Precious Lee Makes History as a Black Plus-Size Model in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

Lee tells People about her tear-jerking gig for Lane Bryant's "This Body Is Made For" campaign

Model Precious Lee is making her Sports Illustrated swim debut. And her look is sure to make a splash.

Lee stars in a brand new Lane Bryant advertisement, featured inside the upcoming 2016 issue, where she shows off her curves in sexy white lingerie. The ad message is simple: “This body is made to be uncovered.” And for Lee, she says it’s all about making strides in a “not-so-diverse industry.”

Precious Lee Lane Bryant

Lane Bryant

“This campaign is more interactive and it allows women to say what their body is made for,” Lee tells PEOPLE. “It allows people to turn the mirror around, and I think that it’s amazing.”

Lee was not sure what the historical impact of the advertisement would be until the day of the shoot. “I didn’t know exactly what I was shooting for until I was out on set,” she says. “So I was truly surprised and I wanted to cry but I had to literally walk on set.”

This isn’t the first time Lee will made modeling history. Last September, she was the first black plus size-model in Vogue, a magazine she loved reading growing up. Then, she says the models were more relatable.

“I loved all of the ’90s models. I’m so happy I had that,” she explains. “Although they weren’t plus-size, they were larger than the average model today.”

Today, Lee says she surrounds herself with inspirational friends in the plus-size model community, like her good friend Robin Lawley, the first-ever plus-size model to get her own page in Sports Illustrated‘s 2015 swim issue.

“Every day, I’m around such strong, amazing women,” she says. “We have a really close community. We all feel like we’re in this together and kind of fighting for a greater cause.”

Other groundbreaking campaigns for the SI Swim issue, features 2016 SI Rookie Ashley Graham (who’s still having the best month ever), British Ghanian model and humanitarian, Philomena Kwao (pictured below), and 56-year-old Nicola Griffin, whose age makes her the oldest woman to ever be included within the pages of the magazine.

swimsuitsforall #SwimSexy Campaign Sports Illustrated

Courtesy swimsuitsforall

Still, Lee can’t grasp why more plus-size models aren’t being tapped for most campaigns, saying the average woman is a size 14 and that the plus-size industry is “a billion dollar industry.”

“I don’t understand why designers wouldn’t be capitalizing on such a huge part of the market,” she says. “People don’t know they actually make clothes in larger sizes, but you don’t see them in campaigns. So, you would never know.”

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Lee has joined this campaign to work toward making her industry a normalized part of the fashion world. But to start, she’s working on being the face of a lot of “firsts.”

“I want to do the things that haven’t been done before,” she says. “That’s my thing. Being the first, opening doors in general are the things I’m dreaming about right now.”

And what’s next for the barrier-breaking beauty? She wants people to look up.

“Beauty doesn’t have a sample size,” she says, citing cosmetics or skincare as her next dream campaign. “Showing off my skin and my eyes — it doesn’t necessarily have to be about my hips and curves.”

For her, it’s about making her “hips and curves” more commonly seen in the modeling world. “I want to continue the revolution,” she says of the fight to encourage the “plus is equal” mentality. “Going down in history as something that really changed and now is normal.”

You can catch Lee in the 2016 swim issue of SI on newsstands later this month. What do you think of her Lane Bryant ad? Sound off below.
–Blake Bakkila

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