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Sarafina Nance may have big dreams of going into space, but an idea Sports Illustrated Swimsuit The model seemed out of this world – at least until now.

An astrophysicist and analog astronaut is a finalist in this year’s SI Swim Search. The Austin, Texas native was selected out of thousands of submissions to be photographed by acclaimed SI photographer Yu Tsai in the Dominican Republic. The winner of the annual casting call will become a rookie in the 2023 edition.

Not a bad achievement for someone who previously insisted she only owned one bathing suit.

Sarafina Nance is a finalist in this year's SI Swim Search.

Sarafina Nance is a finalist in this year’s SI Swim Search.
(Yu Tsai/Sports Illustrated Swimsuit)

But for Nance, it’s an opportunity to share her story around the world. she BRCA2+ breast cancer survivor She opted for a preventive double mastectomy at age 26 to reduce her risk of breast cancer – 87%. After breast reconstruction, Nance promises the importance of genetic testing, self-examinations and preventive medicine.

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Nance spoke with Fox News Digital about what it means to be featured in this year’s issue, who inspired her to rock the two-piece, and how her parents responded.

Fox News: What compelled you to try out for SI Swim Search this year?
Sarafina Nance: All of them are related to my story. I have the BRCA2+ genetic mutation, which puts me at risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I had a reventive double mastectomy two years ago to reduce my risk of breast cancer. I’ve been sharing my journey publicly online and have had an amazing community supporting me along the way.

Sarafina Nance is an astrophysicist, analog astronaut, BRCA2+ breast cancer survivor, women's health advocate, and author.

Sarafina Nance is an astrophysicist, analog astronaut, BRCA2+ breast cancer survivor, women’s health advocate, and author.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

One of my friends knew about SI Swim Search and suggested I try it. I never really thought of doing something like this, but she really encouraged me. And I did… It caught my eye to see these beautiful, empowering women from all different communities coming together to share their stories. And that compelled me to apply.

Fox News: Were you familiar with the magazine before applying?
Nance: I don’t know much about SI growth. However, I saw the magazines. They are at my local Barnes & Noble and on newsstands. But that was not the case until a few years ago I heard about Allyn Rose. She was the first woman with a mastectomy to appear in a magazine. She is an excellent advocate for members of the breast cancer community. I remember how beautiful and powerful she was. It really inspired me.

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Fox News: Needless to say, deciding on a preventive double mastectomy is a difficult choice. How did you feel after your procedure?
Nance: You know, I felt so proud of myself. I felt empowered about my decision. Yes, it was a difficult time. I had three surgeries in one year. It is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. It affected every aspect of my life. But I took this decision for myself. I woke up and felt unusually proud of being in charge of my health.

Sarafina Nance had a preventive double mastectomy followed by breast reconstruction surgeries.

Sarafina Nance had a preventive double mastectomy followed by breast reconstruction surgeries.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

Fox News: Now you’re a finalist in the SI Swim Search. What is your response?
Nance: I was totally surprised. I fell on the ground. Everything was taken away from me. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I immediately called my parents and my partner. They were all so surprised and excited. It was an incredible moment for me.

Fox News: Tell us about your role Analog Astronaut.
Nance: I am an astrophysicist and analog scientist. I have completed the astronaut simulation. I lived like I was completing a mission on Mars. I hope to one day use those skills to go into space. My dream is to go into space… One of my biggest takeaways from that experience is that I love being in an environment where I can rely on my team and my staff to do research and make a difference.

Sarafina Nance says her goal is to make STEM accessible to everyone.

Sarafina Nance says her goal is to make STEM accessible to everyone.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

Fox News: When people think of an astrophysicist or an analog scientist, some may not immediately think of “SI swimsuit model.” How do you hope to change that public’s opinion?
Nance: Overcoming the feeling of not fitting in is one of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to overcome, especially in STEM. I am not just a woman, but a woman of color in a predominantly white male space. There are a lot of stereotypes and expectations that go along with that identity and that role. I learned the value of representation. I understand the importance of my presence and voice, not just for myself, but for future generations of women in STEM. I am not growing that representation. My goal is to give to others.

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Sarafina Nance chose a preventive double mastectomy at age 26 to reduce her risk of breast cancer (87%).

Sarafina Nance chose a preventive double mastectomy at age 26 to reduce her risk of breast cancer (87%).
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

I think a platform like SI is so powerful because it shows that women don’t have to be put in boxes. We don’t have to be the only one. We can be multi-hyphenated people with different interests and different tastes. Instead of tearing each other down, we can build each other up. To me, it really speaks to the power of women and what we can achieve, what we can dream. I hope that when someone sees someone like me in a magazine, they go, “Wow, I don’t have to limit myself. I don’t have to be privy to people’s expectations because they think I should look a certain way. Or act a certain way. I can be whatever I want to be.”

Fox News: As someone who has had a preventive double mastectomy, has the magazine embraced you?
Nance: Absolutely. My shoot in the Dominican Republic was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t Coming from a modeling background. I was worried about my body and feeling self-conscious. But I’ve never felt so empowered and embraced for who I am. I have never felt so supportive. The whole SI team, the finalists – everyone hyped me up. They were all so excited and really happy that I was there. My body is different, but I am still loved and supported.

Fox News: What was your reaction when you saw those pictures?
Nance: I was moved. Seeing yourself through that lens is a powerful experience. SI will not try to make you something else or someone else. I was very worried the whole time, but the photos didn’t show it. It was a magical experience.

Sarafina Nance hopes her photo in an SI swimsuit will inspire other women to celebrate their bodies.

Sarafina Nance hopes her photo in an SI swimsuit will inspire other women to celebrate their bodies.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

Fox News: What does it mean to you to win the SI Swim Search?
Nance: I don’t even have the words *laughs*. It would be an incredible honor. It’s already an honor whether I win or not. One of the most exciting parts of this whole process was the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic and meet all these amazing women. They are advocates and leaders in their communities. And I am now part of that group. I think this experience really paved the way for me to share my story like never before. It is a platform that showcases and celebrates all beauty and backgrounds.

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Fox News: How has the experience changed your life so far?
Nance: For starters, I met a wonderful community of people. It’s sisters, I’m grateful. They immediately changed my life. A girl and I are very close. It’s exciting to have these conversations about our experiences and how we hope to change the world. That alone is priceless.

Sarafina Nance dreams of going into space.

Sarafina Nance dreams of going into space.
(Courtesy of Sarafina Nance)

Fox News: What do you hope readers get when they see your photos for the first time?
Nance: You know, I think about when I was growing up. I never saw women like me in science, in magazines, or even on TV. I never felt like I had representation. Now, I hope people can see themselves in me. I hope they are encouraged to do whatever they want. I hope that when they see me, they go, “I can do that.” Hope they can achieve any of their dreams. It’s all possible. I did it.