Hunter McGrady doesn’t like the label “plus size.”
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model says she prefers to describe herself as a “curve” model, but wishes she didn’t have to use a term to classify her size at all.
” ‘Curve’ I find is a more glamorous way of saying it. ‘Plus size’ has just gotten this dirty stigma. But I would love no labels [at all],” McGrady, 23, tells PEOPLE. “I would love to be able to tell people that I’m a model, and not have to clarify that I’m a plus size model.”
“I do the same thing as the other girls,” she continues. “I get paid the same, I show up at the same time, we get treated the same. So why would I be called something else?”
McGrady says it unnecessarily singles her out from other women in the industry.
“I think it’s a form of segregation,” she says. “I think it sets us back so many years, and I would love to completely get rid of it, and it may not happen, but we’re working on it.”
The model, who fulfilled a lifelong dream this year as one of SI Swim’s 2017 rookies, wasn’t always categorized as “curve.” When she started out in the industry at age 15, she was an 114-lb., size 2/4 model, but she was fighting her body’s natural shape to stay that way.
“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 says. “At that time I thought my dreams of becoming a model were crushed.”
At 19, she heard about curve modeling and went for a meeting with Wilhelmina Models, where they signed her immediately. Since then, the success has just kept coming.
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“It just goes to show how much we need this in the media. Women want to see this — women and men,” McGrady says. “It’s been far too long that we’ve seen one type of person being portrayed, and the fact that I can change that stereotype is very, very cool.”