57, Flirty, and Thriving: 'Sports Illustrated' Swim Search Rookie Model Dr. Nina Cash Talks "Encore Career" (EXCLUSIVE)

"It is one of the best feelings in the world to be like a 5-year-old on the morning of Christmas, and that's what I feel," Dr. Nina Cash told 'Distractify.'

Bianca Piazza - Author

May 21 2024, Published 12:55 p.m. ET

Dr. Nina Cash at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Show during 2023's Miami Swim Week
Source: Getty Images

Ah, the modeling industry. We often envision frail frames and looming tape measures, brown rice and vegetables (perhaps that just reminds us of Showgirls), catwalk scowls, unattainable fashion, and a painful lack of diversity. In their heyday (and to this day), supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss exuded unachievable beauty, an ethereal elegance that seemed far out of reach. Perhaps supermodels are simply born, not made ...

Thankfully, these are nasty clichés, as the times they are a-changin.' And while models like Winnie Harlow, Jillian Mercado, and Andreja Pejić have been change-makers in the industry over the last decade, it's just a start.

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Enter Dr. Nina Cash, one of Sports Illustrated's 2023 Swim Search finalists. The retired university associate dean's beauty graces the 2024 SI Swimsuit Issue, released on May 17.

Nina — a proud 57-year-old Filipino-American woman with a flowing silver mane and a smile people go to war for — achieves her dreams on her own terms, strongly believing "it's never too late."

Headshot of Dr. Nina Cash
Source: Dana Patrick
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"People think there's a certain prescription to life. For instance, you fall in love, you get married, you buy a house, then you start having children. ... I did everything backwards. Okay, I got pregnant first, then I got married," Nina exclusively told Distractify with a giggle during a phone interview.

Though she grew up in a traditional Filipino, Catholic military family, doing life "out of order" is just Nina's style. The SI "rookie" got her bachelor’s degree in Human Services a decade after high school, and her master’s in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding two decades after graduating high school, as per Sports Illustrated.

Nina told us that she recently earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership at the age of 55.

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Distractify exclusively spoke with the living, breathing goddess about representation, her unconventional path to success, and her "encore career."

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Dr. Nina Cash on journey to the 60th Anniversary 'Sports Illustrated' Swimsuit Edition: "It's magical."

Nina initially dipped her toes in the modeling waters right after high school, but it just wasn't her time, as love, motherhood, and higher education became priorities.

"I just put [modeling] on the back burner. And then I retired two years ago from the California State University system," she explained. "I certainly wasn't retiring from life itself."

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Nina and her Aussie husband, dancer and choreographer Aaron James Cash, planned a trip to the Land Down Under in December 2022. She never thought it'd end with her racing to submit an SI Swim Search application.

Used to wearing modest "one piece muumuus," Nina had no choice but to purchase a lone leopardskin bikini on her trip, as she forgot her swimsuit at home. She simply wanted to comfortably enjoy a sunrise stroll on the beach with her hubby!

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"It's New Year's Eve, it's early in the morning, we're walking, talking, my husband is taking just super candid shots of me on the beach," she detailed. After glancing at the candids, her husband firmly stated, "you are Sports Illustrated material."

She suddenly remembered that then-57-year-old, 5′3" Kathy Jacobs was an SI Swimsuit rookie back in 2021, a thought that fueled her motivation.

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"I literally cobbled together a video, and I spliced in those random pictures of me on the beach, and submitted it in the nick of time," she shared.

Nina, the oldest of the group, is one of seven Swim Search co-finalists alongside Achieng Agutu, Sharina Gutierrez, Penny Lane, Brittney Nicole, Jena Sims, and Berkleigh Wright.

Clearly, she doesn't let society's obsession with agism crush her spirit, as she proudly listed names of female artists who thrived during the winters of their lives, including folk art painter Grandma Moses and businesswoman and designer Iris Apfel.

"And then I look at Apo Whang-Od. She was on the cover of Vogue Philippines at the age of 106," Nina said of the indigenous Filipino batok tattoo artist. "I've at least got another 50 years!"

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"It's a new world, it's a new generation of acceptance for people's authenticity. ... Dreams can come true at any age," Nina continued.

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Dr. Nina Cash talks representation and coining the phrase "encore career."

Nina is in the midst of her encore career, which she calls "en-careering."

"What happens — especially with the Gen X population, and the traditionals in the boomer population — you started with a company, and then you retired with that company after 35 years, and then you did nothing else," Nina stated. "I'm here to say that you can have an encore career."

During this unexpected new chapter, Nina wants to use her platform to encourage discussions about the nuances of representation and the power of giving back.

"American people in society equate gray hair to women — not men, of course — as being washed up, send them out to pasture, not sexy, someone's 'grandma,' not desirable anymore, not pretty, over the hill," she said of aging women, trailing off. "I've gone gray and I can still slay, and so can you."

She also hopes to positively represent the diabetic community, as Nina has genetic type 2 diabetes.

"I don't 'look' like someone who has diabetes. So, looks can be deceiving," she said, pointing to outdated stereotypes.

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And finally, Nina touched on the importance of philanthropy, proud of her 25 years volunteering for the nonprofit GetSafe.

"The mission of GetSafe is to help people live safer and more violence-free lives," Nina, a board member, explained. "I helped GetSafe create some curriculum to train [the Intellectual and Developmental disabled] population because they are 10 times more likely to be victimized and re-victimized than that of the neurotypical population."

As for her future, Nina envisions herself dancing her heart out on Dancing With the Stars and holding a spot on a talk show panel.

"I want to help people put the pavements down to build their road to success," she shared with Distractify. "And if I could do that on a talk show with other people through discussion — my years of experience in education and workforce development, [and] now with this new career [in modeling and acting] — I'm going to embrace that, and I welcome it."

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