First-Ever Plus-Size Model Makes a Splash in the ‘Sports Illustrated’ Swimsuit Issue

Ashley Graham rocks a bikini in an advertisement in the iconic annual issue.

(Photo: Courtesy Swimsuits for All)

Feb 4, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

It looks like 2015 is shaping up to be the year that plus-size models break through to the mainstream. Hot on the heels of the last week’s news that Tess Holliday, who wears a size 22, had been signed to a major modeling agency comes Wednesday’s announcement that a plus-size stunner will be in an ad in the hallowed pages of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue.

Ashley Graham will show off her curvy size-14 bod—the size most American women wear—in an advertisement for Swimsuits for All, a company that specializes in creating swimwear for women who wear a size 8 or larger. The company is featuring Graham in its new #CurvesInBikinis campaign, which is geared to ensuring that women of all sizes feel confident at the beach or pool. Graham’s ad will be the first time that a plus-size model will be shown in the iconic issue.

Instead of wearing a one-piece suit that comes with a skirt, a standard look for swimwear marketed to plus-size women, Graham is sporting a tiny bikini that wouldn’t look out of place on last year’s cover models, Chrissy Teigen, Nina Agdal, and Lily Aldridge (if they’d actually worn bottoms on the cover, that is). As you can see from the above photo, the 27-year-old model isn’t shy about showing some skin. “I know my curves are sexy, and I want everyone else to know that theirs are too. There is no reason to hide and every reason to flaunt,” Graham said in a statement.

Some critics are sure to argue that we’ll know that Sports Illustrated takes size diversity seriously when a plus-size model is on the cover—or at least in one of the high-fashion beach spreads done by photographers paid by the magazine. But Graham’s debut is a start. Besides, both in the ad and in the campaign’s video, she looks like she feels fabulous and confident. Let’s hope her appearance in the swimsuit edition helps girls and women who think their bodies aren’t good enough feel the same way Graham does.