Sports Illustrated: Did you have experience modeling before submitting an IG video or showing up in-person for #SISwimSearch?
Kathy Jacobs: I was a petite model in the 80s for FORD Models–I was fighting for inclusiveness in the modeling industry over 30 years ago! I recently contacted my old agent, who is now with Icon Focus (models over 40), and she said clients only want tall models. So the modeling industry is now becoming more inclusive for older models...but only if they are tall.
I don't have an agent, but I submit myself and get jobs. I recently did a Thirdlove campaign with my daughter Abigail, a Miley Cyrus video, a Beauty Blender job and Soji beauty work.
SI: What was your casting experience like in Miami?
My main takeaway from Miami is how genuinely lovely, caring, and encouraging the SI team and models are. The models are so beautiful, it's hard to look at them without staring, and yet they treated me with such kindness and even knew my name!
I booked the cheapest flight and hotel that I could find and arrived the afternoon before the open casting. I remember sitting in my hotel room alone that first night re-reading a book called This Chair Rocks, a manifesto against ageism. I wanted to be able to recite statistics to plead my case for inclusion of women over 50. I got up early the next morning, and with my printed finalist certificate in hand, I took an Uber to the W where I saw a sea of beautiful ladies that were also holding the same finalist certificate. We all signed in, had a polaroid taken and filled out paperwork.
We then got to go to the bungalow and met MJ and the SI team. I felt so lucky to make it to the second round and to meet everyone that I stood there outside the bungalow hanging on to every word that MJ, Camille Kostek, and Danielle Herrington had to say. When MJ said that the next SI Swimsuit issue was going to be the 56th one, I was shocked because I will also be 56 when the next issue comes out! After the introduction and speeches, we all got a one-on-one interview with the SI crew. I felt I did well, but I was very emotional because it's really important for me that women over 50 are represented in mainstream media.
I went back to my hotel and was anxious, so I went for a long walk to Lincoln Street and back. I was wearing a shower cap and getting into the shower when a facetime call came in. Oh boy was I surprised when it was the SI team telling me I moved forward to the next round. That call is still a blur.
The next day we arrived and were put into groups to engage in panel discussions and pose in a swimsuit for the SI photographers! I went to a small group with Robin Holzken and Myla Dalbesio, and they were so nice and caring, listening to all of the girls' struggles and speaking candidly about their own. Myla even spoke about her depression to all of us.
I picked out a blue bikini hoping it was the right choice, put it on and got into the line for my photoshoot! I stood there nervous because I really wanted to show that a woman can pose at 55 and look good in a bikini. Haley came over and gave us a posing tip–pretty hands and pretty feet–so I loosened up my knuckles to the best of my ability to prepare for my shoot! Once I was in front of the camera, my anxiety melted away, and I was in my comfort zone and was able to pose.
Then the stressful part happened. We all went outside and the SI team, photographers and models deliberated on who would make the Top 17. We all sat on the floor in the hallway, wishing and hoping we were one of the lucky few.
I'm not sure why, but when they called us back inside at that moment I felt like I was not going to be selected because I thought that I talked too much and was too honest in all of my answers. I know that sounds weird, but that is what was going through my head. We went back inside and sat down and Camille Kostek, Hailey Kalil, and Brooks Nader were on the stage. Camille started pulling out photos of the winners and calling out their names as they went up to the stage and I was literally sitting there crying telling myself that I did my best. When they called out the stunningly beautiful Katina, who is 43, I thought that's it, they went “younger” in their “older” model, and the names kept being called out and I wasn't one of them. I then began to feel like I was superglued to my chair and even wondered if I could get up if they called my name. That's when Camille said "age is beauty" and showed my photo. I lost it. My head bowed down, and I became a heaving, crying heap of a human being who couldn't even look up and somehow wandered onto the stage with a mixture of gratitude, disbelief, shock, happiness, and pride in myself for never giving up.
We did some interviews, I went to a vegan dinner with Christie Valdiserri, and went to my room to book a redeye for my husband to come to watch the runway show.
SI: What does being a part of the SI Swimsuit model search mean to you? How do you plan to use this platform?
KJ: I am going to use my powers for good. I do not take the responsibility of this position lightly. I genuinely appreciate the platform, power, and presence that I have been given by SI! I am doing this to be part of a change in the views on women over 50, not only by society, but by ourselves.
It is a boomerang effect, and we as women over 50 need to stand together and realize how amazing, relevant, beautiful and sexy we all are. It's time women of all ages unite and claim our power! Ageism impacts all of us, and women of all ages coming together and stopping it now helps prevent future generations from ever experiencing it!
SI: Why was it important for you to submit an #SISwimSearch video on Instagram and be a part of this year's Sweet 17?
KJ: I really wanted to bridge the age gap with my submission this year and couldn't think of a better way to show that than a mother/daughter video showcasing how we are all amazing, at every age. I wanted to show younger girls not to fear aging, while showing women my age they can STILL rock it in a bikini! I feel having Abigail with me allowed me to show my true self in the video. I think that our relationship and the fact that she does not see me as an old lady, but as her equal, is the perfect example of how it should be.
SI: What does it mean to you to represent the fact that age is just a number? Did you have any fears coming into this as a 55-year-old?
KJ: It's kinda funny to me that doing what I am doing at 55 is so out of the norm. I feel so young inside and I bet a lot of women can relate to me on that level. Now I am just hoping to be the oldest member of the Final 6 in #SISwimSearch history.
The message I want to yell out from the rooftops to women of all ages is: DO EVERYTHING OR NOTHING TO YOURSELF TO FEEL GREAT ABOUT YOURSELF AND DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR HAVING OR NOT HAVING SOMETHING DONE. Love yourself. Feel great about yourself.
See photos from our unforgettable runway show at Miami Swim Week: