On behalf of everyone at The LadyCode, we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving! This is the perfect time for me to look back at everything I am thankful for. I am grateful to be a part of The LadyCode because it has given me the opportunity to interview women I admire and cover incredible events like the What She Said Girl Talk conference.
What She Said was sponsored by Sports Illustrated Swim and W South Beach. I didn’t know what to expect, as the flyer was very vague. Lisa shared with me the information, and I wanted to bring a friend so I shared it with anybody I thought would be interested. Sure enough, a friend I met last week at an eco-fashion show, Taryn Shea, was able to come along and I believe it was destiny which I will explain later.
We were surrounded by posters that did not say the conference name. Rather, it said “Sports Illustrated Swim: Taping in Session.” We follow the signs out of curiosity and ended up finding the conference area, which actually looks like a mini wedding. There were white chairs with goody bags, hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, a photo booth, and a small stage with a TV displaying the “What She Said” flyer. The event started at 6:00 PM, but Taryn and I showed up around 6:30 PM. In typical Miami fashion, no one was there yet and we enjoyed the snacks and took photos.
Viviane, the lovely PR woman for the W South Beach and Quinn Agency, took a moment to speak to us, when all of a sudden, a swarm of gorgeous women walked past us. It turns out these were the top 16 girls selected to participate in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search. I actually attended the open casting in Miami, where thousands of girls worldwide lined up at this very hotel.
Last year’s winner, Haley Khalil, was actually former Miss Collegiate America when I was Miss Florida Collegiate so I had to stop her and say hello for a picture. I remember at the casting, she approached every group to say hello and wish them the best of luck despite the Miami summer heat.
And then, my dream came true. Olivia Culpo, basically my fashion icon and the last Miss USA to be Miss Universe, walked in with her assistant and made small talk in a private area. It was crazy because Taryn, the woman who came along with me to this event, and I bonded over our love for Olivia Culpo. We didn’t expect to meet her at this event and knew we had to take a picture!
It was a little awkward, because it seemed like we were the only fan girls there, while everybody else was part of the Sports Illustrated Swim Sweet 16. They were about to start the conference, so we had to rush to where she was and ask for a photo. Sure enough, she was kind and let us have a picture with her.
Before snagging our picture, we made sure we claimed the front row so we can get the best footage. I didn’t know that such an esteemed panel would be at the event.
Each woman on the panel was extremely successful in their respective fields. Many of them shared their stories of overcoming obstacles and how they got to where they are today.
MJ Day shared how she started as an intern for Instyle Magazine, and moved on up to become the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. She has redirected the brand to be focused on women’s empowerment and diversity on all aspects. She was one of the driving forces behind Ashley Graham’s cover as the first plus-sized model on Sports Illustrated. During the Miami Swim Week show, Sports Illustrated had the first woman to walk on the runway breastfeeding her child and first Paralympic medalist Brenna Huckaby (also on the panel) to walk the stage.
Even someone as beautiful as Olivia Culpo, with her stunning cheekbones and enviable body, shared how before she competed at Miss Rhode Island USA, she was turned down by every agency she went to because she was too short. She was even the shortest contestant at Miss USA, at a time when height was considered important in beauty pageants. She reminded the audience not everything is as perfect as it seems. Even when she landed in Miami, she was bawling to MJ Day but had to pick herself up for all of the events she had to do.
My main takeaways from everyone in the panel was being true to themselves, how to make an impact in a world of social media, and what is their driving force behind their continued success. There was a huge focus also on body diversity, And it’s amazing to see what Sports Illustrated is doing and how it’s catching the attention of so many people.
After their discussion, Viviane, the same PR woman who spoke to us earlier, went up to the audience to ask questions to the panel. Of course in the midst of this discussion, my plate of carrots and hummus drops with a huge *thud!* To which the panelist respond with “Opa!”
I asked the question to the panel about social media. When to be real, and when to be glamorous. Sometimes I feel like I live a double life, and I don’t want to mislead people when in reality I’m a big nerd. Brenna and Nathalie answered my question and told me to not be afraid to post something with no filter and no editing, and to focus more on the content you share in writing. But, if you look glamorous, you feel great, and you want to post that picture, you should feel just as entitled to post that as well.
After the conference was over we were actually able to meet with the panelists to thank them and get to know them a little better. I was actually sitting next to the assistant of Nathalie from Luxe Fete, and I was excited to learn they were both located in Miami! These women are absolutely incredible, and I look forward to cheering them on in their next endeavors.
The event was wrapping up and the hotel staff was starting to break down all the equipment, but the Photo Booth was still there and we finally got a chance to use it. I took that opportunity to pull out my Miss Eco Florida sash because I just picked it up from the mail that day and I was so excited to finally show it off.
We left with goody bags, a network of strong women, and knowledge from highly influential women in the US. I am so thankful that this was something I was able to do on my birthday week. I am thankful to every reader who supports this content. I am thankful to be a part of The LadyCode, and have a platform to share my stories with like-minded women with so much potential.
Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with joy, food, and the ones you love!