Ashley Graham has officially become a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and is more than excited to be redefining “sexy” and “beauty” in 2016, reports ET. In addition to that, Ashley Graham is in the running for Sports Illustrated Rookie of the Year, and she took to Instagram to reveal a picture of herself on the beach in a purple bikini that will appear in the S.I. issue.
“This is a dream come true,” Graham wrote in the caption on her Instagram post. “Thank you to everyone who stood up for curves.”
“I’m really excited to know that Sports Illustrated is wanting to include women like us,” Ashley Graham, size 14-16, told ET. “There is no perfect body, and we shouldn’t be striving for perfection anymore.”
Graham was not the only one to become be included in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, as two additional plus-sized models joined her.
“It’s incredibly empowering,” 26-year-old Philomena Kwao agreed. “It’s like a new era now seeing different races, different shapes, different sizes being celebrated as beautiful.”
Kwao is a humanitarian as well as a model, and she recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post that discussed race in mainstream media.
“Magazines don’t go far enough to be inclusive, and have at least have one model representing every major skin tone. South Asian? East Asian? Mixed Race? Pale? The thing is, I don’t understand why, when it comes to beauty, dark skinned black women seem to be left behind.”
“I’ve never worn a bikini before,” 56-year-old Nicola Griffin told ET, who is also in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. “I never felt I would look good in one. I never felt sexy in one, but I was wrong.”
Ashley Graham, Philomena Kwao, and Nicola Griffin are featured in a three-page advertisement for Swimsuits for All, which is an e-retailer that specifically caters to plus-size swimwear (size 8 and up) in the fashion industry. The campaign is #SwimSexy, with this year being even more diverse than the last, and those who are involved in the ad were willing to pay a healthy amount to place their ad in S.I. The CEO and president of Swimsuits for All, Moshe Laniado, admits “it wasn’t cheap. But this is an important annual moment. Swimsuit life is celebrated and we want to be there and make our message.”
Griffin is considered to be old in the modeling industry, in addition to being curvy — and for S.I., she is the first of her kind to be showcased. Considering that most of the models who appear in Sports Illustrated tend to be thin, this seems to be a nice change of pace.
“I have a little bit of a tummy but I’ve had twins,” Griffin says. “I’m real.”
Ashley Graham was also a part of the #ImNoAngel campaign, an attempt by Lane Bryant to showcase curvy women and give more representation to the average American woman. Victoria Lee, Elly Mayday, Marquita Pring, Candice Huffine, and Justine Legault were also part of the campaign, posing together in their bras and panties.
Curvy Ashley Graham became the face of #CurvesInBikinis in February of 2015 for Sports Illustrated, wearing a black string bikini in the ad. This was also for the Swimsuits for All campaign, promoting their Swim Sexy line of bikinis, ranging from sizes 10-34. Graham, a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, is also a role model and body activist who often talks about body image at various high schools and girls’ groups. In April 2015, Ashley held her first TEDx talk, “Plus Size? More Like My Size,” and is a co-founder of ALDA, a collective of models who showcase beauty beyond size and battle against conventional standards within the fashion industry.
[Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Lane Bryant]