack, magazines, a book, something to occupy your time, and ensure that you don't get hangry. More than likely, they will call the girls into the room, 15-20 at a time, allow each girl to introduce herself, and that will be the first cut. It's not a lot to go on, but that's what cattle calls are. They are the fastest way to run through thousands of hopefuls.

I will document my travels and experience for you guys here! If you have any questions that you'd like me to answer, please ask me on any of my social media outlets and I will try my best to answer them. I want to thank all of you for supporting me throughout everything. Life is crazy, and it's really nice to know that I have friends out there who care about me, no matter what crazy thing I get myself into!

Update: Flying to Miami

I woke up crazy early on the day of the casting and decided to record my morning because, I was obviously delirious. So, this is my average, pre-casting ritual! The lips ended up reading too dark, just so you know. Here I am in my no-makeup, morning glory! Also, keep in mind that I stayed at my bestie's house, and I slept in her sons room. So... I am in a little boy's room. I just felt like I should point that out in case you feel like my design choices are odd.

Wow! This Sports Illustrated Swim casting has been INSANE! There were 2000 people (I thought it was only 1000 when I was there) who showed up to audition! Going into it, I never thought that I would get picked for any of the positions we were auditioning for. This casting was to walk in the Sports Illustrated swim runway show on Sunday (something I’ve never even heard of) or to be the “rookie” of the year, which I am obviously not! I wanted to be seen and make my voice heard. Also, I wanted to get drinks with my girlfriends and work on my tan, if I’m being honest. I am happy beyond measure that Katya and Kari were there to keep me sane through 12 hours of standing in line outside in Miami in the middle of summer! At one point, I threw dignity out the window, laid u pside down on a couch at the W with my feet in the air because my feet were swollen from standing in heels for so long! I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for following us on this journey. You guys are seriously the best!!!

After meeting with the judges, I was asked to stay for the next round. Woooo hooooooo! There were only about 100 girls picked for round two, which is bananas. I bumped into a girl from my hometown in the waiting area for the second audition. Her name is Devon Christianson. If you aren’t already following her, please do! She is breathtakingly beautiful, and she’s all natural (plus, she’s my vegan spirit animal). I’m talking, no makeup, real parts, salt water hair and sun-kissed skin. She’s amazing and if Sports Illustrated doesn’t book her, they are out of their minds. Anyways, we went on to the next round together, but we were in the last group and apparently the judges were just as over the day as we were. MJ, who’s in charge of casting, came in to the room. She congratulated all of us, but said that they didn’t have time to meet with each one. So, we were to go upstairs, altogether, take one photo, and leave. She was super sweet and gave each of us a hug. Clearly, they were not prepared for this kind of turnout either. Yutsai took a picture of me. I think I may have rubbed him the wrong way. He saw me and said, “I recognize you. You were here last year, weren’t you?” and I replied, “No.” He responded, “I recognize you from somewhere. Where do I know you from? Last year’s casting, right?” I asked him if he watched America’s Next Top Model… apparently, he’s on the show! Face palm. I told him that I won cycle ten and he said, “You’re a size 10?!” So, it was an awkward exchange to say the least. He snapped a pic, and I left.

Devon and I ran down to the beach to jump in the ocean. We were both feeling so gross from being in this audition for over 12 hours. We dive into the water, ready to be refreshed, and it’s like miso soup. It was at least 100 degrees and full of seaweed. We were so bummed! Afterwards, we grabbed some awesome vegan food from Full Bloom and dined al fresco with her mom and friends.

Devon had the impossible burger (which I love, but we serve it at my restaurant and I wanted something different) and I had the raw kelp noodles. My dish seriously tasted like mac and cheese. It was not at all what I expected, but it was so good!

The following day, I woke up and realized that I had no idea how anyone was supposed to contact me if they wanted me. At first, I was stressed about it, but I also knew that the two positions they were auditioning for on this day were not ones that I would ever book. I decided that it was out of my hands and I wasn’t going to stress about it. I went to the beach and had an incredible day, swimming in the salt water and restoring my sanity. Obviously, I am not i the runway show and I am not the rookie, but you never know where these meetings will take you! One of the models from last year didn’t even get a call back and she booked the magazine. When I auditioned for top model, they said, “If you made it, we’ll call you, and if you hear nothing, try again next year!” Three months later, they called. So, I made the first cut and no one has contacted me to say that I have been cut. That’s where we stand right now. Fingers and toes crossed, y’all! And if nothing else comes out of it, I had a really freaking great time in Miami with my favorite blondes!

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