Though Ashley Graham’s cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition has been heralded as groundbreaking/life-affirming/historic [insert any excited adjective of your choice here], she’s actually one of three covergirls; the others are MMA fighter Ronda Rousey and model Hailey Clauson.
While last year’s 50th anniversary issue featured three women on one cover, they’ve broken them up this year. As the first plus-size model to be featured on the cover or even in the magazine, Graham’s inclusion has gotten the most attention. She’s also featured in an ad for Swimsuits for All, just as she was last year, which—despite the fact that it was but a paid advertisement in the magazine and not editorial copy—was considered groundbreaking then. But including Rousey (an actual athlete) on the cover, body-painting and all, is also noteworthy for a publication that favors models over female athletes it regularly does not cover. Clauson’s the only one of the three with a more normal-for-SI-type bod.
Though some might find it odd Graham wasn’t deemed worthy of holding her own on the cover of the issue, the shift to featuring several women was, according to the magazine, part of a long-overdue shift in how they want to portray women.
“Every single woman that is booked for this magazine is cover worthy,” explained Assistant Managing editor MJ Day. “The collective beauty in the magazine is overwhelming. SI has always been and will always be about the models; the pictures you see here are a celebration of them.”
“The three covers of Hailey, Ronda and Ashley celebrate the new SI Swimsuit. All three women are beautiful, sexy and strong. 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.”
The women had nothing but praise for this change. “My body is the average size American woman, a size 14, and they’re wanting to see those types of bodies in Sports Illustrated,” Graham said in an interview; elsewhere, she claimed that the photos were not retouched. “They’re really setting a really healthy and positive standard for all women,” Rousey said. For her part, Clauson discussed struggling with modeling as her body changed past her teen years, saying she “decided to actually stick with the womanly body” she was growing into.
Inside the magazine, however, you’ll see some familiar faces: Chrissy Teigen, Gigi Hadid, Chanel Iman, Lily Aldridge, and Hannah Davis. But! Lindsey Vonn, Caroline Wozniacki, and Robin Lawley also make appearances.
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Images via Sports Illustrated