Something big happened this week, for the first time in 52 years, Sports Illustrated released their Swim Suit Edition with a plus sized model on the cover.
Ashley Graham, the size 16 model, had appeared in last year’s issue as well.. in an advertisement.
“I thought Sports Illustrated was taking a risk by putting a girl my size in the pages,” Graham recalls to People . “But putting me on the cover? They aren’t just breaking barriers; they are the standard now. This is beyond epic.”
However, not everyone is as stoked as Graham about the cover. An article on the Federalist claims that the campaign is transparent. It discusses the disingenuousness of pointing out that a woman is plus sized when viewers can clearly see that for themselves.
“It makes sense for companies to aim marketing campaigns at actual consumers by picking women who actually look like their consumers. It also makes sense for a magazine that peddles flesh to chose a very curvaceous woman who looks great in a swimsuit. But let’s not fool ourselves by pretending that this is anything but an advertising campaign guised as activism.”
And they are kind of right, after all, Spots Illustrated is selling a product just like other campaigns such as the Dove Real Beauty campaign. One that shows women looking like the average consumer, while pointing out the very obvious fact that the image represented is different, revolutionary even… in order to sell more of that product.
While I do agree that the motivations behind the cover may be questionable, Grahams contributions to the body positive movement are undeniable. She has done TED talks on the subject and is featured in many article preaching self love to viewers.
She says later in People that she believes that this cover isn’t just a personal achievement but also a victory for society.
“Girls who are insecure about their bodies, girls who feel fat, girls who have cellulite, girls who have stretch marks on their body — those are all the things that I had as a kid and I never had a woman like me growing up to look at,” Graham said, “I want to dedicate it to all of the women out there who never felt that they were beautiful enough, who never felt like they were skinny enough, and who never felt like they were going to be able to be represented in society like this,” because now we’re being represented.”
And Graham is definitely right about that, whether it sells a product or not….it is pretty revolutionary to represent women of all shapes and sizes so that young girls are able to not only see themselves in media but form a broader definition of what beauty means.