"Society has taught us that if you have a bigger body, you must cover up. That narrative is changing now."

By Kylie Gilbert
May 29, 2018
Photo: Anastasia Garcia

Last year, model Hunter McGrady made history as the curviest model to ever appear in the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. The size 16 model quickly became a body-pos role model, using her newfound platform to encourage all women to love and embrace their bodies-even if they haven't seen themselves represented in the past.

At the time, she shared this important message: "Women, for anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable or insecure because of rolls, or stretch marks, or cellulite, or acne, or felt like you didn't measure up because you weren't represented in the magazines-THIS IS FOR YOU! You are beautiful. You are STRONG. You are powerful and together we need to lift each other up and inspire one another." (Related: This Instagrammer Is Sharing Why It's So Important to Love Your Body As It Is)

Now, she's continuing to spread the message of inclusivity by following in the footsteps of fellow SI model Ashley Graham and launching a plus-size swimwear line. The 10-piece capsule collection is a collaboration with London-based swim and lingerie brand Playful Promises and includes sporty one-pieces and sexy lace and mesh bikinis. It's available in U.S. sizes 14–20 (and 38–44 C–I for bra tops). And, importantly, it's also just as affordable as swimsuits you'd see in smaller sizes (if not more so)-the most expensive suit is $70.

Photo: Anastasia Garcia

McGrady says she was inspired to create the collection based on her own constant frustrations with swimsuit shopping. "I remember one time, in particular, going with my best friend swimsuit shopping at a huge department store. She is about a size 6 and she had a stack of amazing options. The only one I found was a tankini with Hawaiian flowers on it," she tells Shape. "I started crying because it was devastating that retailers were basically saying that curvy women are not worthy of the same things."

That's why she was adamant about creating designs that don't cover up curvy women's bodies but celebrate them, she says. "I have always found that plus-size swimsuits cover everything up, are ill-fitting, not supportive, and have awful, dated designs. I wanted women to put on these suits and feel supported but sexy."

Photo: Anastasia Garcia

Bottom line, the collection is about giving women options-no matter what size. "I want to see women of all shapes and sizes strutting their stuff in exactly what they want-whether it be a tankini, a high-cut one-piece, or an itty-bitty string bikini! We are worthy and we are here to slay the beach and be SEEN!" she says. "Society has taught us that if you have a bigger body, you must cover up. That narrative is changing now. I never want any girl to feel like I did in that dressing room."

When it comes to feeling confident in a bathing suit on the beach, she adds that despite her SI Swim Rookie 2018 title, she's "only human" and still gets anxious putting on a bathing suit like many women. "The thing I've learned is that we all have [insecurities] in one way or another. The only reason we see them as a 'flaw' is because society has deemed them that. To me, stretch marks signify my growth-it's a beautiful thing. I embrace it!" (Related: Denise Bidot Shares Why She Loves the Stretch Marks On Her Stomach)

She offers this advice up to anyone struggling to accept their body, especially heading into summer pool season. "Look in that mirror before the beach and tell yourself that you are beautiful, you are strong, your stretch marks and cellulite are amazing, and you are WORTHY. We are all worthy."