Sarafina Nance, SI model, talks about the 2022 edition after double mastectomy: ‘I fell to the ground’

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Sarafina Nance may have big dreams of heading into space, but the idea of ​​being Sports Illustrated Swimwear The model looked out of this world – at least for now.

The astrophysicist and analog astronaut is a finalist at this year’s SI Swim Search. The Austin, Texas native was selected from among thousands of submissions to be photographed by acclaimed SI photographer Yu Tsai in the Dominican Republic. The winner of the annual selection call will become a rookie in the 2023 edition.

Not a bad feat for someone who previously insisted she only had one bathing suit.

Sarafina Nance is one of the finalists for this year's SI Swim Search.

Sarafina Nance is one of the finalists for this year’s SI Swim Search.
(Yu Tsai / Sports Illustrated Swimsuit)

But for Nance, it’s an opportunity to share her story globally. she is a BRCA2 + breast cancer Women who chose to have a preventive double mastectomy at age 26 for a reduced risk of breast cancer – 87%. After breast reconstruction, Nance spoke about the importance of genetic testing, self-exams, and preventive medicine.

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Nance spoke to Fox News Digital about what it means for her appearance in this year’s issue, which inspired her to compose two tracks, and how her parents reacted.

Fox News: What prompted you to try SI Swim Search this year?
Sarafina Nance: It all relates to my story. I have a BRCA2+ gene mutation, which puts me at risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I had a prophylactic double mastectomy more than two years ago to reduce my risk of breast cancer. I was publicly sharing my journey online and gained a great community that supported me along the way.

Sarafina Nance is an astrophysicist, representative astronaut, BRCA2+ breast cancer preventer, women's health advocate and author.

Sarafina Nance is an astrophysicist, representative astronaut, BRCA2+ breast cancer preventer, women’s health advocate and author.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

One of my friends knew about SI Swim Search and suggested me to try it. I never thought of doing something like that, but she really encouraged me. And I did… The idea of ​​meeting these beautiful and empowering women from all different communities caught my eye to share their stories. This forced me to submit.

Fox News: Were you familiar with the journal before applying?
Nance: I didn’t know much about SI growing up. Of course I’ve seen magazines. They were at Barnes & Noble and local newsstands. But it wasn’t until a few years ago Heard about Allen Rose. She was the first woman to appear in the magazine after having a mastectomy. She is an incredible advocate for members of the breast cancer community. I remembered how beautiful and empowering she was. You really inspired me.

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Fox News: Needless to say, deciding to have a double mastectomy is a difficult choice. How did you feel once your procedure ended?
Nance: You know, I felt very proud of myself. I felt strong about my decision. Yes, it was a very difficult time. I had three surgeries in one year. It was physically exhausting, mentally draining, and emotionally draining. It affected every aspect of my life. But I made this decision myself. I remember waking up feeling extraordinarily proud to take charge of my health.

Sarafina Nance underwent a preventive mastectomy, followed by breast reconstruction.

Sarafina Nance underwent a preventive mastectomy, followed by breast reconstruction.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

Fox News: And now she’s made it to the final stage in the SI Swim Search. What was your reaction?
Nance: I was completely surprised. I fell to the ground. Everything came out of me. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I immediately called my father and partner. They were all stunned and excited. It was a wonderful moment for me.

Fox News: Tell us about your role as Analog astronaut.
Nance: I am an astrophysicist and an analog scientist. You completed the astronaut simulator. I lived as if I were on Mars completing a mission. I hope to use these skills one day and go into space. My dream is to go into space… One of my biggest takeaways from that experience is that I love being in an environment where I can rely on my team and crew to do research and make a difference.

Sarafina Nans said her goal is to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) accessible to all.

Sarafina Nans said her goal is to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) accessible to all.
(Courtesy of Sarahfina Nance)

Fox News: When people think of an astrophysicist or an analog world, some may not immediately think of the “SI Swimsuit Model.” How do you hope to change this public perception?
Nance: One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to overcome specifically in STEM fields is overcoming the feeling of inadequacy. I am not just a woman, but a woman of color in a predominantly white male space. There are a lot of stereotypes and expectations that come with that identity and that role. I learned the value of acting. I understood the importance of my presence and my voice, not just for me, but for future generations of women in STEM fields. I didn’t have this acting as I grew up. My goal is to provide that to others.

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Sarafina Nance chose to have a prophylactic mastectomy at age 26 to reduce the risk of breast cancer (87%).

Sarafina Nance chose to have a prophylactic mastectomy at age 26 to reduce the risk of breast cancer (87%).
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

I think a platform like SI is very powerful because it shows that women don’t have to be put into boxes. We don’t have to be just one thing. We can be multi-hyphenated individuals with different interests and different passions. Instead of getting away from each other, they can reinforce each other. To me, that really speaks to the power of a woman and what we can achieve, and what we can dream about. I hope that when someone sees someone like me in the magazine, they’ll say, “Wow, I don’t have to limit myself. I don’t have to be privy to people’s expectations because they think I have to be a certain way or act a certain way. I can be what I want to be. “.

Fox News: As someone who has had a prophylactic double mastectomy, has the magazine embraced you?
Nance: definitely. The photo session in the Dominican Republic was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I didn’t know what to expect. Me, no Come from a modeling background. I was worried about feeling ashamed and ashamed of my body. But I never felt strong and embraced where I am now. I have never felt this support. I was blown away by the entire SI team, the finalists – everyone. They were all very excited and really happy that I was there. My body is different, but I still feel loved and supported.

Fox News: What was your reaction when you saw those pictures?
Nance: I was shocked. It is a powerful experience to see yourself through that lens. SI is not trying to make you anything or anyone else. I was so worried the whole time, but the pictures don’t show it. It was a magical experience.

Sarafina Nance hopes her image in SI swimwear will inspire other women to celebrate their bodies.

Sarafina Nance hopes her image in SI swimwear will inspire other women to celebrate their bodies.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

Fox News: What does winning the SI Swim Search mean to you?
Nance: I don’t even have the words *laughs*. It would be an incredible honor. It’s an honor indeed, whether you win or not. One of the most exciting parts of this whole process was getting the chance to go to the Dominican Republic and meet all these amazing women. These are advocates and leaders in their communities. I am now part of that group. I think this experience really paved the way for me to share my story like never before. This is a platform where all beauty and backgrounds are displayed and celebrated.

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Fox News: How has the experience changed your life so far?
Nance: For starters, I met a great community of people. It is a brotherhood, and I am grateful for it. They changed my life instantly. One of the girls and I became incredibly close. It’s very exciting to have these conversations about our experiences and how we hope to change the world. This alone was invaluable.

Sarafina Nance dreams of going into space.

Sarafina Nance dreams of going into space.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

Fox News: What do you hope readers get for when they first see your photos?
Nance: You know, I think about when I was growing up. I have never seen women like me in science, in magazines, or even on television. I never felt like acting was there for me. Now, I wish people could see themselves in me. I hope they feel encouraged to do whatever they want. I hope when they see me they’ll go, “I can do that.” I hope they can achieve what is their dream. All this is possible. I did this.