Lewis Freese has been recognized by Sports Illustrated Swim as the first male finalist ever in their annual open casting call Swim Search for 2021 (this is his second time applying for the contest as he still juggles studies as a full time business marketing/gender women sexuality studies/retail merchandising).This Minnesota born, gender fluid model is bringing smoldering good looks and the ability to shake up the system, simply by working to redefine what a swimsuit truly represents, telling People “Swimwear is one of the most binary forms of clothing and I believe Sports Illustrated Swimsuit has redefined the true meaning of what a swimsuit embodies”
During a conversation with People earlier this month, Freese spoke openly about furthering inclusivity in such a legendary publication. While his message “used to revolve around being male and how important it is to feel empowered by all, women, men, or nonbinary people” it has now shifted. Freese says “as I’ve continued down this path of self-discovery, I’ve realized my message is so much more about gender variety and how every person’s gender presents itself differently.”.
Freese sees himself as contributing to change today, but he most definitely knows he is not the last one that will do it. He says “I really don’t view myself as the first but as the next,” he continues. “The next model to break a barrier, the next model to have these uncomfortable conversations, the next model to be unapologetically myself. I am so grateful to be a part of a group of finalists who all represent completely different messages, yet have the same goal, to further inclusivity.”
Lewis Reese is not the only model working to redefine the legendary publication. Last month, Leyna Bloom became the first black and Asian trans woman to appear in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, following in the footsteps of Valentina Sampaio, who became the first transgender model to ever land in the pages of Sports Illustrated last summer.
Lewis’ words on visibility and how his own journey might inspire others are powerful. He says “One of my favorites things I’ve ever heard is that “people don’t like those within the queer and trans community because we actually have the audacity to be and present our most authentic version”. I love it because it’s so true. It takes guts to admit to yourself that you’re different and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to explore one’s self-identity. For anyone struggling, just know I see you, I hear you, and I will work every day to help bring more visibility to this community.”
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