Within the three Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition covers announced on Feb. 13 is a whole bunch of unexpected body positivity and diversity — from a plus size model to the utilization of body painting to the championing of a mixed martial arts star. Ronda Rousey is a Sports Illustrated cover girl alongside curvy model Ashley Graham and straight size model Hailey Clauson. Clearly, the publication is making history, and not just for women who care about representation, but for itself. By having three cover stars, all of whom hail from different backgrounds and have visibly different body types, SI is showcasing what diversity is all about: Visibility for all different kinds of humans.
Speaking to the Sports Illustrated website, Assistant Managing Editor MJ Day revealed that this decision was a conscious one meant to help further body positivity and spread self love to all the women who pick up the latest issue. "Every single woman that is booked for this magazine is cover worthy. The collective beauty in the magazine is overwhelming. SI has always been and will always be about the models; the pictures you see here are a celebration of them."
"The three covers of Hailey, Ronda, and Ashley celebrate the new SI Swimsuit. All three women are beautiful, sexy, and strong. Beauty is not cookie cutter. Beauty is not 'one size fits all.' Beauty is all around us and that became especially obvious to me while shooting and editing this year's issue," she added.
Discussing why the publication chose to feature Rousey on the cover, Day said, "Ronda Rousey is a cultural phenomenon. She is the perfect combination of beauty, brains, brawn, and humility. She possesses a spirit bigger than the space around her, and it is both infectious and inspiring. She's a Phoenix, as fiery and beautiful as any mythical creature ever depicted."
And she's right: Rousey might tick all the boxes in terms of traditional beauty, but she's undoubtedly an inspiration for women in sports and those who choose to chase their dreams in a male-dominated industry. Her athletic body is one that has carried her through a successful career and deserves as much appreciation and acknowledgement as those with conventional model or curve model proportions.
The MMA star even skipped the traditional swimwear featured in this edition of Sports Illustrated and was instread body-painted for her shoot. Body painting has been deemed a body positive practice by Michelle Wallen in her TEDx talk, since you literally get art painted onto your nude body. For me, this definitely makes Rousey's cover revolutionary in more ways than one.
The three different types of bodies highlighted on the Sports Illustrated covers are hopefully a sign of more body positivity to come from places we don't necessarily expect. While women's-focused magazines have been championing the movement online for a long time now, it's great to see the good word spread within more mainstream publications and to even more people.
Images: Courtesy Sports Illustrated (2)