Sports Illustrated cover model Camille Kostek knows about making things happen for herself. The striking blonde, freckle-faced covergirl has certainly made a name for herself in the fiercely competitive modeling world, but she did it her way, and that’a a fact that, along with her great beauty, sets her apart from the pack. The fact is that Kostek stands out because she stood up for herself when the professional authorities of the modeling kept telling her she had to change to fit in.

She was often told she needed to lose weight in order to fit into the size expected of women in the world of modeling and that she’d never work otherwise. Yet other agents told her to gain weight so she could be a model in the increasingly busy “Plus Size” modeling world. Finally, she decided to forgo having an agent all together and just make a name for herself on her own. Her gut feelings about the situation, and her strength of character paid off.

“…I was on Instagram and SI posted their first-ever open casting call. It said, ‘Are you the next Chrissy Teigen? The next Kate Upton? Then submit a 60-minute video telling us why.’ I was like, ‘Screw the agencies, I’m doing this myself.” The truth is that Kostek’s savvy move paid off.

By making a move of major self acceptance and submitting herself to the Instagram contest, she put herself out in the world as a force to be reckoned with, and this May she was featured as a model on the cover of Sports Illustrated. That’s quite an accomplishment for a woman who was rejected by the “experts” in the modeling world and told she had to change.

“Growing up, it was hard to associate with some of the women who were being portrayed in the media,” she explained. “I was a girl with freckles and grew into a young woman a little bit more quickly, with hips and thighs. It wasn’t until I picked up an issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit at 15 where I was like, ‘Whoa! If I ever were to be a model, this is what I would want to do.’” Kostek knows that ultimately her achievement didn’t happen on its own. She has many supportive people in her life and she made sure they knew she appreciated them. “When the cover was announced, I called my mom,” said Kostek.

“I didn’t call an agency to say thank you for getting me here. I thanked her. Throughout the entire process, my body never really changed. My relationship with myself, my colleagues, my boyfriend… everything got better.” Kostek’s story is without a doubt an inspiring one, and she’s determined to continue to use her journey to help and inspire others. From here on out, Kostek is committed to telling her story and spreading the word about the importance of self-acceptance and of all the different types of attractiveness in the world. In Kostek’s view, everyone has something to offer and everyone is beautiful in their own way. That’s a story that absoutely worth telling and re-telling again.