Curve ball: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition features first plus sized model, but what took so long?

02/05/15 by Rennie Detore

The internet and social media began buzzing when Sports Illustrated, more specifically the much lauded and iconic "Swimsuit Edition" announced the inclusion of Ashley Graham, a 27 year old model as part of a new line of swimwear dubbed swimsuitsforall.
As much as that sounds like business as usual at Sports Illustrated as it relates to their swimsuit issue, Graham will be the first plus sized model to be featured in that particular issue, even if it is part of an ad that was purchased as part of the magazine.
Still, Graham's appearance in the "Swimsuit Edition" has been met with a slew of positive feedback given that Sports Illustrated and its bathing suit piece typically features the more "traditional" models who sports sizes that remain in the single digit category.

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I'm not inclined so much to give credit to Sports Illustrated or shake the hands of the editors who ultimately determined that giving Graham a spot in the magazine, albeit a paid one, was some sort of noble or groundbreaking act of feminism that should be met with some sort of parade or adulation that borders on pandemonium.
No, the question I have is what exactly took so long to finally have what is dubbed a "plus sized" model to appear in the coveted "Swimsuit Edition." Graham is a beautiful, stunning young woman who embraces her body type as her own and, rightfully so, isn't ashamed that she is "curvy." If you listen to her talk about her physique, she speaks highly of not only how she feels about herself, but the fact that she's empowered to reach out through her photo shoots and words to younger, teenage girls who might be conflicted as to what they should look like, or at least what they're subliminally being told.
Magazine covers, television, print and social media make a mockery of body image for both men and women. You could argue that the latter sex is more affected by what they see and hear in terms of what is deemed fat, skinny or normal. What is typically sold as the standard of which perfection is judged is shameful and leads to influencing impressionable girls and boys who believe that if they don't have abs or toned legs that they'll somehow not be part of society.
If you believe that sentiment is somehow overly dramatic, you haven't paid much attention to the increase in body image and eating disorders that have become prevalent as a result of this new norm. Parents play an integral part in the explanation of real versus what can only be called make believe within the pages of these magazines or anything found online of this ilk. Moms and dads undoubtedly heap praise on their children in this regard in the hopes of pushing self esteem in the direction that easily trumps anything their kids see or hear that is contrary.
Parents, however, are not the trump card that most believe them to be. They can have an impact for certain, but to what degree they're effective really hasn't been determined or verified as moving the proverbial needle on body image or how their teens believe they look versus reality.
I can say that Graham being featured in Sports Illustrated as part of the "Swimsuit Edition" certainly can be viewed as a step in the right direction, but let's call it what it is: a baby step. Models like Graham always belonged in the "Swimsuit Issue," particularly in recent years, and editors suddenly having a change of heart hardly feels like a page turner it would have been a decade or so ago.

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