Jamaican American Sam (Samantha) Vrielink has been selected as one of the 16 finalists in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search in Miami. Sam was born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida, to a Jamaican mother and a Dutch father. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is pursuing her career with the Wilhelmina Model Agency.
During her childhood, Sam said she wanted:”to be a short Cubana with long, black hair” like all of her friends, but the tall and lanky stature and strawberry blonde hair from her Jamaican/Dutch heritage set her apart. She was always asked “What are you?” by strangers, and while that question is not one that everyone faces, Sam always knew what they were talking about. “My light skin, light eyes, and light hair, lead people to assume that I am white, while my wide nose, large lips, and low cheekbones often prompt people to question my ethnicity.”
She says she felt insecure about her appearance for a long time. And then, at age 14, she was scouted by Dov Charney, founder of American Apparel, and rapidly became one of their regular models. She signed with Wilhelmina Miami and was featured on global billboards, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She has also worked with Nike, Reebok, Macy’s, Target, Amazon, and Cedella Marley. As Sam continued to work through her insecurities. modeling allowed her to connect with encouraging and supportive people who helped her to love the things about herself that she thought of as flaws. Sam has realized that her multicultural background is part of who she is and “a treasure” to be proud of.
Since high school, Sam has been passionate about special education and was a volunteer for Best Buddies, an organization that matches individuals with learning disabilities with peer mentors.
In 2015, her mother had a baby boy who was diagnosed with autism, and Sam made the decision to learn about this disorder and participate in his therapy sessions. After seeing the success of Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy and an alternative home environment, Sam expanded her platform to raise public awareness of autism.
In addition to fulfilling a dream, Sam is hoping that making the SI Swimsuit cover will motivate others to “awaken their indomitable spirit” and conquer their “imperfections” with grace and zeal.
This was the first time in history that SI held an open casting call for its Swimsuit Model Search. The magazine took digital submissions through June 29, 2018, and then selected a lucky few candidates for a callback in Miami with the SI Swimsuit Team at South Beach’s W Hotel on July 13, 14, and 15.