Get to know #SISwimSearch contestant Brielle Anyea!
Sports Illustrated: Did you have experience modeling before submitting an IG video or showing up in-person for #SISwimSearch?
Brille Anyea: Yes! I have been modeling since 2015. I actually kind of fell into it. I was once a theater/business major with dreams of owning multiple businesses in fashion after a successful career in acting. I was living the dream as a young acting student in West Hollywood before my dreams were crushed.
After receiving many declines on agency representation, I asked an agent why. They told me I was “too fat and too pretty for a black girl. There was no way my look would thrive in Hollywood. We're suppose to be the fat, ugly, black friend. Never a pretty lead character.”
That absolutely crushed my heart because instead of hearing criticism on my acting skills or presentation, it was about my size and my face. I immediately stopped pursuing agents and started to find my own acting gigs. Then I bumped into a different agent they told me I should try plus size modeling. I had no idea that was a thing. But I started researching and to my surprise, it was! I went from finding warehouse modeling jobs on Craigslist (dont recommend lol), to working with brands world wide. Four and a half hard years later, here I am with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit! Talk about a crazy journey. I know the mean agents back then are SHOOK now.
SI: What challenges have you faced as a WOC who is also a curve model?
BA: Too many to name! Being a curve model is the toughest job I decided to take on. Especially as a woman of color.
It's a tough pill to swallow when you get feedback from brands saying that you're too big, you're too dark, and they're not ready to take the chance. I've had agents to tell me if I wanted to step foot in a casting, I needed to loose many inches off my hips. So I used to work out 5 hours a day and bleach my skin to conform. But it didn't work. It was exhausting trying to fit into that tiny box!
But then I randomly had an epiphany. I can't change who I am but I can change the industry. The people that own these brands push old beauty ideals that were never made to describe me. No, I'm not the typical model description. But I'm bold. I'm powerful. I'm intelligent. So instead, I built a platform on IG to show the world what I’ve got in hopes that it would convince more bands to embrace models like me. Long story short, it worked.
SI: What was your casting experience like in Miami? Please provide as much detail and reflection as possible.
BA: This year's casting was soooo freaking fun! The girls that came to the casting were sweet as pie. The SI models were very insightful, and the photoshoot was great! I wasn't expecting so many things to do for the casting. Definitely kept me on my toes.
It was really hard to wake up at 3am to get in line at 5am. But the possibilities behind it and the women I met in line made it 100% worth it! Starting the morning with girl chats, daydreaming, and Starbucks gave us enough energy to make through the open casting call.
The first round of interviews were nerve wrecking because I only had 2-3 minutes to plead my case. But I made sure to let SI know who I am and what I would do as an SI model, which is represent hard for the underdogs.
SI: What does being a part of the SI Swimsuit model search mean to you? How do you plan to use this platform?
BA: Being a part of the SI Swimsuit model search means the world plus tax! This is a chance to show the world that curvy women are nothing to mess with! We are fierce. We are sexy. And we sure are capable of anything. As I watch the world of fashion change and embrace more sizes, I want to be a part of the change that embraces more women of color as well! The only way to see the change is to be the change and being a part of SI has already helped.
I'm super excited to use my platform to encourage more women to be confident queens. I've received so many messages from supporters all over the world being ecstatic about the entire SI process.
They're happy that “SI chose a model like me” and they now feel heard. Women buying bikinis for the first time after seeing me walk the SI show! Women feeling a surge of confidence after seeing someone like them go after their dreams. Moms/Dads showing my profiles to their tween girls, informing them that anything is possible. THAT is worth more than anything. I know that being a part of SI is a first class catapult into the change the world is ready to see.
Thirteen year old me would be doing cartwheels right now if she knew I would be apart of the SI Swim family!
SI: You told the SI Swimsuit team during your casting that this was your second time coming to the SI Swimsuit open casting call. How was your experience different the second time and what inspired you to come back and give it another shot?
BA: I would definitely say the difference was my mindset. Last year I felt overwhelmed, scared, and not ready for the call back casting. I had the courage to create the video that got me there, but not enough to explain why I should make it further.
At the time, I was my own worst critic. I thought “there is no way in heck they're going to pick someone like me out of all of these gorgeous gems.” I completely forgot that I was there for a reason, and I had history to make by possibly being the FIRST.
I closed in, became shy, and basically accepted my undecided fate. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two: I underestimated the power in being unapologetically me. It was a tough cookie to swallow back then, but a powerful lesson for today.
This year, I didn't hold anything back. I knew that being a part of SI was much bigger than me and giving up was not an option. So I meditated, put it in to the universe, and made peace with whatever the decision may be. I made a video, didn't get picked. Purchased a last minute ticket to Miami and got in through the casting call. That right there taught the power of consistency.
SI: You recently addressed the haters on Instagram who have questioned your health and called you horrible names. How do you deal with criticism on social media? Do you usually read the comments?
BA: Haters gon' hate! What they say about me is none of my business and it's a complete reflection of them. I usually just block people that say mean things to me. But there were a lot of young women that were seeing these comments. That didn't sit well with me. Words can hurt, especially if you are young and impressionable.
I get trolled everyday in regards to my weight, my skin color, my ethnicity, etc. So I'm used to it. But the young women that support me may not be. So it was more so for my supporters than the haters.
I know that I'm not going to be everyone's cup of tea. I know that everyone won't be okay with the idea of possibly having a black curve model in the magazine. But humans are made to break boundaries and do great things. I won't let a hater stop my mission to help millions of women feel unstoppable. Instead, I'll wish them joy.
But if we want to get a little sassy, I'm healthy as heck and proud of my blackness. I recommend the haters do more research on health and understand how weight/size doesn't always equate to being unhealthy. You can be slim and have diabetes, high cholesterol, with no stamina. You can be thicker and be healthy, with stamina. Most plus size models workout 3-5 times a week and eat clean. If you're not their doctor, mind your manners.
See photos from our unforgettable runway show at Miami Swim Week: