It was a rainy Friday afternoon, and Sharina Gutierrez hopped on a call with SI Swimsuit editor in chief MJ Day for what she believed was a chat about logistics. She and the other six women on the call believed they were there simply to talk next steps in the 2023 Swim Search process. Unbeknownst to Gutierrez, the Zoom meeting would make her—and the other six finalists—an official rookie in the 60th-anniversary issue.
As a rookie, she traveled to Porto and the North, Portugal, to work with photographer Ben Watts in a fulfillment of a dream. While the experience has been meaningful for a host of reasons, one of the biggest for the Mama Mantra cofounder is the sense of connection that she’s gleaned from the process. “It all [comes] back to community,” she said on set in Portugal. “We found sisterhood.”
But finishing the Swim Search process and finding herself a rookie on the other end was an experience almost too big for words. “I replayed every moment in my life when someone told me I wasn’t enough,” she remarks of the day she found out she was a 2024 rookie. “I was so emotional because I’ve dreamt of this for 21 years—since I started modeling.”
The experience has been a long time coming for the model and mother of three. But the fabulous photos from her debut made it all worth the wait. Here are just a handful of her snaps from Portugal.
Read more about Sharina Gutierrez’s 2024 SI Swimsuit rookie photo shoot here.