Ashley Graham becomes first size 16 cover model of Sports Illustrated magazine

This cover is for every woman who felt like she wasn't beautiful enough because of her size

Ashley Graham has hailed Sports Illustrated for challenging narrow and unrealistic perceptions of beauty after being chosen to appear in a groundbreaking front cover. 

The designer, body positive campaigner and model was selected alongside UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and model Hailey Clauson to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, becoming the first UK size 16 woman to grace the front of the magazine’s annual swimsuit edition. 

Graham, 28, has already made history by being one of the first ever curve models to feature in an advert that ran in the magazine last year. She shared a picture of the cover that comes just months after that achievement on Instagram. 

“Truly speechless,” she wrote. “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!!!”

Graham highlighted the wider impact of the move, telling Motto: “Sports Illustrated has said, ‘We are the norm, and putting curvy girls on the cover is the norm.’ I think it has catapulted people’s perception of beauty into a whole different place where it doesn’t matter what size a woman is - it matters what she’s doing in the world and how she feels about herself.” 

MJ Day, the assistant managing editor of Sports Illustrated, said Graham was a “champion for all women” and one of her most memorable castings. 

“There’s no denying that Ashley Graham brings something different to the table. It’s exciting to meet someone who can totally handle this moment, take it, and amplify it, all because of who she is and how she celebrates herself.”

Graham has spoken of being ridiculed as a teenager for her weight and gave a TED Talk on how accepting and loving her body as it is helped her succeed within an industry “that defines perfection from the outside in” and insists on labelling her plus size.

“I, like you, possess a wonderfully unique and diverse physique," she said in her speech. "Now the fashion industry may persist to label me as ‘plus size’, but I like to think of it as ‘my size’."

Graham has led calls for the fashion world to look beyond plus size paradigms and has backed the Plus is Equal campaign, which calls for the plus-size women who make up 67 per cent of the US to be equally represented in the media and fashion industry.

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