Jennifer Atilemile Says the Ability to Say ‘No’ Is Key to Her Mental Health

The 2023 SI Swimsuit rookie has learned that life is about more than just the grind.

Jennifer Atilémile.<p>Derek Kettela/Sports Illustrated</p>
Jennifer Atilémile.

Derek Kettela/Sports Illustrated

Jennifer Atilémile was scouted when she was 15, and, though she didn’t start modeling until 10 years later, she quickly broke into the industry and has been featured in various major campaigns since.

Atilémile walked the runway for Victoria’s Secret in 2020 as the lingerie brand’s first Australian curve model. Throughout her time in the modeling industry, she’s picked up a few tips and tricks—and learned some of them the hard way. The most important lesson, however, is rather simple: learning to saying “no.”

“In [the modeling] industry, we travel a lot. We’re always working when we have to work, getting on planes when we have to get on planes,” she explains. “If the pandemic taught me anything, it was that I am allowed to rest and I am allowed to relax. Life isn’t all about the grind.”

Atilémile has developed a good balance of hard work—which she knows is important to achieving her big dreams—and giving herself “patience and grace” during tough times. She also loves Pilates, strength training and incorporating some form of movement into her daily routine to better her mental health.

“Something that I do for myself is sticking to an exercise regime, just trying to move my body at least 20 minutes a day, even if it’s taking my dog for a walk around the block,” she continues. “I just feel like when I move my body, I’m mentally stronger and my focus is clearer and my anxiety is a lot less intense.”

The 31-year-old has become comfortable prioritizing activities and setting boundaries to ensure she is putting herself and her mental health first. Atilémile says that her chance to pose for SI Swimsuit came at a perfect time—when she was most confident in herself and “mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually” ready to give it her all.

“Coming out of the quarantine, I really held firm to my boundaries,” she adds. “I’ve said ‘no’ to work. I’ve said ‘yes’ to holidays and ‘yes’ to rest and relaxation for my mental health. Being able to come back into big stretches of work with a fresh mind and not depleted of energy [has] just been amazing.”

Meet Jennifer Atilémile—read the 2023 SI Swimsuit rookie’s full feature profile here.