The Minnesota native made her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit introduction in 2018 after engaging in the franchise's first ever open casting call. She was called the co-winner along with Camille Kostek. This year, she is back for the upcoming issue that's slated to drop sometime this summer.
Before Kalil made her modeling debut, she was already making a splash in the science world. According to SI, the 28-year-old additionally printed award-winning immunological research and worked with numerous regional science applications to encourage young girls to pursue STEM areas. Now, she's launching The Nerd Herd, a company that aims to empower women to love their own bodies while still pursuing STEM studies.
This will be your fourth year in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. What's that been like?
Haley Kalil: Frankly, I can't believe it. It looks like just yesterday that I was making a movie about them in hopes that I'll ever be contemplated. I never dreamed that I would be shooting my fourth spread for them. It's mind-blowing. I'm honestly honored.
I am honored since this is how I received my start in modeling. Swim Search has been my first entry to the modeling world. And it has enabled me to inspire a lot of different women to celebrate their own bodies. And I'm repping all of the ginger nerds out there *laughs. But really, representation is everything. It is one of the real reasons I wished to be part of Sports Illustrated because they were one of the very first significant fashion books where I watched a redhead for the very first time. Here's this version who is beautiful and a redhead." I believed that I could be beautiful, too.
So for mepersonally, it is about becoming that representation for someone else. I hope someone can look at me and go,"I see myself in her." That is really my final goal with every single year I shoot with SI.
How will this season spread differ?
Kalil: It's really quite a growth. It's growth with a household which you feel so comfortable with. Notably during my first year, there was that this overthinking of"Oh, do not mess up" or even"I don't have any idea what I am doing." Now, however, it's like going to the shore with all your friends and loved ones. I felt at ease rather than in my head. I expect this season I give the world the best images that they've seen of me.
How can you prepare for this year's shoot?
Kalil: You knowthe great thing about SI is they don't care about what physical shape you are in. They simply want you to be yourself and confident in the human body. I never felt like I had to be a certain size or possess certain measurements because they love you the way you are.
But for my take, I wanted to feel and look my best. So I worked with a coach daily. We focused on getting the abs tight, tight. I never need to project any unreal expectations for what a woman's body should look like. So I'm never going to lower calories. I am never going to operate for hours on a treadmill hoping that I will lose weight. That's not something I would like to put out within this world. I would like to be within my normal shape and size, just the tighter, more toned version of it. So rather than dieting and cutting calories, I concentrate on eating healthy. I rely on things that will make you feel great like broccoli, salmon, squash, brown rice all the fantastic stuff. I will have my Domino's lava cake but I'll also put in the work at the gym.
This year is special for you because you're also starting The Nerd Herd.
Kalil: It's been my passion undertaking. It has been in the works in my mind for quite some time. I was super excited to finally make it a reality. But as I grew older, I thought it was pretty cool. Like heck yeah. I must have taken it as a compliment.
So then it started off as a societal media post where I spoke about the stark contrast between being a woman in the sciences and being a female in the modeling industry, along with the crazy standards that are put on both women. If you are in the sciences, you are supposed to cover every part of your sensuality, your femininity, and not observe it whatsoever.
Like for example, my very best friend is a doctor. When we go on holiday together, she'll pose in a bikini to get a film but will be scared to post it because she thinks their co-workers will not respect her as a physician. And it is the specific opposite in the modeling business. You might be wearing a bikini and it'll be totally fine. But people will assume you have nothing else going on in mind. You have nothing to offer beyond being a bodily picture.
I wanted to deal with that. I submitted a side-by-side [photo] of me graduating from college and wearing a bikini at which I clarified my backstory. So many girls resonated with this since it's a problem that every woman faces, particularly career-driven girls in the sciences. And nerd herd has been born. It turned into a hashtag, but I wanted it to be over that. I wished to ensure it is something that gives back.
How does The Nerd Herd give back?
For my very first fall, a hundred percent of the proceeds will go to an organization named Black Girls Code, which helps young girls become involved in computer programming and technology at an early age. And then after that, all of my previous drops will have a charitable element to them where a portion of this money goes to organizations which help get young women involved with STEM.
When did you see that you wanted to encourage young women to embrace STEM?
Kalil: I believe that it was actually born from the fact that both of my parents are engineers. I have a very strong mother and I'm so thankful for her presence in my life because she's shown me exactly what an independent, smart female resembles... And my interest in mathematics and math started at a very young age. I despise it in college. And I noticed a great deal of women were reluctant to pursue STEM-based professions because they were going to be one of only five or six women in a class of 100. I wanted to help raise awareness and create a change with almost any platform that I'd had.
Some critics may argue that a swimsuit model is not the first man one would think about as a role model for young women. What would you tell those individuals?
Why is it that a male physician can post a photo of himself at the beach and you would not think twice about it? You'd think,"This is simply a man on holiday having a good time. Great for him. He is taking a break. He needs it. He's been working hard."
I think it's something which's ingrained in our culture. Should you have a look at me, that's on youpersonally, but this is really for me." And that's what we will need to realize. You do not see a lot of people hating on a male model in a swimsuit. You do not think they're worthless due to it. So it is about changing the narrative. I hear it in the mouths of girls daily in terms of what they undergo. I think we need to show just how significant it is for a lady to have ownership of her own body.
Was there ever a moment where you felt as if you were not taken as seriously since you're a model?
Kalil: Oh, I've had many, many minutes *laughs. It's funny because I tell people I used to be admired just for what I do. I was respected for my training, my education, what I could do in a lab. And instantly, that changed. It can be really hard for individuals to assume you have nothing else happening just because you are a model.
One particular moment sticks out for me personally. I was at a very important dinner for a social occasion. I had been sitting next to some CEO of a company -- a male CEO. He said,"What do you really do?" I said,"I'm a model." I cringed a bit inside because I knew this was going to stir something up. Like they're going to make assumptions about me. Then he stated,"that I think it's great that you are a model. This means you can find a wealthy man, get married and never have to work a day in your life" I couldn't believe what I discovered. Because in this individual's eyes, I had nothing more to offer in this world than just beauty. Physical beauty. That is it. I am nothing more than what I look like. I would like to change that because I really don't want people to assume that simply because you are a model, you've got nothing else to give to this world.
What was going through your mind when you heard this?
Kalil: I just simply said,"I do not really need somebody to take good care of me. I have a level. I analyzed biomedical sciences and psychology." He was like, "Wait, what?" And then he promptly switched his tone. It is funny how they change their tone once you drop that onto them *laughs*. It's actually funny to see people backtrack. I was an immunologist before I had been a model. However, why would someone respect an immunologist rather than a model? We are overdue for a change, that is for sure. You should garner the same amount of respect for either role.
You've talked about being bullied as a child. Have any of your bullies achieved to you since looking in SI?
You can very quickly tell if someone is reaching out because they're actually sorry or because they wish to be a part of something that you're doing. I have had two women, in particular, reach me out and you can tell it was coming from a genuine location. They sent me very heartfelt apologies and voiced how truly sorry they were to how I had been treated and the errors that they made. Reading those words truly affected me because it demonstrated that individuals can change. Folks can grow.
Was there a time where you felt as though maybe modeling would not be for you?
Kalil: Oh yes. Sports Illustrated was my first expert photoshoot ever. And in the first year that I started modeling, I had been thrown to the deep end real fast. I had been signed with a modeling agency and I started working. And it was something that I've never done before. I remember there was one firm -- and I won't say the title because I never want to paint anyone in a terrible manner. But during the set of their shoot, there was a photographer who wasn't the kindest into the models. And being someone who has never had that kind of hatred was unsettling. I mean... I was teased at school. But it was quite different in a professional setting.
I remember how this person acted and it was really hard. I phoned my mother and simply told her I did not think I could do so. I remembered my mother told me to concentrate on the aim. She reminded me that no matter the area, everyone will experience good days and bad days. But you need to focus on what you would like to achieve. You need to be the one that chooses to stay and pursue this. And I understood I wasn't going to let one bad day impact my entire career.
On days when you don't wake up feeling like a version or STEM superhero, what do you do to feel much more confident about your self?
Kalil: I'm totally honest on social networking. Because we're all human. We all have days when we feel like crap. But the most essential thing is grounding yourself with your friends and loved ones. I could not have faced the pressures of the industry without them. She is my rock. She constantly reminds me that I'm so much more than what's going on in my head. I've a whole lot more to offer you. She reasons me and helps me remember that even in my bad days, I can give something positive and beautiful to the world.