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Model Tanaye White On Why We Need To Continue To Have Open Dialogue About Mental Health

I think it’d be great to continue to have open dialogue about mental health. We must end the stigma that a person who doesn’t fit into society’s norms are “crazy” or “unhinged.” We are human. We feel, we think, and we each experience life in different ways. It’s okay to be sad or anxious, that’s a part of being human. But what we need to end in the treatment of people who are deemed to be less than because of those feelings.

We had the pleasure to interview Tanaye White. Model and 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model (2020’s Rookie of the Year), Tanaye White is a force to be reckoned with! From earning her Master’s Degree at the esteemed Georgetown University and teaching herself how to code, to having the honor of being a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model, Tanaye continues to prove she has beauty and brains! After quitting her corporate job to pursue her modeling career, Tanaye now hopes to inspire young girls everywhere to follow their dreams!

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Tanaye! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

I graduated from Georgetown University with my Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Throughout my grad program and thereafter, I secured a job at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and then at one of the world’s largest defense and aerospace agencies.

One day in 2018, I was scrolling through Instagram and happened to see a casting call for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s Swim Search — — a casting where any person, model or not, could apply to grace the pages of the world renown issue. It was such a coincidence to see the ad, when just a few weeks prior, I had confessed to a friend my secret of dreaming of being a SI Swimsuit model. However, I had many doubts that such a dream would ever come true because I had little to no modeling experience. But I truly felt that the casting call was God sending me a sign. So, I sent in my submission video and learned a month later that I was chosen to advance to the next round!

I booked my flight to Miami where thousands of girls awaited their chance to be interviewed by one of the magazine’s editors. I had the time of my life at the casting and even got to spend one-on-one time with Kate Upton! By the time the casting reached its close, I felt so excited to have just had the opportunity to be seen by such incredible women. And when it came time for them to announce the Sweet 16 finalists, I was in tears when they called my name first!

While I didn’t advance to the Top 6, which would’ve allowed me to be in the magazine, I decided to give it just one more try. After all, if I could beat 10,000 hopefuls as a newcomer, who’s to say I couldn’t make it further my next go around? I did as such and not only did I advance to what would be the Sweet 17, but I made it to the Top 6! I had a dream shoot in Turks & Caicos with the other finalists for the 2020 issue! And after months of waiting, during the middle of COVID, I received a Zoom call with the team that told me I had one the Swim Search competition alongside my fellow model Kathy Jacobs!

Now I am officially a 2021 Sports Illustrated Swim Search Rookie! I shot in Sacramento, California and just returned from the magazine’s launch weekend that was held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fl.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

The biggest takeaway I can share from my experience in the modeling industry is to walk into rooms with pride. There have been so many times I doubted myself, my abilities, and my worthiness to be where I am today. Always hold your head up because your energy walks into the room before you do.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

I always tell SI Swimsuit hopefuls to believe in themselves and then work to make it happen. It’s not enough to just say, “I want to become a model.” Go out there and do it! Make the portfolio, set up that photoshoot, apply to that casting. Your dreams can’t work unless you do!

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

My favorite person of all time is the matriarch of my family — my great-grandmother Momma. Momma is the warmest, most loving, and funny person I’ve ever come to know. She’s 93 and so youthful. She has seen so much in her lifetime, and I value her wisdom dearly. I speak to her on a weekly basis and each time before we get off the phone, she tells me that I am “wonderfully and beautifully made.”

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I’m passionate about advocating for mental health awareness. I’ve spent years dedicating myself to uplifting the downtrodden youth and those who have been victims of bullying. Each Friday, I post #FeedGood Friday on my social media pages where I dance to show that dancing can help enlighten the mind during challenging times.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

As a person who has suffered from depression as a child and young adult, bringing more awareness to the mental health movement has always been important to me. When I was 15 years old, I lost a dear friend to suicide. So, I’ve always had a personal connection to the mental health movement.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

It took a lot for me to publicly share some of my mental health struggles with my audience. It’s never easy to share, but if I can change just one life, I know my life’s work is complete. Since being more vulnerable and doing my #FeelGood Friday dancing, so many men and women have personally messaged me to share their own struggles. While it’s always hard to hear how much others are or have been hurting, it’s always nice to know that we’re not alone and that there’s always someone who is willing to listen and help.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

I think it’d be great to continue to have open dialogue about mental health. We must end the stigma that a person who doesn’t fit into society’s norms are “crazy” or “unhinged.” We are human. We feel, we think, and we each experience life in different ways. It’s okay to be sad or anxious, that’s a part of being human. But what we need to end in the treatment of people who are deemed to be less than because of those feelings.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to see the Feel-Good movement become a prominent brand in the mental health push. I’m working on a special project in which I hope that dream can come to life!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite quote is a scripture my great grandmother says to me all the time: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13. To me, this scripture is a reminder to keep faith that all your hard work and efforts will result in goodness. Keep your head up and a good heart, and good things will come to you.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I would love to sit down and speak with Bozoma Saint John. I’ve admired her for years. She is someone who I can relate to for her intellect, career path, style, and her desire to push boundaries and break stereotypes. Bozoma has held executive roles at some of the largest companies including Netflix and Uber. And she’s from Connecticut, like myself!

Thank you for these great insights!




In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Authority Magazine

Authority Magazine

Authority Magazine is devoted to sharing in-depth interviews, featuring people who are authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech

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