On Feb. 15, Sports Illustrated announced its 2017 Swimsuit Issue, including four plus size models: Swimsuit Issue alums Ashley Graham and Robyn Lawley, as well as Hunter McGrady and Myla Dalbesio. In 2016, Graham became the first plus size model to cover the Swimsuit Issue, and Lawley in 2015 was the first plus size model to ever be featured in the hallowed, sea-soaked pages of the annual swimwear edition.
Graham and Lawley aren't the only history-makers — Dalbesio was the first size-10 underwear model for Calvin Klein.
McGrady shared one of her Swimsuit Issue snaps on Instagram, saying in the caption, "This is a surreal moment for me. You guys I have been bursting to tell you all about this! I want to thank @MJ_Day for an opportunity like this and for being a force in this industry and everyone at @si_swimsuit for promoting that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Beauty is not a number. It has no limits. I have never felt sexier than I did in this shoot."
The four women comprise the largest group of plus size models to be featured in a Swimsuit Issue, double the number of plus size women featured in last year's edition.
In an Instagram post from Feb. 13, Dalbesio celebrated a decade's worth of work and encouraged her fellow women to keep on keepin' on. "Life is surreal and cool sometimes," she said. "If I could tell you the hours and days and weeks I have spent worrying about the future of my career. Would my body ever work in the fashion industry? Would people get me, appreciate what I have to say? If my 'big break' would come? And if it did, would I have the sense to realize it and appreciate it?"
She continued, "Well... I appreciate it. I waited and worked for a decade for this, and I really really want to tell everyone out there but ESPECIALLY girls who feel marginalized and ESPECIALLY girls who do not have 'traditional' model bodies but are still trying to grind in the fashion industry (and in life): DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!"
Graham's Insta announcement was low-key, simply saying, "si_swimsuit 2017," with a shot of her in a gold-studded bikini.
In an interview with ELLE about her 2016 cover, Graham talked about nabbing the Swimsuit Issue's prime spot. "This cover will go down in the history books," she said. "For so long I never thought that I could get covers. For so long I thought that I was so big and so thick that people like Sports Illustrated wouldn't look at me — and for so long I had people telling me that that wouldn't happen. I had managers telling me that wouldn't happen. It was proof yesterday that no matter what your dreams and goals and desires are to be whatever in the industry you're in, you can do it."
Lawley shared a shot from the Swimsuit Issue showing her in a puka-shell-tasselled bikini, and in her caption praised SI editor MJ Day for her work on the issue. "[T]his will be my 3rd time back to back in @Si_swimsuit issue," she wrote, "and it just keeps getting better and better. I'm in awe of @mj_day and how she brings such body diversity to this and previous issues."
Graham, Lawley, McGrady, and Dalbesio's statements are a reminder that while it's excellent to see the number of plus size Swimsuit Issue models doubling from year to year, there is much more progress to be made. It's imperative that the industry move toward a world where plus size models and hopefuls don't have to worry about whether they will have a career because of the size of their body.
You can check out shots of all the 2017 Swimsuit Issue models on Sports Illustrated's website.