By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

Tanaye White was a marketing, media and public relations professional before she became famous for donning a bikini.  Now, as the centerfold model for the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, White is using her platform to raise awareness about the importance of representation in an industry that has traditionally set the standard for the cultural acceptance of beauty.

“I feel really empowered to be part of this publication because it really does show it doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you can bring something to the table.  Like you can be plus size, you can be short,” said White in an exclusive interview featured on the AFRO’s Facebook Live.  “I think in Sports Illustrated they always have promoted diversity and really stand by it and I feel honored to represent that in the magazine too as a fit, dark skinned, Black woman with a big afro, which you don’t typically see in the industry.”

Tanaye White breaks down barriers and sets her own beauty standards as the centerfold model in the new {Sports Illustrated Swimsuit} edition. (Courtesy Photo, Instagram)

As a  Baltimore native who was raised in an-all White town in Connecticut, and now living in the D.M.V., White knows firsthand the difficulties of not seeing herself represented in the media as a standard of beauty.

“Growing up in Connecticut, I didn’t see much of myself at all.  I would stroll down the CVS makeup aisle and I could barely find my foundation shade because they never had it in stock.  Unfortunately, it’s so hard to see Black women in the media represented in a positive way,” she said.  “To finally be able to years later, fast forward, and I’m a woman now and representing for the young little girls who thought they were ugly, or who thought they would never be seen or heard or considered beautiful- you can use me as an example.  I’m in this publication and if I’m here, I’m rooting for you to make sure you can get here too,” White said with passion.

“Especially with how far this publication reaches people and who sees it, I really wanted to make it known that women who look like me, women who have kinky hair, women who have dark skin, women have muscles, women who have a little booty, you are seen, you are beautiful,” the model added.

Although a newcomer in the field, White realized that the modeling industry still has a lot of work to do in embracing their Black models, particularly while shooting on set.

“I do notice, some of the things that I heard before getting in the industry do ring to be true, which is disappointing.  For example, when you go on set, a lot of times they won’t have your foundation- this still rings to be true.  When you go on set, your hairstylist doesn’t necessarily know how to work with your natural kinky hair- this still rings to be true,” she explained.

However, her presence in the field, White hopes, will inspire change. Further, as a model with an untraditional look- she is 5’8 with an athletic build as opposed to very skinny and 5’9 or taller- White broke barriers, which is something she hopes to continue to do with her career.   

 “I think it speaks volumes that there’s only a handful of dark-skinned Black models that we have seen in the publication, and for me to be one of them, given how green I am in the industry, I feel really proud and I also feel like I have a lot to bring.  And I really want to continue this path moving forward for women who are of all shapes, skin tones, ages, heights, everything.  I think that it’s really important,” she said. 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor