I’ve been wanting to publish this blog post for awhile. I wanted to write this blog post as soon as I got back to Canada after experiencing the most amazing Hawaiian photoshoot adventure. I was even excited to write this blog post the very moment I was offered this opportunity. BUT. I didn’t do any of that. And outside of my three closest friends, I didn’t even tell many people how it went and what happened while I was in Hawaii. I think I just needed to decompress, re-centre myself and keep those four days to myself in my own little world, before I could share them with the online world. Which is completely ironic, because for the entire duration of those four days I think I posted and storied and shared everything with the online world more than I ever have before! But, I think that’s why I needed a small break before I could share it again, and bring my mind back to those amazing four days with mental clarity and emotional stability.
So before the magic of Christmas takes over my Instagram and my blog (and don’t worry, it will), before a single garland is hung or a present is bought, I need to get tropical once again. I need to talk all about my Swimco Adventures in Hawaii. Starting from the very beginning.
HOW IT HAPPENED
At the end of August, I got an email sent to my blog email account from Swimco’s marketing group. The email explained that this Calgary based swimwear company is pushing to change what it means to have a beautiful body, most especially in the swimsuit industry. The email explained their belief that that barriers can be broken by using real models with real lives and real bodies, from all across Canada. Of course the email also stressed a free trip to Hawaii, all expenses paid and a per diem. But did I believe it? Not quite lol. I’m a skeptic by nature and after receiving more than a handful of illegitimate, phony offers of partnerships and swag, this one was by far the most too-good-to-be-true offer. However I did my research about the company and previous photoshoots they had done with other “real models”, I followed up with them in an email laden with questions and within a few days I had a phone call meeting with the director of marketing located in Calgary. She explained that they found me and the other swimsuit models through Instagram, and they always choose fresh faces from across Canada so as to keep their brand diverse and unique in their representation. At the end of our hour long phone call I emerged from the bedroom with a smile plastered to my face and shouted to Alex at the other end of the apartment, “I”M GOING TO HAWAII!!!!!!!!!!”
And all at once, it was real. I became a part of the group to represent Swimco’s #feelgoodhalfnaked campaign. I became a Swimco #swimsuitmodel.
After the phone call that I will forever refer to as “the best phone call of my life”, things started moving pretty quickly. I was emailed a real legal contract to sign, my flights were booked and purchased for me and I was sent a full, four day itinerary detailing everything I’d questioned in my head from how I’d be picked up at the airport in Hawaii, to when we’d have to wake up to begin getting ready for the photoshoots (and let me tell you, it was damn early). Events leading up to the trip kept progressing and everyday I was getting more and more excited. Swimco sent me a gift package with cute travel swag and a gift card to their store. The other swimsuit models and I connected over Instagram and said how excited we were to meet each other and to be part of such an incredible opportunity. And after I released the news to my own little online world that I was going to take part in this campaign, I was showered with such immense support and so many kind words, I knew that what I was doing was going to have an impact (if only even a small one) in the pursuit for body positivity in the media.
Of all the crew and swimsuit models, I was the only person to be coming from Ontario and also the person coming from the furthest distance. The majority of the crew and swimsuit models were from Calgary, with one being from Vancouver. And it was in Vancouver during my layover that I met fellow swimsuit model Stephanie. Within moments of meeting, we were laughing at each other and ourselves and it felt like we’d known each other for much longer than just 10 minutes. We talked about our nerves and our excitement and how totally crazy this all was! But once boarding the plane and settling into a six hour flight over the pacific ocean, we really mellowed out lol. Cut to six hours later, Stephanie and I were greeted at the arrivals gate by a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, holding a sign with three names on it. There Stephanie and I met another swimsuit model, Tristan, and all three of us were all welcomed to Hawaii as our driver placed the most beautiful leis around each of our necks.
When the doors of the Tesla SUV opened upwards, we were greeted by the happy face of a four month old beagle puppy. The driver’s new dog, who would be riding with us to the estate. He ate our leis and bit our hands but it was a small price to pay for the affection of a Hawaiian beagle puppy. It was a quick drive to the estate located just outside of Honolulu in Kailua. Once the three of us arrived, we met the amazing crew and the fourth swimsuit model, Victoria.
After a brief hangout with the team I realized that It was 11pm in Hawaii but 5am in Toronto and I hadn’t slept on either flight. With knowledge that we had a 6am hair and makeup call, I decided it was time for bed (but not before a long airplane-cleansing shower).
Before I knew it, it was 5:30am and my alarm was going off to the tune of Nappy Roots’ “Good Day”, reminding me to have a GOOD DAY for today, and the next and the next. But I had barely slept. I was too excited and too full of adrenaline. All I could do was pray that I’d have enough adrenaline to last me all day, and that the makeup artist could make my puffy dark circles disappear. Luckily, she was a makeup artist sent straight from heaven and did all the work that I can barely manage to do with a full eight hours of sleep let alone three. Krista the marketing director made sure we were all fed and caffinited, making us the most delicious smoothie bowls I’ve ever eaten with a perfect cup of coffee to go along with it. I enjoyed my super-early breakfast in the living room of the main house as I watched the sunrise through the picture window. By 8:30 all three of us girls were hair and makeuped up and were ready to head out to our first photoshoot location.
Our first shoot location was at the Jackass Ginger Pond and the forest that surrounded it. It rained most of the day, but the haze and mist of the Hawaiian rain gave such a cool jungle effect to our surroundings. Not to mention the rainbows (yes, plural rainbows) that occured every hour or two, for just a few minutes at a time. The very first photoshoot that I got to do was on a rainy road at the base of a huge mountain full of greenery and covered by clouds at the top. I wore a gorgeous floral bikini top, had my hair curly, wild and red and I felt like a Hawaiian jungle princess caught in a rainstorm. I didn’t feel nervous. I didn’t feel scared. I didn’t feel embarrassed of my body or what I was wearing. I felt so completely confident in my own body and in my ability to stand true to myself in front of a camera. I felt like I was meant to be there.
At this location, I had four different looks and posed both on my own and with Steph. After that, we grabbed lunch at Whole Foods and headed back to the estate for an afternoon of shooting at the ocean aka our own backyard.
Once back at the estate, I shot in the pool, in the ocean and on the beach and had five different looks. My favourite look from that grouping was a gorgeous black and white floral two piece with high waisted bottoms and a supportive top. I was so sad to when I had to take it off as it made me feel confident, sexy and proud of my curves. But the rest of the looks I wore were pretty great too haha.
Day one ended as quickly as it began and before I knew it, it was 7pm and our personal chef was serving us dinner in the main house. All eight of us ate dinner together, talking and laughing over wine and remarking at how incredible every single dish was. Fish, steak, taro and vegetables, every bite was a taste explosion. It seemed to get so late so fast, and eventually we called it a night in hopes of getting some sleep for day two.
Just like the day before, we were up before the sun and all piled into the eight seater vehicle en route to our location on the North Shore before there was even a glimmer of sunlight in the sky. Our location on the North Shore at Sharks Cove and Pupukea Beach was a stone covered beach with a backdrop of cliffs to one side, and vast ocean to the other. We ate lunch at a colourful food truck called Aji Limo, specializing in fish and poke bowls. We waited out yet another heavy rain under limp umbrellas during our lunch break, but it was over by the time we had to hit the road again.
After lunch we drove to a Pu’u O Mahuka cultural site located on a clifftop with a beach view. The view looking over the ocean was made especially magical by the rainbow that appeared right over top. Something I wasn’t able to get pictures of, but pictures that would have paled in comparison to the real thing anyways.
We drove to another beach on the North Shore for our third location of the day and this one was truly breathtaking. A long white sand beach with no end in sight and behind it water with four different colours of blue. Sand so soft and sun so hot it was almost impossible to walk barefoot. But worth it for the natural exfoliation the Hawaiian sand offers your feet, haha.
The third day of our Swimco Adventures had us in the van and on the road by 5am sharp. We drove to Honolulu to shoot at the Alohilani Hotel located on Waikiki beach. At this hotel we shot at their rooftop infinity pool and cabana lounge. At this location I had five different looks, my two favourites being a high waisted blue floral two piece, and a red hot one piece with a halter tie. It was so fun changing in and out of swimsuits I felt so confident and beautiful wearing while the photographer and videographer worked their magic behind their respective cameras. They told me their vision and I tried my best to recreate it by wading into the infinity pool, sitting on the edge of it and laughing with Victoria while wearing matching swimsuits, and lounging on cabana chairs serving my best “I’m at a rooftop pool lounge” vibes. Between singing with my swimsuit model girls in the cabana, taking endless boomerangs and behind the scenes pictures and really getting to know everyone on set, this was my favourite day of shooting and so much fun to be a part of.
Once we got back to the estate around lunch time it was time for the four of us to sit down and talk about what it really meant for us to be in Hawaii. Why we really chose to participate in the #feelgoodhalfnaked campaign. Victoria, Stephanie, Tristan and I talked about issues of self worth, body image and what we practice in our own lives to feel confident in our skin. We talked about how important it is to surround yourself with people that build you up and help to fuel your passions. We discussed remaining true to your own beliefs, values and goals which in turn helps you to find the most authentic beauty in your own life. And when asked what it is that makes confidence, sexy, the response was “aren’t they the same thing?” And honestly, it made complete sense.
The last day in Hawaii wasn’t a day spent on location, it was not a shoot day and it was not a day for waking up before 5am. However Stephanie and I did anyways, setting our alarms for 6 that morning so we could watch the sunrise over the ocean for one last time. We walked through the estate, past the five houses that all eight of us had been staying in, across the soft green grass backyard over the hill and there it was. The last sunrise in Kailua. Though it wasn’t a shoot day, we had our own photoshoot anyways. We helped each other find the best angles and ultimate ambience to capture what was genuinely such a perfect and beautiful moment in reality just as much as on Instagram. It was an amazing ending to an amazing three days and we tried to watch it as long as we could, before we had to get to our rooms and get packing to check out of the estate.
We spent the rest of the day at the rooftop pool lounge we had just shot at the day before, and absorbed the last few hours of Hawaii in the form tropical drinks and lots of sunshine. We chilled, talked, laughed and napped under the Honolulu sun until it was time to catch the red eye back to Canada.
THAT’S A WRAP
The word “blessed” isn’t even enough anymore to describe how I feel about the entire Swimco experience. From meeting such an incredible, fun, talented and hardworking group of people that made everyday a joy and every moment on set a breeze. To being able to cross things off of my bucket list such as “see the Hawaiian sunrise” and “get lei’d”. And ultimately, to feeling so free to be myself and fully accepted for who I am. Free to wear bikinis and swimsuits and feel good about being half naked! Free to show off my curves, birthmarks, stretchmarks and freckles because representation matters, especially in swimwear! And so free to be my most authentic self in which my happiness radiates from the inside, outwards and has nothing to do with how I look and everything to do with how I feel in my life, in my soul and in my heart.
This experience was something I will remember for the rest of my life, and will be talking about for longer than people are willing to listen. This experience was soul filling, laughter inducing and barrier breaking. The four of us were all so different, but all equal. AND we were all SWIMSUIT MODELS! Being a #swimsuitmodel means appreciating your body for its abilities, experiences and uniqueness. And knowing that it’s those things that make a body beautiful. Beauty isn’t even tangible! It’s diverse and fluid. And really, that’s why it’s so exciting.