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2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Runway Show - Paraiso Miami Beach - Runway

Source: (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated) / (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

Name: Saje Nicole

IG: @sajenicole https://www.instagram.com/sajenicole/ 

Agency: Natural Models LA/ Wilhelmina Models

Claim to Fame: Saje Nicole was one of the featured models in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She has been the face of the hit Amazon Prime show Making The Cut, and starred in campaigns for Skims, Nike, and more. She’s also walked on runways in New York, LA, and Miami. 

Saje Nicole once began and ended her day literally running after her modeling dreams. 

“The way I saw the industry you had to be size zero or a size two and I was always trying to conform to the industry,” she told HelloBeautiful.

“I was running ten miles a day, I was not eating properly. I wasn’t doing the right thing by my body.” 

She believed that pushing her body to the limit on the streets of her Fort Lauderdale, Florida was the only path to achieving her goals. “You know how if you’re training to be a basketball player or you’re training for a marathon. That’s just the requirements. Right? You have to be a certain size. So I would run five miles in the morning. I would run five miles at night. I wouldn’t eat past a certain time. I was counting my calories,” she said.

“I was in school for nursing but I was still modeling. I just wasn’t modeling at the scale that I wanted to,” she added. 

Bronx and Banco - Front Row & Backstage - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Source: (Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images) / (Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images)

She realized that there was another way to reach towards her objective backstage at one of her earliest gigs. “I was doing a show with this young lady and she was eating pizza right before the show. And I was like, ‘What are you doing?! Like, we’re about to go on! And she’s like ‘Oh, I’m just naturally small. I always look like this.’ And that’s when it kinda clicked for me that some people are just naturally just small. You don’t have to kill yourself, just be yourself and see what agency you can get with.” 

She continued modeling and ceased efforts to contour her body into someone else’s ideal. She reached out to Natural Models LA, an agency founded on the idea of promoting models that choose to maintain their natural aesthetics. Their divisions include “curve,” “plus,” “development” and “street style.” They were one of the first to work the term “curve” on their boards in the industry. 

As a model who is not plus-size she was unsure if they would accept her submission. “I didn’t think that I fit initially,” Nicole admitted. She was the perfect fit and it turns out her submission was just a formality. “I reached out to them and they said, we’ve actually been stocking your profile for months, we would love to meet.”

“They send me the contract the same day,” she revealed. 

Later her it would be her refusal to properly charge her phone, not her willingness to punish herself, that would lead to her signing with a second agency. “I ended up getting scouted by Wilhelmina just being at the hotel front desk. I was asking for a charger at the front desk. And the two ladies saw me and said, you’re beautiful, we’d love to work with you,” she said. 

She is sharing her personal approach to wellness with a wellness initiative she developed with the help of a personal trainer and a “mind coach,” called “The Bluprnt.”

Nicole booked gigs that celebrated the body she was caring for instead of criticizing. She became one of the featured models in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. At the party she posed playfully with cover girl Megan Thee Stallion, looking like the perfect fit. “The best experience I’ve had is with Sports Illustrated,” she said. “It’s crazy because it’s something that I grew up on, and have always seen in magazines. I had all of the models on my wall growing up. And so when I was walking up to the set, I’m not a crier, but I could not stop crying. I cried like 10 times on set just like tears of joy, because it was actually happening. Like I was witnessing my dreams come true.” She has worked with other “household names,” including Nike. 

She is working on expanding further into acting, and continuing her “entrepreneurial,” journey. Her plan is to build the career she dreamed of when she was staring at Jessica White and Damaris Lewis on the walls of her childhood bedroom. 

“Now that I’m signed with a New York agency, the sky’s the limit. I’m really excited to see what that looks like.”

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