On Feb. 15, Sports Illustrated released its 2017 Swimsuit Issue. It's teeming with gorgeous women like Kate Upton, Ashley Graham, Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Robyn Lawley, and more. The issue is arguably their most diverse yet, but frankly, I haven't really thought about it. All I can think about is how huge rookie Hunter McGrady looks in her photos.
Maybe that statement makes you uncomfortable. After all, the concept of "looking huge" is something many of us are programmed to physically recoil away from in utter disgust. Of course, many of us are also compelled to endlessly discuss all the parts of ourselves that we wish were smaller.
As a plus size woman, I'm incredibly familiar with these sentiments — conceal your stomach, hide your arms, correspond the length of your hemlines to the place that the cellulite starts on your thighs. Choose clothing that makes you look smaller, and spend at least a few minutes a day tearing a clothing off your body in a sweaty fervor and throwing it to the floor because it doesn't. If you're not small and you can't make yourself small, figure out a way to make yourself appear smaller in every. Single. Photo. Hold your bag in front of you, stand behind a friend, or hell, don't even let them take your photo in the first place.
But Hunter McGrady didn't do any of that for her Sports Illustrated shoot. Instead, her photos are a celebration of size, an ode to the power of a woman who takes up the space that wasn't just given to her, but that she claimed for herself. Wearing only body paint, you can literally see every inch of her body: Her soft, full arms, her belly, her large breasts, and the fact that her body type falls outside the boundaries of what's considered typical for plus sized models.
Simply put, she looks big — and no one should react to that statement as if it's anything else but a wonderful fact. Of course, there's nothing wrong with looking small, if that's the body you have. And just because you're big doesn't mean you have to show it off if you don't want to — everyone is different, and that's also a good thing. However, that doesn't change the fact that we need to be analyzing why size descriptors are coded as "good" or "bad" in the first place.
"Big" doesn't have to have negative implications, nor is it an insult. Yes, McGrady looks huge in her images — and by that, I mean she looks magnificent, regal, gorgeous, powerful, and most importantly, intentionally large within the frame. The images convey, at least to me, that McGrady is unapologetic about the space that she takes up in this world, and I am overwhelmingly here for it.
The fact that McGrady's body-painted cellulite is also visible in some of the photos is just icing on the massive, glorious cake. That she chose to pose so strongly, broadly, and decisively in the body that she has — one that represents the largest plus size body in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition history — is the really inspiring thing about these images. I've spent my entire life trying to find ways to take up less space — but the bottom line is, I'm big. Hunter McGrady is too, and these images remind me that looking big can mean looking pretty fucking great. With photos like these, we might all be on our way to acknowledging that.
And once we do, well. It's going to be huge.