Diversity is the word in media right now, with publications at long-last featuring people who come in a wider variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Progress is progress — and while not by any means perfect (i.e. that Vogue cover) the landscape has come a long way from its all-white, all-sample size ways. Case in point: the Sports Illustrated 2017 Swimsuit Issue is more diverse than any of the previous editions in several ways.
Again, there is still so much work to do. But it's a step in the right direction not just that inclusiveness runs throughout the magazine, but that it wasn't even highlighted as a thing. This appears to be a turning point for the publication, and coming from its own controversial history, this is one of the best possible iterations of the annual issue. Celebrating women of different shapes, skin colors and ages at the top of their game, in a tropical locale? Yes, please. Every woman deserves to feel sexy, strong and like a glamazon of this earth. This issue makes an honest effort to be more inclusive and succeeds in many ways. Here, take a look at seven examples of the mag doing good work.
1. There Are Several Plus Size Models Featured
The mag's choice of three Kate Upton covers is might seem pretty typical, the issue also included shoots with several plus size models including Robyn Lawley, Hunter McGrady, and Ashley Graham.
2. About A Third Of The Models Are Women Of Color
The magazine's edged towards inclusivity in recent years, but 2017 is their most diverse shoot yet. This year's Swimsuit Issue features more than twice as many women of color as the 2016 edition.
3. The Athletes On The Pages
All bodies are beautiful, and the inclusion of athletes like Serena Williams, Genie Bouchard, and Simone Biles celebrates women who've put in work. It's great to see a variety of athletes featured in this issue, especially considering that every other month of the year, Sports Illustrated is about, well, sports. Some of the athletes, like Biles and fellow Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, pose while demonstrating their immense physical skill.
4. Christie Brinkley At Age 63
Brinkley makes history at 63 as the oldest model ever featured in SI's Swimsuit Edition, disproving every ageist stereotype in the book by looking slammin' amazing. Important addendum: even if she wasn't toned AF, this would still be super exciting, since we hardly see women above a certain age in magazines. Consider her turn a big "eff you" to casting directors ruling out older women.
5. Hunter McGrady's Minimally Airbrushed Body Paint Shoot
Swimsuit Issue newcomer Hunter McGrady is the largest women ever featured in the issue, and she is pictured wearing nothing but body paint in many of the images from her spread. I'll even forgive the trope of her pouring a bottle of water into her mouth from afar — these pictures are that good.
6. Serena Williams' Intimate Pics
On top of the excellence of including strong women (see: #3), the photos of each athlete artfully sidesteps the trap of penning strong women into only being "strong women." The photos of Serena in particular are soft, gorgeous and intimate, illustrating the multidimensionality in everyone.
7. Non-Airbrushed Nipples
Toplessness is a theme that runs through the issue in a tasteful way, and while bits are covered in those shots, the image of Ashley Graham basking in a sheer, nude bedazzled bodysuit features her anatomy loud and clear. In an age when the female form is still considered taboo and overly sexualized, the inclusion of realistic nipple depictions in a mainstream magazine is a step forward.
All in all, it's a landmark issue from the historic brand, one of their most inclusive, and gorgeous, showings to date. More diversity is always necessary. But the gorgeous women on SI's February 2017 pages prove that change can happen, and demonstrate that no matter what you look like or where you come from, you're a person worth celebrating.