For the first time in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue’s 52-year history, the magazine announced that it will have three cover models on three individual covers. The announcement on Feb. 14 made headlines — not for the number of covers, but for the models who are on the covers. The cover girls include MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, fashion model Hailey Clauson and Ashley Graham, a size-16 body positive activist and model.
I am the type of person who notices the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue sitting on the racks while I’m in the checkout line at the grocery store. After seeing a usually half-naked, typically skinny woman on the cover, I look in my cart at the pasta, bacon and cookies I am purchasing and feel slightly guilty. I may or may not (usually not) put back the chocolate bar I just grabbed from the shelf by the checkout belt.
I’m usually not one to watch the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show or pick up the swimsuit edition of magazines because 1) I don’t like to feel bad about myself by comparing myself to other women and 2) I believe there is a fine line between art and the sexual objectification of women.
However after seeing the new Sports Illustrated covers, I am pleasantly surprised. This is a huge step in body positivity. Sports Illustrated did something unique and is celebrating three very different body types.
Clauson is smiling on her cover and appears to be topless, covering her chest with her hand. Sports Illustrated Managing Editor M.J. Day told the magazine that Clauson is the “definition of a modern bombshell.”
While Clauson is the traditional size-four blonde-haired model, Rousey and Graham’s covers are stirring up more attention.
Rousey is known for being a positive influence on women. Her sassy personality and deadly arm bar submissions give her the appearance of a confident women that many look up to. Rousey has been told in the past she has a “masculine” body type, but she tends to brush off the haters by pinning someone in 10 seconds flat.
On her cover, Rousey is pictured in body paint. She seems to be in an intense stare down with the camera person — most likely thinking about how she could pin everyone working the photo shoot in less than one minute.
And then there is Ashley Graham. She was the first plus-size model to be featured in Sports Illustrated. Athletes such as Rousey have been featured in the swimsuit issue before, but Graham set a precedent by being the first plus-size model in the swimsuit issue’s history. Graham said in an interview with People Magazine that she believed Sports Illustrated was taking a risk by putting her in the magazine.
Day said in Sports Illustrated that these three cover models are beginning a new era for the swimsuit issue.
“All three women are beautiful, sexy and strong,” said Day. “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.”
I could not have said it better myself. While I still think the swimsuit issue promotes sexual objectification of women, at least it’s also promoting a more body positive culture.