If you pick up the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swim Suit edition you’ll find a new, but familiar face. One model with her own particular small town-chic flair calls southwest Oklahoma home. After sending a video to an open call from SI, Snyder native Allie Ayers is one of six finalists chosen from more than 5,000 entries to be considered for a permanent place in the magazine.
“I remember looking at the swimsuit edition and telling my mom I would be in it one day,” Ayers said. “But I had no idea how.”
At 24, Ayers said she thought her modeling career would be coming to an end.
“Most models stop about my age and I thought I would have to get a big-girl job,” Ayers said — and with a Bachelor’s of Health Sciences from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, the doors would be open, but Ayers wanted to pursue her passion as long as possible.
That’s when she found the open call from Sports Illustrated.
“It would be a short video — a small chance to get there,” Ayers said. “A friend and I went around New York filming this video in March — so it was cold. We even filmed in front of the SI building. I guess they liked that I was willing to do that.”
Ayers began her modeling career one year after being crowned Miss Altus 2015. Ayers said the day after she passed on the crown, she flew to New York. Since then, she’s had the opportunity to live in Bali and Montreal. Her Sports Illustrated shoot was done in Belize. Ayers said she loves to travel, and her job has given her the opportunity to do plenty of it.
But her experience as a pageant contestant and as a model opened up other opportunities she was not expecting.
“I got so sick of spending a lot of money on swimsuits — such small pieces of fabric!” Ayers said with a chuckle. “So I thought, I can make that!”
Without any sewing experience, she began by first making her own swimsuits with the guidance of a friend and mentor. Either with a pattern or just a picture in her mind, Ayers put everything she had into learning to sew and create swimsuits she describes as reminiscent of her upbringing — small town-chic.
Ayers said she’s a perfectionist and would spend hours sitting at her sewing machine, handmaking her swimsuits. Soon, she began making them for her friends. One friend, Cheyene Darling, debuted Ayer’s swimsuit on the stage at Miss Oklahoma USA and won it all.
“It was so exciting to see her win,” Ayers said. “I remade her piece three times before I got it just right,” and it paid off.
Little did Darling know, her crowning would help Ayers launch her own swimsuit line called Bissy Swim which will be available this spring.
Bissy comes from Ayers’ middle name, Elizabeth. “I couldn’t say it when I was little, so it came out Bissy. My family and friends still call me Bissy.”
Though Ayers prefers living in bigger cities, she said her small town upbringing has grounded her in a way that has aided in her success. Ayers said her inspiration comes from her small-town roots.
“It’s the ‘70s wallpaper in my grandparents’ house and the shag carpets; it’s the trailer house I lived in through college; it’s taking something shabby, raw and tacky and showing it in a strong, beautiful way,” Ayers said. “It definitely has a southwest influence.”
And through her swimsuit line, the former Miss Altus is still working on her platform. As a model of average size and height, Ayers said it’s difficult to find jobs. It’s her goal to make sure everyone feels beautiful and fulfilled in their bodies whether they wear a size 0 or size 26.
Though she’s busy, Ayers said she enjoys her work, but she won’t be staying in one place long. She’s planning to move to Los Angeles in the coming months, taking with her a host of knowledge and skill to see her into another adventure.
But as she’s proven, you can take the girl out of the small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the girl.