If Kate Upton's Sports Illustrated cracked the mold when it comes to the sample-sized models who typically land near-naked magazine covers, Ashley Graham is about to shatter it. When the magazine’s annual swimsuit issue hits newsstands on Feb. 9, look for the plus-size model in its pages. The 26-year-old will be featured in an ad for swimsuitsforall, marking the first time SI will incorporate a campaign for plus-size swimwear.
“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. The world is ready for more curves in bikinis,” the model said in a statement. “swimsuitsforall helps women feel confident and sexy in swimsuits and I am so thrilled to be a part of the #CurvesInBikinis campaign!”
Coming in at a size 16, Graham certainly stands out from the Marissa Millers, Bar Rafaelis, and Brooklyn Deckers. Her abs aren’t so defined that you can see six of them, she has boobs bigger than a B, and thighs that definitely don’t have a gap between them. Upton made a splash because her body’s dimensions wouldn’t be seen on a high-fashion runway, but they’re still not representative of a larger population of women — she’s an anomaly. The average American woman wears a size 14, much closer to Graham than Upton.
While the swimsuitsforall ad is being heralded as historic, put into perspective, it’s far from. Why would SI turn down ad dollars from anyone, especially one bound to make a splash and gain attention? The full list of models appearing in the upcoming 2015 issue have yet to be announced, but based on the confirmed models — Erin Heatherton, Nina Agdal, and Gigi Hadid — and history, none of the featured players will look anything like Graham (or a majority of women for that matter). Until it’s a premeditated choice on SI’s part, a plus size woman’s inclusion won’t be so significant.
It is, however, a strategic move on swimsuitsforall’s part. The ad puts plus-size swimwear next to thin models and surely the juxtaposition will have an impact. It also gives the brand international attention and comes at a time when consumers are calling for models to be more representative of themselves. A petition in recent weeks on Change.org has acquired thousands of signatures in hopes that Victoria’s Secret will offer larger sizes. Other retailers have listened to the demands of the market such as Target’s new line Ava & Viv, and brands like ModCloth and Torrid have made their businesses based on their breadth of sizes.
“Tastes and body types change over time and curves have never been more ‘in,’” Moshe Laniado, CEO & President of swimsuitsforall said. “There is no better way to celebrate and show off than by donning a bikini. When the #CurvesInBikinis ad in Sports Illustrated is released, the world will be watching and they’ll like what they see.”