EXCLUSIVE: Brooks Nader is heating things up again.
The Baton Rouge beauty, who joined the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit family in 2019 after winning the open casting model search, headed to Bali before the coronavirus pandemic to shoot her rookie spread, which is included in this year’s issue currently on newsstands. SI’s 2020 issue features Olivia Culpo, Jasmine Sanders and Kate Book as this year’s cover girls.
The model, represented by The Lions, is thankful she’s part of the brand’s most diverse issue, which she believes will inspire other girls to embrace their bodies this summer and celebrate their identity. However, gearing up to pose for the magazine and feel her very best was far from simple, especially when she was faced with temptation in her native Louisiana.
Nader spoke to Fox News about appearing in SI Swimsuit’s 2020 issue, how she prepared for the big day and what kept her going after initially facing rejection within the fashion industry.
Fox News: What was it like shooting in Bali for SI Swimsuit’s 2020 issue?
Brooks Nader: It was a little bit surreal for me because it was my first time traveling that far. I’ve never been to Asia. I’ve never been to Bali… But it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day. The day that we shot was a sunny, gorgeous, quintessential Bali day. So it kind of went by super quickly… And then 2020 happened. Now I just obviously cannot wait for this little ray of sunshine in this crazy year.
Fox News: How did you physically prepare for the shoot?
Nader: I definitely put a lot this year into the training aspect and working out and eating healthy. I am big into boxing. I go to Gotham Gym in New York City almost daily when I’m training for something big. For my rookie shoot, I trained with my trainer Rob probably like two hours a day in the months leading up to it. Aside from that, he doesn’t put me on any crazy meal plans or anything like that. I just try to stay off the booze – no wine.
I stay off alcohol for like a month and a half. I try and limit my carbs and my sugar intake. I’m drinking lots of water — I just try to keep it clean. I don’t follow anything too crazy or strict. I kind of feel like I was really dieting before my rookie shoot. And then the weekend before my rookie shoot, I went home to Louisiana for something family-related, which put a big dent in my diet plans because the food is obviously amazing. And I think at that point I had lost a little bit too much and I didn’t even mean to. My whole family was so happy to see me [eat] Cane’s, my favorite fast food from Louisiana… I ate the box combo, which is like the biggest combo with all these chicken tenders and French fries.
My mom was like, ‘Thank God! She’s going to put back a couple of little pounds… before the shoot. So in the end, I’m actually glad that I did that. One of the things that I love about SI is that they book you because they want you. They don’t want you to fit into this sample size like a lot of fashion clients and people in the industry want you to do. They just want you as you are. So I didn’t want to alter myself.
Fox News: Many models have previously told us that they rely on boxing to get in shape. Why?
Nader: First of all, it’s great self-defense… But I feel like it’s a really great combo of cardio and toning. When you’re boxing, you’re not only working on your arms, but you’re also working out your abdomen and your legs. And I feel it makes me more agile and quick on my feet… And it’s really fun. I feel like if you’re having a stressful week or a tough day, I’d rather punch a bag like crazy than do a pushup. It’s a good little escape.
Fox News: This year’s issue is being recognized as SI’s most diverse. How important is it for the brand to have such a diverse issue now more than ever?
Nader: What I love about Sports Illustrated is that they’ve kind of been ahead of the curve with being inclusive. They have been so inclusive with every single race and size before it became popular. They’ve been doing what everyone is now just starting to do as a trend. They’ve actually been doing it for quite a while, which is pretty spectacular.
Every year, they make some kind of history. This year, Valentina Sampaio is making history as SI’s first trans model which is sensational. I don’t know her that well personally. We share the same agency. But I do know she’s a really hard worker and a really great representation of a successful trans woman. She’s definitely a perfect person for Sports Illustrated. So I think that’s a great move for them.
But there are all kinds of diversity in this magazine. There are skinny models, curvy models, busty, non-busty – they have checked every single box. And that makes me happy because girls around the world reading this magazine will hopefully find some similarities and [a] connection with at least one of the models, which is what you want. There’s nothing worse than reading a magazine and everyone is looking exactly the same with the exact same size and color. How do you relate to that? It makes me so happy that there’s something for everyone in this magazine.
Fox News: How has SI changed your life?
Nader: I think one of the main things is… it has launched me and given me a platform and a voice on a much bigger scale than I had before as a model. The SI Swimsuit fans are loyal. They’re involved. They reach out to us. I try and respond to everybody as long as it’s appropriate *laughs*. But they’ve given me a whole platform. I have met so many girls that even to this day, I still talk to them, whether it was someone I interviewed as an SI hopeful or someone I met when I was trying out.
It makes me feel really special and confident that I’m part of a brand that is just so iconic, that’s been around and [has been] a household name for so many years. It is definitely surreal. And my family, all my people in Louisiana, they’re all big SI Swimsuit fans. If they weren’t before, they really are [now].
Fox News: In the past, you’ve talked about how you faced rejection early on in your modeling career because you were considered too “curvy.” What kept you going?
Nader: That brings me back to [when I first tried out for] Sports Illustrated. When I went to the open call in Miami, I was feeling a bit down… It’s not a bad thing to be curvier… it doesn’t mean you can’t do runway or high fashion. But when I went to Miami for that casting call, I felt a massive boost in my confidence when it came to my modeling career. And I knew that SI was something I always wanted to be a part of.
I was with one agency and they told me, ‘I don’t think it’s going to work out for you.’ I took their word for it at first and thought, ‘Wow, they must know what they’re talking about. I guess it’s not for me.’ But when I saw that announcement for the open call on SI’s Instagram, they said anyone can try out. I thought, ‘If I don’t do it, I’m totally going to regret it.’ So I’m glad that I went out and proved all my old agents wrong. I’m not with them anymore. I’m now with a great team of people who believe in me and see my vision in terms of what I want for my career. They’re totally behind me. And I think that’s a major key – to surround yourself with people who want to support you achieving your dreams.