It’s official: Ashley Graham just made history as the first size 16 model to front the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Graham appears on the cover in a skimpy navy blue and yellow bikini, smizing for the camera as waves crash against her curvy frame. The significance of this groundbreaking moment is not lost on Graham. “I thought Sports Illustrated was taking a risk by putting a girl my size in the pages,” she told People. “But putting me on the cover? They aren’t just breaking barriers; they are the standard now. This is beyond epic.”
She hopes the cover empowers young girls struggling with body acceptance. “Girls who are insecure about their bodies, girls who feel fat, girls who have cellulite, girls who have stretch marks on their body — those are all the things that I had as a kid and I never had a woman like me growing up to look at,” Graham said. “I had my mother and that’s one thing, but to have somebody who has cellulite, who has things that jiggle, who has back fat and talk about how you can be an overcomer and not let society take you down for all of that. That’s real.”
The body image activist even dedicated the cover to them, saying, “I want to dedicate it to all of the women out there who never felt that they were beautiful enough, who never felt like they were skinny enough, and who never felt like they were going to be able to be represented in society like this. Because now we’re being represented.”
UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and model Hailey Clauson also front this year’s swimsuit issue, in newsstands now. Kudos to Sports Illustrated for celebrating women of all sizes. Victoria’s Secret, time to follow their lead.