Ashley Graham On Her Ground-Breaking ‘Sports Illustrated’ Swimsuit Cover — It Is For ‘Every Woman’

For the first time ever, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition has crowned three separate cover models: Ronda Rousey, Ashley Graham, and Hailey Clauson.

On Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Revealed 2016, viewers finally got a look at the three cover models along with all the other models; the show announced everything from the search for models to virtual reality to how the covers were chosen.

“Every single woman that is booked for this magazine is cover worthy,” Assistant Managing Editor MJ Day said. “The collective beauty in the magazine is overwhelming. SI has always been and will always be about the models; the pictures you see here are a celebration of them. The three covers of Hailey, Ronda and Ashley celebrate the new SI Swimsuit. All three women are beautiful, sexy and strong. Beauty is not cookie cutter. Beauty is not ‘one size fits all’. Beauty is all around us and that became obvious to me while shooting and editing this year’s issue.”

Perhaps the model who is the definition of MJ Day’s quote above is Ashley Graham. According to People, Graham is the first size-16 model to cover the iconic magazine. Although she was in the annual issue last year as a model for plus size swimwear, this year’s jump to cover model represents the shift from the previous 51 covers models.

Never heard of Ashley Graham? Here are a few things you should know about the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition plus size cover model.

Along with SI, Graham is also at work in denim brand NYDJ’s “Fit to Be” campaign, Forever21’s new plus-size activewear campaign. She is also in swimsuitsforall’s brand new #SwimSexy ad going in the swimsuit edition, and Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody campaign.

On top of that, the model also has her own line of clothing that she debuted last September, reports Us Weekly.

The cover model is also open about being a plus size woman in a world that doesn’t always view that as a positive thing. “I felt free once I realized I was never going to fit the mold that society wanted me to fit in,” she said during TEDxBerkleeValencia talk in Spain last May. “I was never going to be perfect enough for an industry that defines perfection from the outside, and that’s okay. Rolls, curves, cellulite, all of it – I love every part of me.”

“This is the generation of body diversity,” Graham finished with. “The current is changing.”

And although Graham fits the mold to a better degree than a supermodel of what the typical American woman looks like, she doesn’t like the term “real women.”

“I don’t like to use the words ‘real women,’ honestly,” she told People. “I like to use the word ‘woman.’ And I say that because there are so many women out there who are naturally thin, or are naturally curvy. I think when we start putting a label on the type of woman it gets misconstrued and starts to offend people,” she continued. “At the end of the day we just all want to be known as women or models or actresses or whatever.”

Graham is also busy taking her body image fight to brands that seem to diminish curvy women. In April, she posed for Lane Bryant’s “I’m No Angel” lingerie ad, which obviously stood against Victoria Secret’s “Perfect Body” ads. Also, when Protein World put up their posters of slim woman next to the phrase “Are You Beach Body Ready,” Graham posed in her own version of the ad.

As for the other two cover models, MJ Day had this to say about why they were also chosen.

“Ronda Rousey is a cultural phenomenon. She is the perfect combination of beauty, brains, brawn and humility… Haley Clauson is the definition of a modern bombshell.”

Ashley Graham took to Instagram to show her appreciation of being on SI’s cover, writing, “Truly speechless!!! This cover is for every woman who felt like she wasn’t beautiful enough because of her size. You can do and achieve anything you put your mind to. Thank you so much to the entire @si_swimsuit team! I’m so excited to be a part of your family. I love you all!!! #siswim #beautybeyondsize.”

Tell us! What do you think of Sports Illustrated’s choice of Ashley Graham as one of their cover models? Let us know in the comments below.

[Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]