Aly Raisman may wear a leotard much of the time, but that doesn’t mean the gymnast doesn’t get apprehensive about showing off her body.
The two-time Olympian posed for some steamy photos in the 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, including a few topless shots, and says she was anything but hesitant at the photo shoot.
“It was very weird because at the shoot I wasn’t nervous because I felt so comfortable,” Raisman, 22, told PEOPLE Now on the red carpet for the SI Swimsuit edition launch party. “It’s an incredible feeling to feel so confidant and comfortable and to know that I have insecurities just like everyone else.”
She added, “Doing the shoot, I was like, ‘This is the day where I’m not gonna worry; I’m not gonna be insecure. I’m gonna have fun.’ And it was seriously one of the best days of my life.”
Raisman’s favorite picture, however, is one that shows off her flexibility in a black bikini.
“I just feel like I’m a model!” she explains. “My legs just look so long. I was really proud of it because I don’t look 5’2″ in there.”
In an Instagram video posted by the gold medalist as part of SI Swimsuit’s partnership with the @WomenIRL Instagram account and Health.com, she says, “I model because it makes me feel happy, strong, feminine and beautiful. I think it’s such an empowering feeling to be at a photoshoot and to know that you’re not perfect and that you have insecurities just like everyone else but you’re still having so much fun because you know you’re unique and beautiful in your own way.”
She continued, “I also model because, when I was younger, I used to get made fun of by the boys in my class. They told me that I was too strong, that I looked manly and that I was anorexic and looked like I was on steroids. Of course that really bothered me and I used to hate the way that I looked. Which, looking back, it makes me feel really sad but that’s why I’m so proud to be in the SI Swim 2017 issue. Because, at 22 years old, I feel strong and beautiful in my own way. There is no perfect body type.”
Kate Upton covers the annual SI edition for this year for the third time, on newsstands now.