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Body Positivity

From a Size 2 to Sports Illustrated Swim's Curviest Model Ever: Hunter McGrady Is 'Much Happier' at a Size 16

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Hunter McGrady
Instagram; Rob Kim/FilmMagic

As a 16-year-old model, Hunter McGrady spent hours toiling away in the gym and starving herself to maintain her 114-lb., size-2/4 frame. But she was miserable — and she wasn’t booking jobs.

“My hips were always the bigger part of my body, and I was already so thin that I couldn’t keep shaving them down. I physically could not. And everyone was telling me that I could,” McGrady, 23, tells PEOPLE. “At that time I thought my dreams of becoming a model were crushed.”

And when she did get gigs, they weren’t going well.

“I walked into one of my very first modeling jobs at a size 4. They looked at me and said, ‘We didn’t realize you were this big,’ and they sent me home,” McGrady recalls. “And I was so upset, and so livid, that I was getting picked at, already, at just a young 16 years old.”

#flashbackfriday At age 15 I was told by 4 agencies that I needed to lose 3 inches off of my hips to be a model which would have put me at a size 00. I would desperately work out for hours and eat few calories per day, HOPING I could fit the bill. It wasn't until 18 years old, 3 years of insecurities brought on because I thought I wasn't good enough, that I wouldn't measure up! I realized that my body was not built to be that thin. Today, I'm so thankful I'm able to pursue my dream and still promote a healthy body image. He will fill the desires of your heart! Chains are broken! I see it in so many young girls these days who are striving to have a thigh gap, or for their hip bones to stick out, or to fit a size 0. Not everyone's body structure is made like that. Be the healthiest you, you can be. Be active, use the things God provided for you, focus on HIM and Embrace the body The Lord gave you! HE CREATED YOU IN HIS PERFECT IMAGE! You can't deny his sweet creations!

A post shared by Hunter McGrady (@huntermcgrady) on

Fed up with trying to force her 5’11” body to be something it wasn’t, McGrady decided to accept her shape — curves and all.

“I love my body now. I love everything about it,” she says. “I’ve been an 18, I’ve been a 10/12, and I’ve been everything in between. Right now I sit at a 14/16, and I love it, because this is my God-given body.”

Someone commented one of my posts this morning saying "stop hating on skinny people" and to that I replied "pull up one post where I have ever shown anything but love for every BODY and I will label myself a fraud." What I promote is not strictly being curvy. Do i support it and think you should Rock it out? yes. Do I think if you're thin you should rock that out as well? ABSOLUTELY. What I promote is a HEALTHY BODY IMAGE. Ive been on both ends of the spectrum. I was not happy or healthy when I weighed 114 lbs. and starved myself to make other people happy. I was living for what I thought I was supposed to look like. If you are naturally born with a stature like that then that is wonderful. I am not, and I will never apologize for that. I promote being the best you. Get honest with yourself! Love your body, don't ever hide it or apologize for it. Like I've said many times before, skinny, curvy, athletic, short, tall, black, white, blue, whatever you are. You are perfect. Don't let anyone tell you you need to change. If you're happy, don't change a damn thing about yourself. #effyourbeautystandards #nowrongwaytobeawoman #curves #athletic #skinny #beautiful #wilhelminacurve #daretobedifferent #imnoangel

A post shared by Hunter McGrady (@huntermcgrady) on

About four years ago, McGrady heard about curve modeling and went to Wilhelmina Models, where they signed her on the spot. She immediately landed jobs with Lucky Brand, Bare Necessities, Lane Bryant and more, but her big dream was the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

“I always told myself that one way or another I was going to get in there.”

RELATED VIDEO: Hunter McGrady Is One of Sports Illustrated‘s 2017 Rookies!


In December, she got the call — and she made a serious splash when the issue came out Feb. 15.

Hunter McGrady in the 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, on sale now
Josephine Clough Swimsuit Issue 2017

“It’s a moment — not just for me, but for women in history — to be in this issue. Finally, we’re being heard,” McGrady says. “I just want women to see this and feel inspired and feel sexy and feel like they can own their body and own their skin. And men, too!”