SI Swimsuit model Haley Kalil says her scientific degree surprises people: ‘It’s about rewriting the narrative.’
Haley Kalil : The Minnesota native made her modelling debut in 2018 as part of the franchise’s first-ever open casting call EXCLUSIVE: Haley Kalil is all about displaying her intellect and beauty.
After participating in the franchise’s first-ever open casting call, the Minnesota native made her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit debut in 2018.
Along with Camille Kostek, she was chosen co-winner. She’s back this year for the forthcoming edition, which will be released later this summer.
Kalil had already built a name for herself in the realm of research before she began modelling.
She received a 4.0 in biomedical sciences and psychology, with a minor in chemistry, from St. Cloud State University.
According to SI, the 28-year-old has also authored award-winning immunology research and has partnered with a number of local science programmes to encourage young women to seek careers in STEM disciplines.
She’s now starting The Nerd Herd, an organisation dedicated to encouraging women to embrace their bodies while pursuing STEM degrees.
Kalil chatted with Fox News about her fourth appearance in SI Swimsuit, the moment she almost gave up her profession, and how she handles preconceptions.
‘THIS HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING,’ SI SWIMSUIT MODEL HALEY KALIL EXPLAINS WHY SHE CRIED AFTER SEEING HER PICS FOX NEWS: This will be your fourth year in Sports
Illustrated Swimsuit. What was your experience like?
Haley Kalil: I still can’t believe what I’m hearing. It feels like only yesterday that I was preparing a video for them in the hopes of being considered for a position.
I never imagined I’d be photographing my fourth spread for them. It’s incredible. I am truly honoured.
I’m honoured because this is where I began my modelling career.
Swim Search was my first introduction to the modelling industry.
It’s also allowed me to inspire a lot of other women to love their bodies. *laughs* I’m also representing all the ginger nerds out there.
But, in the end, it’s all about representation. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to work for Sports Illustrated in the first place, because they were one of the first major fashion journals where I saw a redhead.
“Wow, everyone taunts me at school for being a redhead,” I thought, “and here’s this model who’s also a redhead.” I felt I might be gorgeous, too.
So it’s all about being that personification for someone else for me. Every year when I shoot with SI, my ultimate aim is for someone to look at me and say, “I recognise myself in her.”
Fox News: How will this year’s spread differ from last year’s?
Kalil: Wow, that’s a lot of growth. It’s about growing up in a family with whom you feel so at ease.
There was this overthinking of “Oh, don’t mess up” or “I have no idea what I’m doing,” especially during my first year, but now it’s like going to the beach with all your friends and family.
I was completely relaxed and not in my brain. I’m hoping to give the public the best photographs of myself this year. Fox News: How did you prepare physically for this year’s shoot?
Kalil: You know, the beautiful thing about SI is that they don’t seem to mind if you’re in bad physical shape.
They simply want you to be yourself and comfortable in your own skin. They adore you just the way you are, so I never felt like I had to be a certain size or have certain measurements.
But I wanted to look and feel my best for my assignment. As a result, I worked with a personal trainer every day.
We concentrated on tightening the abs and arms. I never want to set unrealistic expectations for how a woman’s body should seem.
As a result, I’ll never cut calories. I’ll never run on a treadmill for hours in the hopes of losing weight.
That’s not something I’d like to broadcast into the universe. I’d like to be in my original form and size, but in a tighter, toned version.
So, instead of dieting and calorie counting, I concentrate on eating well.
I rely on foods that make you feel well, such as salmon, broccoli, squash, brown rice, and other healthy options.
I’ll eat my Domino’s lava cake, but I’ll also go to the gym and work hard.
Fox News: This year is extra wonderful for you since The Nerd Herd is launching.
Kalil: It’s been a labour of love for me. It’s been simmering in my mind for a long time.
I was ecstatic to see it become a reality. When I was in middle school and high school, I had the concept.
I was a member of the nerdiest clubs, such as chess, mocking the United Nations, and so on.
“Oh my gosh, Haley’s heading off to her geek herd,” my sister would constantly say, but as I grew older, I thought it was quite amazing.
Yes, absolutely. It was a compliment, and I should have taken it as such.
So it began as a social media post in which I discussed the glaring disparity between being a woman in science and being a woman in the modelling industry, as well as the absurd standards that are imposed on both women.
If you work in science, you’re expected to hide every aspect of your sensuality and femininity and not to celebrate it in any way.
My best friend, for example, is a doctor. She’ll pose in a bikini for a picture when we go on vacation together, but she’ll be hesitant to publish it because she believes her family or coworkers won’t respect her as a doctor.
The modelling industry, on the other hand, is the polar opposite. It is quite acceptable for you to wear a bikini.
People, on the other hand, will presume you have nothing else on your mind. Apart from being a physical picture, you have nothing more to give.
That was something I wanted to bring up. I clarified my past by posting a side-by-side [picture] of me graduating from college and wearing a bikini.
This struck a chord with a lot of women since it’s a problem that every woman encounters, especially career-driven women in the sciences.
Nerd herd was born as a result. It turned into a hashtag, but I intended it to be more. I wanted to make it something that will benefit others.
Fox News: What does The Nerd Herd do to help others?
Kalil: Quarantine inspired me to start a loungewear line. The proceeds from my first drop will go entirely to an organisation called Black Females Code, which encourages young girls to get involved in computer programming and technology at a young age.
That struck me as incredible. Then, after that, all of my previous drops will have a philanthropic component to them, with a portion of the proceeds going to organisations that assist young women in STEM.
Fox News: When did you realise you wanted to inspire young females to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)?
Kalil: I believe it stems from the fact that both of my parents work as engineers.
My mother is a strong woman, and I’m glad for her in my life because she has shown me what an independent, bright woman looks like… And my interest in science and math began at a young age.
It’s something I’m interested in pursuing in college. I also found that many women were apprehensive to seek STEM-related occupations since they would be one of just five or six women in a class of 100 students.
I wanted to use whatever platform I had to help raise awareness and effect change.
Some may say that a swimsuit model isn’t the first person who comes to mind when thinking about a role model for young females. What would you say to those individuals?
Kalil: I believe that women’s bodies are theirs and theirs alone. Why is it that you wouldn’t think twice about a male doctor posting a photo of himself at the beach?
“This is just a guy on vacation having a good time. Good for him. He’s taking a break. He deserves it. He’s been working hard,” you might think.
And I believe it is up to us as women to fight back and say, “No, you don’t own my body.
I’m wearing this swimsuit for myself and me alone. If you look at me, that’s on you, but this is genuinely for me.”
When it comes to swimwear, there is a huge disparity between how men and women are treated.
A group of people hating on a guy model in a swimsuit is unusual. You don’t believe they’re useless as a result. It’s all about shifting the narrative.
Every day, I hear it from the mouths of women about their experiences.
I believe we must demonstrate how critical it is for a woman to have control over her own body.
Fox News: Have you ever had the feeling that you weren’t taken seriously because you’re a model?
Kalil: Oh, I’ve had a lot of them *laughs*. It’s ironic, because I usually tell people that I used to be appreciated just for my work.
I was respected for my education, training, and abilities in the lab. Then everything changed in an instant.
When I walked into a room, everyone would inquire about my studies.
It’s difficult for people to think you don’t have any other commitments just because you’re a model.
For me, one particular instance stands out. I was at a formal dinner for a social gathering.
I was seated next to a company’s CEO, a male CEO. “What do you do?” he asked. “I’m a model,” I replied, cringing a little inside since I knew this was going to raise a stir.
As if they’re going to make judgments on me. “I think it’s fantastic that you’re a model,” he said, “because that means you can find a rich man, get married, and never work a day in your life.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Because I had nothing more to contribute in this world than beauty in this person’s eyes. Physical attractiveness.
That is all there is to it. I am nothing more than my appearance.
I’d like to change that because I don’t want people to think that just because you’re a model, you don’t have anything else to offer the world.
Fox News: When you first heard this, what went through your mind?
Kalil: I just responded, “I don’t really need someone to look after me.
I have a degree in biological sciences and psychology.” He was like, “Wait, what?” and then abruptly changed his tone.
It’s amusing how their tone changes when you tell them that *laughs*.
It’s quite amusing to see folks reverse their positions. Before becoming a model, I worked as an immunologist.
But why would an immunologist be respected above a model? We are, without a doubt, overdue for a change.
For each function, you should earn the same level of respect.
Fox News: As a child, you were bullied, and you’ve spoken out about it. Have any of your bullies contacted you since you were featured in SI?
Yes, they have, Kalil. You can tell whether someone is contacting you because they are truly sorry or because they want to be a part of anything you’re doing rapidly.
Two women in particular have reached out to me, and you could tell it was from a real place.
They issued me heartfelt apologies, expressing their sincere regret for the way I was handled and the errors they committed.
Those notes had a huge impact on me. Reading such remarks had a profound impact on me because it demonstrated that people can evolve. People have the ability to develop.
Fox News: Was there ever a point when you thought modelling wasn’t for you?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yeah, yes My first professional photoshoot was for Sports Illustrated.
And I was pushed into the deep end right away when I initially started modelling.
I was signed with a modelling agency and began working immediately.
It was also something I’d never done before. I recall one company in particular – I won’t identify it because I never want to depict someone in a negative light.
However, there was a photographer on the scene of their session who was not the friendliest to the models.
And being someone who had never experienced such hatred was unnerving. I mean, I used to get teased in school. In a professional atmosphere, though, things were entirely different.
It was difficult for me to remember how this person acted. I went home that day and cried.
I called my mother and told her I didn’t believe I’d be able to do it. I remembered my mother telling me to keep my eyes on the prize.
She reminded me that no matter what field you work in, you will have good and terrible days.
However, you must concentrate on your objectives. You must decide whether or not to stay and pursue this.
And I knew I couldn’t allow a one poor day ruin my entire career.
Fox News: What do you do to feel more confident about yourself on days when you don’t feel like a model or a STEM superhero?
Kalil: On social media, I’m completely honest. We’re all human, after all. We’ve all had days where we feel like scum.
The most important thing, though, is to reconnect with your friends and family.
I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for getting me to where I am now because I couldn’t have done it without their love and support.
Without them, I would not have been able to deal with the pressures of this industry.
When I’m having a bad day, I contact my mother. She is my pillar.
She constantly reminds me that I am so much more than my thoughts.
I have a lot more to say. She roots me and reminds me that even on my worst days, I can make a meaningful and beautiful contribution to the world.
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