'Plus size?' 'Real women have curves?' SI model wants to change the conversation

Meet Hunter McGrady, the role model your daughter needs

Hunter McGrady attends Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2017's NYC launch event in February in New York City.
Hunter McGrady attends Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2017's NYC launch event in February in New York City. (Nicholas Hunt/Getty-Sports Illustrated)

Hunter McGrady has been getting a lot of attention ever since she was featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition as one of the Rookies of the Year.

McGrady is the curviest model ever shown in the magazine, according to People magazine.

The 23-year-old has been approached by plenty of people saying things like, “Finally, a real woman with curves!” she told Teen Vogue.

But for McGrady, it’s not a compliment.

“For me I'm like, ‘What do you mean, a real woman? A real woman is a size 0 to 22 or 24 and everything in between and more.’ ...  I think that all women are beautiful, and we have to accept that and lift each other up and be confident for one another, and for all sizes,” she said to Teen Vogue.

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And then there’s the term “plus size.”

McGrady has said in several published reports that she understands why the phrase is used in the modeling industry. And she certainly doesn’t shy away from the label. But McGrady told Teen Vogue she thinks the term is outdated.

When asked what she would prefer, she responded, “Just model Hunter McGrady,” adding that models are all doing the same job, and it shouldn’t matter. No one is calling out the other women, specifying a size with a name, like “size-2 model so-and-so,” McGrady has pointed out on several occasions.

McGrady has been quite vocal about body positivity, and seems to be using her platform -- especially on her social media accounts -- to spread a message of self-acceptance and encouragement to other women.

“My body is WORTHY,” she posted on Instagram earlier this month. “YOU are worthy. We are ALL worthy. I've started a new hashtag #AllWorthy and I am leaving it open-ended as that can be filled in with so many incredible words. We are #AllWorthy of feeling sexy in our skin. #AllWorthy of being loved #AllWorthy of being powerful #AllWorthy of having a voice. Tag your photos with #AllWorthy and fill in the blank, I want to see all you beautiful, worthy, dynamite people.”

McGrady has grown up familiar with the industry, as her mother was a model and her father worked as an actor.

She started modeling at the age of 16, and went to a casting call where she was told she was too big. McGrady, who is 5 feet 11 inches tall, was a size 2 at the time, she’s said in published reports.

She was upset by the request, saying she already felt unsatisfied, unhealthy and depressed at a size 2. McGrady said she couldn’t imagine getting any smaller.

So she took a few years off, then came back at the age of 19 and was booked quickly with Wilhelmina Models.

McGrady said she didn’t know about all the options for curvier girls. But opportunities are out there, and she's grateful for that.

“If your body type doesn't fit with a size 0, 2, 4, whatever, then it's not going to fit that,” she said in her Teen Vogue interview. “You can't go around that, you know what I mean? I naturally sit at about a size 14. I just felt beautiful, I felt comfortable, I felt confident, and it radiated and I was booking jobs left and right.”

McGrady has been making connections, too. She said she’s received a very positive response from people, saying things such as, “I have cellulite, too,” and “You’ve helped me to feel better in my own skin.”

When asked about loving her own body, McGrady said in a PopSugar video, “It’s a mindset. I’m going to do this for me. This is what I need for myself.”

She also doesn’t want people to think “curvy” means letting yourself go. It’s about being healthy at a weight that works for your body.

McGrady said she eats healthy food and works out every day.

For her fitness goals, she idolizes Beyonce.

"She is spot on," McGrady said in an interview with E! News. "She's thick, but she looks bomb all the time. Even pregnant, she is my fitness role model.”

And although the fashion industry still has a long way to go, McGrady said -- adding that anything above a size 6 in New York is considered plus size -- “We’ve needed to have this conversation about body acceptance and diversity,” she told PopSugar.

If you’re a woman, sometimes it seems like someone will always criticize you, or want you to be taller, shorter or skinnier. But you can’t live your life listening to that, McGrady has said.

And to be recognized by Sports Illustrated, “The fact that (they used) a curvy model is beyond my wildest dreams. I’m doing this not only for me, but for every woman out there who has ever felt uncomfortable in their body,” she told the magazine.

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