Lewis Freese is making history as the first male finalist in the annual Sports Illustrated Swim Search. He's one of 15, six of whom will be featured in the magazine's 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
"I truly believe this brand has the power to change minds and lives," he wrote in his audition submitted last August. "There have been so many standards (body image, age, beauty) that have already been broken from so many SI models."
"No longer should a man or woman feel they need to fit certain gender standards, no longer should stereotypes exist for sexual orientations, no longer should people hide their authentic character."
The New York Post reports this is the second time the full-time college student and Minnesota native has applied.
“Going through this process I have learned so much about myself and most importantly my identity,” Freese wrote in an Instagram post sharing the happy news.
“To be honest, I have noooo clue where my gender really falls at the moment but all I can do is take things day by day and share every moment with all of you.”
"As a man, there is no reason I can’t be inspired by women, there is no reason why I can't aspire to be like women, or for women to aspire to be like men," he added. "We live in such a divided world split into STUPID constructs that need to go away."