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‘Sports Illustrated’ is Making a Change We Can Get Behind

In a world where airbrushing, Photoshop and crazy juice cleanses are the norm, we have the tiny, sculpted and beautiful Hannah Davis on the 2015 cover of the Sports Illustrated issue men wait all year for. Just last week, Sports Illustrated made waves when it was revealed the magazine’s annual swimsuit issue—hitting newsstands February 9—was running an ad that, for the first time, would feature a plus-size model.

The magazine was celebrated for including Ashley Graham, a plus-size model, within its pages—but was also criticized for showcasing models of different sizes not within its editorial pages, but in an ad that the publication is being paid to run.

But days after, we learned that Ashley Graham won’t be the only curvy lady in this issue—plus-size model Robyn Lawley will be featured in the issue’s pages (and not in an ad!), modeling her own swimwear line. At a size 12, she’s the curviest model to be included in this highly-anticipated issue.

Of course, while a size 12 is labeled as plus-size in the modeling industry, the average size of the American woman is a 14. The fashion world is already in the midst of a definitive, albeit slow, transition to be more inclusive, as evidenced by Tess Munster, the first model above a size 20 to be signed to a major modeling agency. Regardless, Lawley has a positive outlook on her position in the industry.

“I don’t know if I consider myself as a plus-size model or not,” she said to Time. “I just consider myself a model because I’m trying to help women in general accept their bodies.”

Whatever “plus-size” means, we’re glad to see inclusion of more than just the impossibly chic, perfectly chiseled models we’ve become accustomed to expected in these publications. These models demonstrate the power of loving the body you’ve been given. Not everyone has time to spend hours in a gym, actually LIKES kale, or has been gifted with a hyper-active metabolism. Hey, if you do, that’s okay! But if not, that’s okay, too.

Where do we want to go from here? We would love for SI—and other publications!—to feature women of all shapes and sizes, not just plus-size and skinny, but women who are average, too. Having the confidence to wear a two-piece in public takes a lot of courage to begin with. The last thing women need is for men to compare us to the models they see in the magazine.

In the meantime, enjoy Graham’s ad and Lawley’s historic feature as you page through this year’s swimsuit edition. I surely will be, preferably while enjoying a pizza and celebrating my own real body.

Mary Paige Nesfeder (known as MP on the volleyball court) is a junior Media and Communication Studies major at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She is about as contradictory as the Instagram accounts she follows (her faves are dcfoodporn and yoga_girl)! She finds solace in Jack Johnson, her Pinterest account and a good nap. She can't go a day without talking to her mom or daydreaming about the future.