by Marléna Ahearn
Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue paints models into bathing suits every year, and this year’s inclusion of Kate Upton and Hunter McGrady is a huge win for women. While the issue of the male gaze and objectifying curvier models isn’t the most empowering way for women’s bodies of all sizes to be celebrated, it’s still powerful for fat women.
Talking about fat and swimsuits at the same time makes a lot of people recoil—we just don’t talk about fat and swimsuits unless it’s coming from the lips of a pep-talking friend in the mirror of a dressing room. It’s time to end this separation of fat and swim wear. Women can be fat, embrace their fat, feel fat—and still wear a swimsuit.
Hunter McGrady tells PEOPLE that she doesn’t like the label “plus size.” “‘Curve’ I find is a more glamorous way of saying it. ‘Plus size’ has just gotten this dirty stigma. But I would love no labels [at all],” McGrady tells PEOPLE. So the 23-year-old graced the pages of the infamous Swimsuit Issue as the ‘curviest’ model they’ve ever featured. And she looked amazing.
The modeling industry notoriously strays away from the word fat. Probably because fat doesn’t sell. And being ‘huge,’ ‘plus,’ or just plain fat isn’t welcome in the mainstream because we all fear fat so much. Bustle’s Amanda Richards wrote a powerful essay about how ‘huge’ McGrady looked in her pictures—and how wonderful that is. Seeing fat in the pages of a magazine reserved for SI’s vision of the most beautiful women shows how beauty and appreciation for all bodies doesn’t have parameters. All bodies, from thin, to fat, to really fat deserve respect and representation—especially in swimsuits.
So, go forth and feel fat in your swimsuit. You look great.