When you read or hear the name Tanaye White, one word should come to mind: versatility. White, a 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Rookie, is a model who is not only a representation of beauty, but also brains. Before modeling, White had impressive academic and professional careers obtaining a master’s degree and working in communications. It was not until 2018 that she was inspired to pursue modeling as a career.
While balancing both beauty and brains, White also uses her voice to promote diversity within the fashion industry. Being the boss that she is, she relies on her spirituality to keep her grounded. Continue reading this Q&A with White to learn more about her communications career, her modeling career, her current business, what makes her a Royal Woman and much more.
I pride myself on being a person who welcomes others no matter their background.
RoyalTee: You worked as a Senior Communications Analyst. How was it being a minority woman in such a professional position? Did you have any struggles or obstacles?
Tanaye: I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work in the communications field professionally for government agencies, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies. I pride myself on being an educated Black woman in such roles. As you work your way up the corporate ladder, the percentage of minorities in C-suite roles dwindles, so I’m happy to fight those statistics. While there will always be challenges for people of color, I let my work ethic and talent speak for themselves.
RoyalTee: It stands out that you have a master’s degree from Georgetown University, and you taught yourself how to code. What led to your decision to start showcasing your beauty, along with your brains?
Tanaye: I’ve always stood in power as a beautiful woman, inside and out. However, what inspired me to pursue modeling was the Sports Illustrated Swim Search. The experience reignited my childhood dream of becoming a model and is the reason I am where I am today.
RoyalTee: How has your journey been since working with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit from the 2018 model search up to now?
Tanaye: I thank Sports Illustrated Swimsuit for inspiring me to become a model. Had I not taken the chance and applied to Swim Search, I’d probably be in an office right now wondering, “What if.” Fast forward to now, it’s crazy to me that I’ve traveled to exotic places like Turks & Caicos and signed autographs of my picture. What a dream come true!
RoyalTee: What led to your decision to wear your natural afro for Sports Illustrated? What was the overall reception of hat decision?
Tanaye: For my first year with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, I wanted to present my most authentic self in the magazine’s pages—which meant rocking my afro. Because the publication had only once prior had a woman wear her afro, I wanted to help continue pushing the narrative that beauty comes in all varieties. I was so happy to know that the team was on board with that decision.
RoyalTee: You have worked with brands and companies like Victoria’s Secret, Fenty Beauty, Kohl’s and more. What have been some of your most memorable brands to work with?
Tanaye: I feel so honored to have worked with so many legendary brands, but there’s nothing like the community Sports Illustrated Swimsuit creates for its models. Not only have I had the chance to fly to places like Turks & Caicos, but I’ve made friends through the brand who have become sisters to me.
RoyalTee: What are some ways that you use your voice to inspire change and champion diversity in the fashion industry?
Tanaye: In the last year, I’ve become more vocal about the need for true diversity in the industry both in front of and behind the lens. Unfortunately, models of color still must bring their own makeup or hair products to set and often experience times where stylists don’t know how to do their hair. My personal experiences in situations like these are what push me to continue being vocal. Only by speaking about these issues can we see true change!
RoyalTee: Can you tell us a little bit about your former blog? Is there a post that you would recommend to our readers?
Tanaye: My website tanayewhite.com was formerly a blog but now serves as a homepage for all my career and social media updates. However, I highly recommend reading a post I wrote a few years ago about my self-love journey. It’s titled “I wanted the perfect body” and details how society and the media made me feel less beautiful. It took a lot of self-reflection to realize that I am beautiful just that way I am.
RoyalTee: Currently, you have your own digital marketing agency and work with small businesses as clients. How was the process of starting that up?
Tanaye: I spent a significant portion of my time before and during COVID starting up my social media marketing agency. Because I’ve managed business websites, email marketing, and social media before, it was easy for me to do. However, I must admit, when it comes to the back-end stuff like accounting and other operational tasks, I experienced some challenges. Yet overall, it’s been a rewarding experience to see my brainchild come to fruition. And it’s been even more rewarding having the ability to help others.
RoyalTee: You say that you live a spiritually centered and empowered life. What does that mean to you, and what inspired this lifestyle?
Tanaye: As a person who holds mental health awareness close to my heart, I find it important to highlight centeredness as a way for happy living. Whether you pray, do yoga, or meditate, there’s always a way to help gain peace in your life.
RoyalTee: Is there a quote or mantra that you live by to keep you going?
Tanaye: The scripture “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13” is one that I live by. It’s a scripture that my great-grandmother recites to me all the time. It’s a reminder that even when I face challenges or feel defeated, there is a higher power that is working in my favor to see me win.
RoyalTee: If you had to name a personal trait that makes you a Royal Woman, what would it be?
Tanaye: A personality trait of mine that I believe makes me a Royal Woman is leading a life with an open heart. I pride myself on being a person who welcomes others no matter their background. I say “please” and “thank you” and always do my best to make those around me feel comfortable and safe.
Daniel J. Newton is a senior journalism student at Florida A&M University originally from Tampa, Florida. He has bylines in publications such as The Famuan, Journey Magazine and The Tallahassee Democrat.