Sports Illustrated Swimsuit features 'powerfully diverse' models in runway show, including 65-year-old fitness icon in a bikini

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit made history yet again on the runway at Paraiso Miami Beach Swim Week as veteran curve model Hunter McGrady opened the show, ahead of Denise Austin's debut as the oldest woman to grace the catwalk and 2023 rookie Nicole Williams English's pregnancy announcement.

The event was a family affair, according to editor in chief MJ Day, who tells Yahoo Life that she wanted to bring some themes from the brand's 2022 issue onto the runway in South Beach. "Specifically community and support," she said, noting the choice of starting strong with Hunter and her sister Michaela McGrady.

Michaela and Hunter McGrady open the show for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit during Paraiso Miami Beach. (Photo: Getty Images)
Michaela and Hunter McGrady open the show for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit during Paraiso Miami Beach. (Photo: Getty Images)

Hunter made her first appearance in the pages of the magazine in 2017, paving the way for more widespread acceptance and representation of curvy women in media. In Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's latest issue, she returned for her sixth year at just six months postpartum. Her spotlight moment on the runway on Saturday night solidified her title as "cool mom" and role model to many, including her sister, fellow model and podcast co-host, who walked alongside her.

"We are best friends, we have always done things together and championed one another in everything we do. Both of our goals in life is to make sure every woman no matter her size feels beautiful, valued and seen," Hunter tells Yahoo Life. "So to showcase this in such a major way with such a major brand was remarkable."

The sisters celebrated the moment on social media after the fact, acknowledging how monumental it is for the brand to put two curvy women to open the show.

"What I can say, is how huge of an honor it was to represent the iconic and empowering brand that is @si_swimsuit and how humbling to represent those with my body type (and the many many variations!) to show them how beautiful they truly are," Michaela wrote on Instagram. "Let this be a reminder to you that you are worthy. You are loved. You are capable, strong, sexy, smart, and deserving of the most beautiful things in life."

It wasn't the only moment representative of that inclusive spirit as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Katie Austin took to the runway for the second year in a row — this time with her 65-year-old mother Denise.

Denise, who is a notable fitness expert, tells Yahoo Life that she "will always treasure" the moment she shared with her 29-year-old daughter on the runway. She also boasted on Instagram about being the oldest to strut in swimwear on the runway.

"It’s such a beautiful reminder that age really is just a number!!!" she wrote.

Jasmine Sanders, Camille Kostek, Brooks Nader and Ashlyn Byrd were among the other models who appeared in the show. Manju Bangalore, an astronaut and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Swim Search Finalist, also made an impact as she walked wearing henna and a bindi to represent her South Asian culture.

The show even gave a nod to future generations as former NFL player Larry English accompanied his wife Nicole for her debut as an SI rookie. At the end of the runway, the couple revealed that they are expecting their first child together as Larry revealed Nicole's growing baby bump.

"The emotions I felt were real and deep," Nicole wrote on Instagram, reflecting on when she found out she'd be a part of the show. "The 38 year old me felt the 14 year old girl screaming inside me and I couldn't stop crying."

The numerous impactful appearances throughout the night accurately depicted Day's mission with the magazine, which she hopes continues to have "empowering moments."

Day adds, "We wanted to bring together a group of powerfully diverse people creating a community rooted in self-love, acceptance and transformation. Highlighting these moments enables us to share personal relatedness, support perpetual growth and create moments in time these women will remember forever."

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