5 Things to Know About Ashley Graham, 'Sports Illustrated' Swimsuit Issue's First Size-16 Cover Girl

She made headlines last year for getting in an ad for the special issue, but now she's earned the cover honors

Photo: James Macari/Sports Illustrated

Ashley Graham is changing the modeling world.

The size-16 model and body activist is the first to cover Sports Illustrated‘s iconic swimsuit issue. Though she made the annual issue last year, it was just in an ad for plus-size swimwear brand swimsuitsforall – Graham’s starring role represents a seismic shift from the magazine’s past 51 cover models.

Here’s five things you need to know about this curvaceous beauty.

1. She’s taking the modeling world by storm
Along with her SI cover spread, she’s starring in denim brand NYDJ’s "Fit to Be" campaign, Forever21’s new plus-size activewear campaign, swimsuitsforall’s brand new #SwimSexy ad going in the swimsuit edition, and Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody campaign. And that’s just in the last few weeks. Phew.

2. Plus, she’s got a clothing line of her own
Graham got her start in lingerie modeling (to wit: “My first [modeling] job ever was lingerie,” she told Yahoo! Health. “My mom had to sign a petition that said they would airbrush my nipples out!”), so it’s no surprise that she would start her own line of intimates.

Graham modeled the sexy collection herself last September at New York Fashion Week (and unsurprisingly, she looked stunning).

RELATED VIDEO: Meet Ashley Graham, the First Plus-Size Model to Be Featured in the SI Swimsuit Issue

3. She gave a sold-out TED Talk on body diversity

Graham is open about feeling insecure about her body, and shared how she moved past it during her TEDxBerkleeValencia talk in Spain last May.

“I felt free once I realized I was never going to fit the mold that society wanted me to fit in,” she said. “I was never going to be perfect enough for an industry that defines perfection from the outside and that’s okay. Rolls, curves, cellulite, all of it – I love every part of me.”

And she’s hopeful for a future where all women will feel just as confident.

“This is the generation of body diversity,” Graham concluded. “The current is changing.”

4. She wants to ditch the phrase ‘real women’
As someone with a body that skews closer to the average woman in the United States, Graham constantly hears that she represents ‘real women’ – but she’s not a fan of the term.

“I don’t like to use the words ‘real women,’ honestly,” she told Elle in February. “I like to use the word ‘woman.’ And I say that because there are so many women out there who are naturally thin, or are naturally curvy.”

“I think when we start putting a label on the type of woman it gets misconstrued and starts to offend people,” she continued. “At the end of the day we just all want to be known as women or models or actresses or whatever.”

5. She’s not afraid to throw shade at brands that diminish curvy women
Graham proudly posed for Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel lingerie campaign in April, which not-too-subtly critiqued the controversial Victoria’s Secret “Perfect Body” ads. And when Protein World put up their provocative posters with the words “Are You Beach Body Ready” next to a slim model, Graham wasted no time, posing for her own, body-positive version of the ad.

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