Determined to be a role model for her daughter, Saje Nicole boldly entered the modeling industry. She’s made a splash in more ways than one, most recently being featured in the coveted 2021 Sports Illustrated Swim Issue. The historic issue showcases three Black women on the cover for the first time – Megan Thee Stallion, Naomi Osaka, and Leyna Bloom! Saje is honored to be part of such a trailblazing issue. She wants to continue to inspire conversations around diversity in the industry and pave the way for other curve models. You can also see Saje in the new Amazon Prime series, Making The Cut.
Cliché: What was behind your decision to leave nursing school to pursue modeling?
Saje Nicole: I thought that because I loved seeing people happy and healthy, that a nursing career would be great for me. But once I started the classes, I started to realize that nursing just wasn’t my passion, and there are many different ways to help people be happy and healthy. I wanted to go after my dreams. Especially, because I tell my daughter that she can do anything, so I want to be the best example for her. I made the decision to pursue modeling and I haven’t looked back.
How do you deal with the lack of diversity in the industry? How can we work to ensure that the modeling industry has equal opportunities for women of color?
The lack of diversity in the industry has been a topic for many, many years. It’s not until recently that brands are starting to really listen. I think as consumers, we just need to hold brands accountable. Not canceling – because that doesn’t help anyone, but being open and honest about what makes us feel represented. We are in a time where brands want to do better and help shift the culture. I’m happy to see that they are so open to this new change. There isn’t one type of beauty or one body type. The more we continue to push the narrative forward, the quicker we will be able to get real and lasting change.
Tell us about your new show, Making The Cut.
Being a part of Making The Cut has truly been such an honor and dream come true. Not only did I get to work with amazing designers, but I’m on a show that I’m actually a fan of! We also filmed this during the pandemic, so the fact they were able to pull this off under extremely strict health guidelines is so impressive! I cannot wait to see the rest of the episodes, the designs are EPIC!
How would you describe your relationship to body positivity? How has that relationship changed and developed over time?
My relationship with body positivity is one that is always changing and evolving. I allow my body room to grow and change. Whatever that may look like. But of course, it wasn’t always that way. Paying attention to images in the media or certain influencers can really take a toll on your perception of beauty. So my method is to eat well, exercise daily, remain in a great mental space, and focus mainly on my health. Everything else will follow after that.
Any tips on improving body confidence?
Oh yes!!!! My advice would be to love your skin, your curves, your frame, and your flaws too. I think it’s all the imperfections that actually make you beautiful. It makes you unique. It allows you to stand it. I have stretch marks on my hips and buttocks, I have a small fupa, I have hip dips, and last but not least I have size 10 feet! If we spend all day criticizing ourselves, we would be miserable. Let’s celebrate every single part instead.
What was it like being featured in the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swim Issue?
It has truly been a dream come true!!! I have looked up to the women of Sports Illustrated Swim since I was a child. The exotic locations they traveled to, the women and their stories, the bikinis, the level of sophistication. All of what we know to be Sports Illustrated Swim today. So, to see myself in the magazine is absolutely surreal! I’m still in shock and it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. I’m sure it will in the coming weeks.
What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to be involved in an issue that showcases so many powerful Black women?
It means the world to me. Before this issue, the only Black women that were on the cover were Tyra Banks and Danielle Herrington, who are both great and beautiful women, but the magazine has been in circulation since 1964. To be a part of this legendary triple cover issue makes me feel so happy, represented, and seen. Thank you, Sports Illustrated Swim!
In what ways do you want to inspire others?
I want to represent an idea. An idea that no matter where you were born, your past, or even your current circumstances, you can do whatever you desire. I’m an immigrant that came here at the age of three, had to learn English in ESOL class, and whose dad passed away at age eight. If I can do it, I want those who follow my story to know they can do it as well. We all have different dreams, and we all need to unapologetically go after them.
Do you have any advice for aspiring curve models out there?
My advice to all models is to stay focused on what you want, your message, and don’t take no for an answer. In the age of social media, you can create your own audience, spread your own message, and launch your own products. There are so many avenues you can take. Just make sure you’re doing what’s best for you.
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Saje Nicole Makes Her Debut in the 2021 “Sports Illustrated” Swim Issue. Photo Credit (in order): Alanna Gilbert, Lalo Torres, Megan Claire (third and fourth photo), and Ronald Wayne.