Achieng Agato has no time for haters.
The influencer, who is a finalist in the 2023 SI Swim Search, walked the catwalk during the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Runway Show during Miami Swim Week. The event took place on July 7 at the W Hotel South Beach.
The 26-year-old, known as the “Queen of Confidence,” has been happily flirting this summer — and she told Fox News Digital she has a simple way to deal with any trolls trying to bring her down.
“Block and move,” she laughed. “In the beginning, I could get 1,000 great comments, and that one negative comment would ruin my day, even my week. Like, why would someone say horrible when I’m just trying to be positive and empower people, empower women? It would take over.”
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“Now, it just feels good to block and prosper,” he shared. “That one person who has this crap to say about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Like you took the time out of your 24 hours to write something crappy, post it and feel good about it. That’s crazy to me.”
“So, I block and develop,” he continued. “Sometimes, if I have time, I’ll give you a piece of my mind and then block you. But I always choose my peace. So I’ll block you, and I’ll live my beautiful life on the glamorous, sexy side of the Internet.”
The Kenyan is among seven SI Swim Search finalists who made their runway debuts. She appeared alongside Broncos cheerleader Berkley Wright, as well as Nina Cash, Sharina Gutierrez, Penny Lane, Brittany Nicole and Jenna Sims.
The SI Swim Search, an annual casting call, receives thousands of submissions from aspiring models each year. Its purpose is to discover the outlet’s newest star. Readers can vote for their favorite model online till August 31.
The social media star, who is based in New York City, said SI Swimsuit cover girl Ashley Graham inspired her to try out for the SI Swim Search. Agutu was in Kenya when he got the news that he was a finalist.
“It was midnight, and I was sitting outside because it’s the only place I could get the network,” she recalled. “I got an Instagram DM from SI. At first I was like, ‘Okay, sure.’ But when I checked my emails, I was just screaming. And then I called my dad, who was in another city, and then he started screaming. It was midnight, and I was screaming. It was the best feeling in the whole world.”
Aguto said being a part of an iconic brand is “very important” now more than ever.
“On my platform, I talk about loving yourself and loving your body in every season and reason,” she explained. “I get messages from women in their 60s saying, ‘You inspired me today to wear something I was afraid to wear 20 years ago.’ These are women who have only seen a certain body type over the years and never lived their lives the way they wanted to because they felt out of place. I don’t want any woman of our generation to be in a place where she doesn’t see her body, where she doesn’t feel represented.”
“Regardless of how much we want to discredit it, we follow the media,” he shared. “What we see is what we eat, what we imitate. So it’s important to show different bodies, different walks of life, different colors. The world needs to see that… and the fact that I’m a 26-year-old black Kenyan woman who came to the United States from a small town in Kisumu is proving that it’s empowering — not just for me, but for other people.”
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The original swimsuit issue debuted in 1964. It has been the launching pad for models like Graham, as well as Kathy Ireland, Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson and Kate Upton.
This year, Martha Stewart became the oldest model to grace the cover of the annual Swimsuit issue. The 81-year-old surpassed Elon Musk’s mother, May Musk, who presented with the problem in 2022 at the age of 74.
“My story is important,” Agto reflected. “My story and my journey deserve to be heard. Other women look like me, talk like me and share similar experiences. They are just as important and valuable, they deserve to be seen and heard. So for me, this is just one step. I think there’s more that needs to be done. But the fact that I’ve gotten to this point. It shows that I’m worth it and that my story is being heard, that I’m worth hearing my story.” on social media or in person.”
As a content creator, Agutu has already made her mark. In January of this year, Business Insider reported that Agutu closed 2022 with more than $1 million in revenue from brand deals. She has 518K followers on Instagram and 354.2K followers on TikTok. She became A full-time influencer in 2021.
Aguto said his search for “community” drove him to create content.
“Telling the journey of how I started loving myself gave me confidence,” she explained. “And then other people started reaching out to me, saying, ‘I needed this today,’ or ‘I’m glad you’re talking about this because I don’t even know who to talk to right now.’ So I really want to share my story with more than four people in this house.”
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Aguto admits that trying to find her way in the fashion industry was difficult, but she “never wanted to give up.”
“I worked really hard to get here, and I love it,” he explained. “And I love to see more diversity in this industry. That’s what keeps me going. Have I been discouraged a few times? Sure. But I never wanted to give up.”
Today, Agto hopes her story will inspire others to celebrate their bodies.
“I think we are our own harshest critics,” Agato said. “I think we need to give ourselves so much grace by stepping out of our comfort zones… I started dressing the way I wanted to dress, not for other people’s opinions. It’s liberating. Once you’re free, you can live life to the fullest. Whether it’s stepping into a bikini or stepping out in a dress, you’ve never done anything you’ve celebrated before.
“And these are all baby steps,” he insisted. “Start wearing a bikini in the comfort of your own home and see how it feels. Then take it to the pool. Take the next step and wear it to the beach. Take another step and we’re on vacation. You have one life – live it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.