Chances are, at one point or another (or many points), you've felt insecure about how your body looks in a bathing suit. So when a size 14 model named Ashley Graham appeared in Sports Illustrated's highly-anticipated Swimsuit Issue back in 2014 (a space previously reserved for ultra-thin bikini bodies only), a collective sigh of relief was shared by women everywhere: change, it seemed, was finally coming.
And change Ashley Graham did bring. Not only did the model go on to later land her own Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover, she also broke countless boundaries in the fashion world, ushering in a new wave of body positivity and inclusivity. In the past year alone Graham landed an H&M Studio campaign, launched a lingerie collection with Addition Elle, penned an essay on body shaming that went viral and even got her own Barbie (the first to have thighs that touch, nonetheless). Now, she's making her Sports Illustrated return with a diverse swimwear campaign for Swimsuits for All that's putting "regular women" in the Swimsuit Issue for the first time.
The Sports Illustrated x Swimsuits For All campaign, titled "Every Body, Every Age, Every Beautiful,"celebrates Graham's body positive philosophy. Shot in the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the campaign features Graham alongside a group of women—some of whom are San Juan locals and some of whom are models—of varying shapes, ages and backgrounds. The end result? More size, age and racial diversity to be featured in the highly-anticipated swimsuit issue.
We spoke to Graham about the new campaign, the importance of women supporting each other and how things have changed since her Sports Illustrated debut.
Lauren Fisher: Why was it important for you to debut the Swimsuits for All campaign in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue?
Ashley Graham: Two years ago, my #CurvesInBikinis ad debuted in the SI Swimsuit Issue and it was a huge moment in my career. I was the first size 14 model to be featured in an ad in the magazine, and fast forward to a year later, I was the first size 14 model on the cover! SI Swim, Swimsuits For All and I all share the same mission to celebrate the female body and empower women to feel good in their own skin. That's why it was important to debut the "Every Body, Every Age, Every Beautiful" ad in the issue again this year and show even more diverse women.
LF: What was the inspiration behind your latest swimsuit collection for Swimsuits for All?
AG: I was inspired by the tropical feeling of Puerto Rico. It's the type of place that encourages so much love! I felt like shaking my hips the entire time I was there, and you will see that festive spirit in the prints and design details.
LF: Tell me about the women who star in the campaign with you.
AG: These ladies are all gorgeous! Their energy and spirit was so positive, and they exuded confidence no matter their age and size. And they look amazing in the suits!
LF: What was the experience like shooting the campaign with local women from San Juan?
AG: It was such a wonderful experience. We were shooting in the streets of San Juan, and the final images really capture the essence of the city's culture.
LF: Your body has been criticized for being too curvy in the past and recently for "slimming down too much" on Instagram, do those comments ever get to you?
AG: Everyone wants to be an "expert" on social media and share their opinion behind the keyboard. As a model, I'm used to having my body scrutinized, and I have a tough skin so I can shake it off. I know I'm the only person that gets to decide how my body should look. It's really important that we stop body shaming people online and on social media. The rude comments under pictures, comparing women in "who looks better" posts—all that does is force us to judge each other. It only sets us back and women, now more than ever, need to empower each other.
LF: Do you have any advice for the women who don't feel confident wearing a bikini?
AG: I always say wear what makes you feel most confident, and confidence doesn't always come over night. If a bikini isn't your style, there are other options in my collection that will make you feel comfortable, which is the most important part. I love the one-pieces with cut outs and mesh detailing. They're just as sexy as the bikinis, if not more!
LF: How do you think the body positive movement has evolved since your Sports Illustrated cover?
AG: The SI Swim cover was life changing, not just for myself but for women everywhere who've been told they can't do something because of their size. Body positivity is no longer a side conversation, it's mainstream.
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