Did you ever think you’d live to see the day when Sports Illustrated celebrated mothers’ bodies in its swimsuit issue? Models Hunter McGrady, Katrina Scott, and Kelly Hughes all posed for the famous annual issue of the legendary magazine this year—they’re all mothers, and they’re not hiding that fact in their beautiful photographs.
It’s the fifth time McGrady has been featured in the swimsuit issue, but it’s her first time posing as a mom. She opened up to Motherly about how different it felt this time around.
“I was just shy of six months postpartum when I shot [the photos],” she said. “When I got asked to be in the magazine I said ‘Yes!’ then I was like ‘What am I doing?’”
She said while she was excited to do it again, she had reservations about doing it so soon after giving birth to her son Hudson. After giving herself a pep talk—because who hasn’t had to give themselves a pep talk when it comes to swimsuits—she decided she was going to go for it.
“I was like ‘You know what, Hunter? You feel good, you look beautiful, you just did something so spectacular,'” she explained. “The things my body went through are just insane. And so I told myself I should go out and do something fearless and own it.”
She said she felt beautiful during the process, despite her insecurities surrounding postpartum hairloss and lingering pregnancy melasma.
“I felt really strong and empowered and I think that that was what made me feel so good.”
Related: Hunter McGrady absolutely nails what it’s like to endure the Foley Bulb while giving birth
Feeling uneasy about summertime and swimsuits is such a universal experience for so many moms, especially those of us who are plus-size. Your body is permanently different, inside and out, and it’s hard to know what to do with that or how to feel about it.
“I think the fashion industry is realizing the importance of size inclusivity—however, we still have sooooo much work to do. There is no reason why every swimwear company can’t expand their sizes.”
McGrady has advice for moms of all ages when it comes to this conundrum: put on the suit. Because you deserve to.
“I would say honestly, and this is so cliche, but honestly really truthfully give yourself grace and realize what you’ve accomplished—whether you’ve just had a baby, whether you had a baby 30 years ago, whatever it is—the fact that our bodies not only created life from scratch but also sustained life. That is such a huge feat.”
The fashion industry, however, doesn’t make things easy for moms who aren’t conventionally sized. McGrady says that while things are slowly getting better now, when she was first modeling she had very limited options for shoots like this.
“Before when I’d be doing shoots, I’d basically have to be naked because there was nothing for me,” she says. “Now as the years have gone on, I think the fashion industry is realizing the importance of size inclusivity—however, we still have sooooo much work to do. There is no reason why every swimwear company can’t expand their sizes.”
Instagram is a great way for moms like McGrady to share relatable experiences of their own motherhood journeys, and she recently shared an epiphany she had about how her views about herself will shape the way he sees himself.
Related: Model Hunter McGrady gets brutally honest about being ‘plus-size and pregnant’
“As my son is getting older and I’m really getting to know him, and I’m looking at the lens the way he looks through life, and I’m like, ‘How can I talk badly about my body when my body created his body?’”
Teaching self-love and body acceptance is something boys need, too.
McGrady tells Motherly that she feels very strongly about not only teaching her son to love and respect himself but others as well—and that she hopes he’ll be a better romantic partner someday because of it.
“I hope I just instill in him how to know his worth and his value in the world and that he’s kind not only to his body, but that he’s kind in the way he thinks about others’ bodies and how he speaks about them,” she says. “I’ve had so many women come to me and say ‘I feel this way because my partner mentioned my body,’ so whoever he grows up and that he has respect for himself and for whoever he loves as well.”