This time last year, size 16 model Ashley Graham was making waves with an ad in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition for retailer Swimsuits for All. From that same 2015 issue, Robin Lawley was being hailed as the first plus-size model in the annual edition’s history, even though at size 12, she is two sizes smaller than the average American woman.
This year, it’s a whole new “babe” game. For the first time, Sports Illustrated has gone with three separate Swimsuit Edition covers and Graham is one of the featured models, alongside Ronda Rousey and Hailey Clauson.
Both Graham and Sports Illustrated assistant managing editor MJ Day, who oversees the annual Swimsuit Edition, loathe the term “plus-size.” Day, who has described herself previously as a size 12, told colleague Maggie Gray on SI podcast The Gray Area that she refuses to use the “p-word,” while Graham put it this way to Access Hollywood Live while making the media rounds Monday:
“I hate a label. I think that when we introduce Hailey, we don’t say, ‘This is skinny girl Hailey, and this is plus-size Ashley,’” she explained. “We’re both models. At the end of the day. I just want to be recognized as a model. Yes, I got curves. Yes, I got things that I like to flaunt and talk about and be called curvy, sexilicious, but at the end of the day I don’t want a label.”
Graham also stressed during the same interview that no retouching was applied to her cover. “Sports Illustrated didn’t reshape my body in any way, shape or form,” she said proudly.
The cover is big news across the country and in 28-year-old Graham’s hometown of Lincoln, Neb. Per an article today in the Lincoln Journal Star, one of the first to find out about her selection prior to Saturday night’s TNT reveal special was mom:
Linda Graham took the call from her daughter Saturday at the SouthPointe theater, where she was watching a movie with some friends before the show aired in Lincoln. They gathered that something might be up after she spent about 30 minutes of the rom-com How to Be Single crying into her phone in the hallway of the movie theater.
Before this year’s three covers, the Swimsuit Edition has twice showcased three models on the cover. In 1994, Kathy Ireland, Elle Macpherson and Rachel Hunter appeared next to the cover line “The Dream Team,” while in 2014, for the 50th anniversary issue, the magazine chose Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen.