The 28-year-old model spills on her top honor

By Brittany Talarico
Updated February 15, 2016 06:49 PM

Ashley Graham’s history-making Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover was not photoshopped, and the size 16 model wants to make sure everyone knows it.

Graham joined her fellow SI Swim cover model Hailey Clauson on Access Hollywood Live Monday, and shared that the cover image is 100 percent authentic.

James Macari/Sports Illustrated

“They [Sports Illustrated editors] did not retouch me,” she said. “They did not take out things. They didn’t reshape my body in any way, shape or form.”

The 28-year-old body activist added that she hopes the three diverse covers will prompt more women to pick up the magazine.

“I think what’s happening is more women who probably didn’t even think to pick up the issue are actually going to say, ‘Wow, I’m being represented here today. I’m gong to take this, look through it and hopefully be empowered.'”

She also shared that she disagrees with the plus-size term used in today’s industry.

“I hate a label. I think that when we introduce Hailey, we don’t say, ‘This is skinny girl Hailey, and this is plus-size Ashley,'” she explained. “We’re both models. At the end of the day. I just want to be recognized as a model. Yes, I got curves. Yes, I got things that I like to flaunt and talk about and be called curvy, sexilicious, but at the end of the day I don’t want a label.”

Credit: James Macari/Sports Illustrated

James Macari/Sports Illustrated

Graham, who says her favorite feature is her “hourglass shape,” added that she was really surprised that SI decided to give her a coveted cover spot.

“I knew the fact that I was going to be in the pages of Sports Illustrated was going to be a huge deal, just because the fact that I’m a size 14-16 sexy lady, but to actually be on the cover, I didn’t think that Sports Illustrated was going to take that risk,” she said. “But right now what they are doing is they are setting the standard for what everybody else — magazines, designers, people in Hollywood, should be doing.”

For Graham, the societal impact is just as exciting as her personal career achievement.

“Girls who are insecure about their bodies, girls who feel fat, girls who have cellulite, girls who have stretch marks on their body — those are all the things that I had as a kid and I never had a woman like me growing up to look at,” Graham told People at Saturday’s reveal party. “I had my mother and that’s one thing, but to have somebody who has cellulite, who has things that jiggle, who has back fat and talk about how you can be an overcomer and not let society take you down for all of that. That’s real.”

What’s next for the star? Graham said she can’t wait to continue breaking barriers in the modeling world.

“This is everything,” she said. “Sports Illustrated has opened up doors for everyone. Tyra Banks wrote me this morning and said, ‘Congratulations. This was a pivotal moment in my career and this is going to be a pivotal moment in your career.'”

She also hopes her cover girl status will connect her with another famous SI girl.

“I can’t wait to meet Kathy Ireland. She is my number one queen goddess. I love her.”

What do you think of Graham’s cover? Sound off below.

–Brittany Talarico