Yumi Nu “trembles” at SI swimsuit cover reveal

Last week, model Yumi Nu visited her agent for what she considers a routine job interview and career check-in.

But while seriously answering questions, “My agents were involved in this little scheme,” the 25-year-old told the Post. Midway through the “interview,” Sports Illustrated swimsuit honcho MJ Day and other Bikini Bible staffers emerged with a camera crew as the cover of this year’s magazine filled a nearby monitor with Nu.

“I processed the surprise that it wasn’t a real interview and that this was actually the SI cover reveal. I could not speak. I had chills all over my body. I trembled, I cried. They made me really good,” Nu said.

Her first call was to her friend Dimitri Dinas.

“He was freaking out. He said, ‘If I were a teenager I would have a poster of you in my room. Now I’m dating an SI cover star.”

He has many reasons to be proud of his girlfriend. It’s been a series of career highlights for the plus-sized model and singer, who is of Dutch and Japanese descent. (Her mother is the daughter of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, and she is the niece of DJ Steve Aoki). She was part of an ensemble of supermodels who graced the cover of Vogue’s iconic September issue, and in April she became the first curved Asian model to cover the cover of Vogue Japan.

“It’s wonderful. I’m on cloud nine. I couldn’t prepare for this. It’s unexpected. I feel like we’re at a point right now where people are making room for more diversity on the covers of magazines “It’s a big time for Asian American people in the media. I know I play a big part in representing body diversity and racial diversity, and I love being a role model and representative of the Asian plus-size community .”

Born in New Jersey, Nu moved to Maryland as a toddler, and when she was 14 her family moved to California, where she attended high school. She began her career in front of the camera as a young child, but the first stops were fleeting.

Yumi Nu and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editor-in-Chief MJ Day attend the Yumi Nu 2022 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Reveal on May 11, 2022 in New York City.
Yumi Nu at Cover Real on May 11th.
Getty Images for SI swimsuit
Model Devon Aoki and DJ Steve Aoki are Nu's aunt and uncle
Model Devon Aoki and DJ Steve Aoki are Nu’s aunt and uncle.

“My mom had commercial modeling experience, so she took me to do some kids catalogs when we lived in New Jersey. When you’re a toddler and you scream and cry, you don’t have a sense of self-control. She knew I wasn’t enjoying it,” Nu said.

The beauty returned to modeling when she was 12, at the same age she began taking singing lessons. At 15 she was writing her own songs and was realistic about her future in the music world.

“I wasn’t sure where the [modeling] industry was directed. I think I was a size 10 at the time and the only people working were either a size 2 or a size 14. I really set my sights on music, but then the industry left more room for me to be a part of it. When the trends of inclusion came over us, it was easier for me to make a living from it and to make a career out of it. It was like, ‘Oh, there are so many possibilities and there’s no limit to what anyone can do now,'” she said.

She is quick to credit Ashley Graham and Sports Illustrated for encouraging this seismic shift. In 2016, Graham landed on the cover, breaking norms and opening the door for a variety of body shapes to take center stage.

“Your SI cover changed so many people’s lives and I think it changed the industry because this iconic publication puts their first model of curves on the cover,” she said, adding that Hunter McGrady also served as an inspiration.

Yumi Nu attends the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2021 Issue concert at Hard Rock Live!  at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on July 24, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida.
Yumi Nu attends Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2021 Issue Concert at Hard Rock Live! in Hollywood, Fla.
Getty Images

But Nu doesn’t have to look beyond her family tree for insight and support, particularly her mother’s sister, Devon Aoki.

“She has a cult following and will be a classic model for the rest of the time. She’s really helped me this year now that I’m working with a lot of bigger names like Steven Meisel. She’s helped me stay grounded and reminded me why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

On Friday she will also release her EP “Hajime”, which is Japanese for “the beginning”.

But since Nu is multitasking in both the music and modeling worlds, she’s looking forward to a break that includes lounging around and episodes of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

“I don’t think the rush is something I want to encourage,” she said. “I want to enjoy life.”

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