Plus-Size Model Hunter McGrady Was Against “Hiding Anything” in Her SI Swimsuit Photos

Courtesy Sports Illustrated/James Macari/Getty Images

Hunter McGrady is no longer a rookie when it comes to posing for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition. The 26-year-old plus-size model has appeared in the Swimsuit issue three times and it shows, particularly in her latest shoot — where she confidently and sexily rolls around in the sand. She brings that same confidence into the room with her for her interview with InStyle. Dressed in a bright pink, belted dress, she sits on a chair beside me and tells me not to worry as I move my water far, far away from her black Saint Laurent bag (I’m too prone to spills to listen).

It’s easy to feel as captivated with Hunter as Aidy Bryant’s character, Annie, was on Hulu’s Shrill (Hunter, by the way, was the iconic lady in red), but the model quickly makes me feel comfortable, as if I were gossiping with a pal at Starbucks. We dive right into all things Swim, and start talking about Hunter’s fierce repertoire of poses.

Image zoom Courtesy Sports Illustrated/James Macari/Getty Images

“I just do what I feel is sexy — it’s never about hiding anything,” she tells me, after praising how the magazine has embraced diversity over the years. “It’s never about ‘Oh, let me tuck this in, let me do this, let me do that.’ I really want to showcase my body as it is. It’s so important that it’s prevalent in the images that are picked.”

RELATED: Tyra Banks Came Out of Supermodel Retirement for the Cover of SI Swim

What’s also important to Hunter is letting people know that there’s a full team involved in capturing her perfect moment — “Hair, makeup, lighting, photographers,” she lists, admitting there’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes (ex: leg cramps) that people don’t see. Still, even on the normal day, she isn’t shy. When I ask what she looks for when swimsuit shopping, Hunter smirks and says she’s the worst person to answer this question.

“I think less is more. I love a teeny-tiny bikini. I also think an old-school, Pamela-Anderson-in-Baywatch, high-leg, one-piece is so sexy. I’m not, like, a tankini girl. I have nothing again them — there are some really amazing tankinis and high-waisted swimsuits — but I just prefer a teeny-tiny bikini.”

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A post shared by Hunter McGrady (@huntermcgrady) on May 6, 2019 at 4:13pm PDT

Eventually, the conversation drifts over to Hunter’s part on Shrill, which the model is visibly excited to talk about.

“I’ve never gotten more DMs in my life than about that moment,” she beams, referring to the memorable scene where Annie follows her character around. “I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of women support out there!’”

Hunter says that she was thrilled when she heard the show got picked up for a second season.

“We need more shows that feature all different body types. There’s a particular pool scene with all these incredible women, from all walks of life, of all body types. I wish every pool scene was taped like that — fun, enjoying yourself, living your life as you are. We should all be enjoying ourselves and our bodies and stop putting so much stress on .”

I wonder out loud if this career move means that we’ll be seeing Hunter — whose dad, Michael McGrady, is also actor — pop up on screens more often.

“That’s something I’ve always been interested in,” she says before pausing. “Again, for acting it’s the same as modeling — plus-size women are not quite as seen in that world. I would love to see more plus-size women, I would love to see different body types, different walks of life on screen. That’s so important, and I think that movement has to happen.”

RELATED: Rebel Wilson Always Knew She’d Make It

Image zoom huntermcgrady/Instagram

Hunter seems so wise, so confident, and she’s so clearly passionate about changing the world that it’s hard not to consider her a “role model.” But, when asked about the pressures to come with the title, she is honest.

“I’ve kind of been given this title,” Hunter tells me. “I try to use it wisely and be the best person that I can be; I try to wake up, and always practice what I preach, and feel confident, and all that stuff. But, of course, I’m only human. There are days where I may say, ‘Today’s the day we’ve got to love our bodies and love our stretch marks,’ but then there are days where I don’t want to get out of bed. I’ve battled depression and anxiety, and at the end of the day, we’re all the same. We’re all human.”

Hunter just so happens to be a human who continues to inspire others — and is also the physical embodiment of the fire emoji in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, which is out now.

There Are Four Plus Size Models In The ‘Sports Illustrated’ Swimsuit Issue & It’s Pretty Rad — PHOTOS

On Feb. 15, Sports Illustrated announced its 2017 Swimsuit Issue, including four plus size models: Swimsuit Issue alums Ashley Graham and Robyn Lawley, as well as Hunter McGrady and Myla Dalbesio. In 2016, Graham became the first plus size model to cover the Swimsuit Issue, and Lawley in 2015 was the first plus size model to ever be featured in the hallowed, sea-soaked pages of the annual swimwear edition.

Graham and Lawley aren’t the only history-makers — Dalbesio was the first size-10 underwear model for Calvin Klein.

McGrady shared one of her Swimsuit Issue snaps on Instagram, saying in the caption, “This is a surreal moment for me. You guys I have been bursting to tell you all about this! I want to thank @MJ_Day for an opportunity like this and for being a force in this industry and everyone at @si_swimsuit for promoting that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Beauty is not a number. It has no limits. I have never felt sexier than I did in this shoot.”

The four women comprise the largest group of plus size models to be featured in a Swimsuit Issue, double the number of plus size women featured in last year’s edition.

In an Instagram post from Feb. 13, Dalbesio celebrated a decade’s worth of work and encouraged her fellow women to keep on keepin’ on. “Life is surreal and cool sometimes,” she said. “If I could tell you the hours and days and weeks I have spent worrying about the future of my career. Would my body ever work in the fashion industry? Would people get me, appreciate what I have to say? If my ‘big break’ would come? And if it did, would I have the sense to realize it and appreciate it?”

She continued, “Well… I appreciate it. I waited and worked for a decade for this, and I really really want to tell everyone out there but ESPECIALLY girls who feel marginalized and ESPECIALLY girls who do not have ‘traditional’ model bodies but are still trying to grind in the fashion industry (and in life): DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!”

Graham’s Insta announcement was low-key, simply saying, “si_swimsuit 2017,” with a shot of her in a gold-studded bikini.

In an interview with ELLE about her 2016 cover, Graham talked about nabbing the Swimsuit Issue’s prime spot. “This cover will go down in the history books,” she said. “For so long I never thought that I could get covers. For so long I thought that I was so big and so thick that people like Sports Illustrated wouldn’t look at me — and for so long I had people telling me that that wouldn’t happen. I had managers telling me that wouldn’t happen. It was proof yesterday that no matter what your dreams and goals and desires are to be whatever in the industry you’re in, you can do it.”

Lawley shared a shot from the Swimsuit Issue showing her in a puka-shell-tasselled bikini, and in her caption praised SI editor MJ Day for her work on the issue. “his will be my 3rd time back to back in @Si_swimsuit issue,” she wrote, “and it just keeps getting better and better. I’m in awe of @mj_day and how she brings such body diversity to this and previous issues.”

Graham, Lawley, McGrady, and Dalbesio’s statements are a reminder that while it’s excellent to see the number of plus size Swimsuit Issue models doubling from year to year, there is much more progress to be made. It’s imperative that the industry move toward a world where plus size models and hopefuls don’t have to worry about whether they will have a career because of the size of their body.

You can check out shots of all the 2017 Swimsuit Issue models on Sports Illustrated’s website.

While many people applauded Sports Illustrated for putting full-figured model Ashley Graham on the cover of this year’s Swimsuit Issue, former SI swimsuit covergirl Cheryl Tiegs was clearly not one of them.

Former Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model Cheryl Tiegs has criticized SI for putting plus-size model Ashley Graham on the cover of this year’s issue, saying her appearance is “not healthy.”Getty Images / Sports Illustrate

Tiegs, 68, who appeared three times on the cover of the Swimsuit Issue in the 1970s and ’80s, has faced a backlash after she suggested Graham, a model who is a size 16, was not “healthy.”

We apologize, this video has expired.

Cheryl Tiegs criticizes Ashley Graham’s ‘Sports Illustrated’ cover

Feb. 26, 201603:04

“I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 (inches),” Tiegs told E! News at a pre-Oscar event on Wednesday night.

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RELATED: Plus-size model Ashley Graham’s lingerie line shows sexy doesn’t have to mean skinny

Her comments have drawn heavy criticism on social media.

Thanks @CherylTiegs for taking us back to the 1950s. Seriously minds like ur cause eating disorders in our youth #thickisin #plussizehealthy

— sharon (@nocaresgiven11) February 26, 2016

@CherylTiegs Stop. You are not the standard anymore. Women come in all shapes and sizes, why not celebrate that? You are not a doctor.

— Artistic Wings (@artisticwings) February 26, 2016

Thank you Cheryl Tiegs for sending a message out to the youth saying you shouldn’t love yourself unless your waist is less than 35″.

— Alice Gibson (@Alicegibson32) February 26, 2016

Tiegs and Graham did not respond to request for comment by TODAY, but Tiegs tried to clarify her comments on Twitter.

To clarify re bodyweight. Being anorexic/bulimic/overweight all connected to health problems. I want all to be as healthy as they can.

— Cheryl Tiegs (@CherylTiegs) February 26, 2016

Graham, 27, made history as the first plus-size beauty to grace the cover of the Swimsuit Issue. The magazine released three versions of its famed issue this year. Mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey and fashion model Hailey Clauson appeared on the other two.

While Graham has not specifically responded to Tiegs’ comments, she spoke about body image with TODAY.com after unveiling her lingerie line in the U.S. in September 2015.

“Think and speak positively about your body and other women’s bodies,” she said. “And never compare yourself to someone else. There is no right size and there is no wrong size. We are all built differently, and that’s a good thing! Celebrate and embrace your differences.”

RELATED: Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs on secrets to beauty, happiness and life after modeling

Graham also noted that she does not promote anorexia or obesity in an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Thursday.

“I think we have to promote women to be healthy at every size as long as they’re getting off the couch and moving their body,” she told DeGeneres.

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Ashley Graham gives behind-the-scenes look at Sports Illustrated shoot

Feb. 15, 201602:27

Cheryl Tiegs Apologizes ‘to Everyone I Have Hurt’ After Body Shaming Ashley Graham

After setting off a firestorm with her criticism of size-16 model Ashley Graham last Thursday, former SI model Cheryl Tiegs tweeted out an apology.

“My sincere apologies to everyone I have hurt. I truly just want everyone to be healthy & happy,” she tweeted Friday.

My sincere apologies to everyone I have hurt. I truly just want everyone to be healthy & happy.

— Cheryl Tiegs (@CherylTiegs) February 26, 2016

Tiegs also retweeted another user, who was responding to someone asking “Why is old @CherylTiegs fat-shaming that pretty lady Ashley Graham?” with, “Guess that’s between them. Ashley is not fat and Cheryl looks great.”

@bwilliam46 @CherylTiegs @SInow Guess that’s between them. Ashley is not fat and Cheryl looks great.

— I’m so right❤❤MAGA🎵 (@RUSTIMCCOLLUM) February 27, 2016

Tiegs had said Wednesday night that she thinks the rise of “full-figured women,” like Graham on the cover of SI‘s Swimsuit Issue, is problematic for the message it sends.

“I don’t like it that we’re talking about full-figured women because we’re glamorizing them, and your waist should be smaller than 35 ,” Tiegs said. “That’s what Dr. Oz said and I’m sticking to it.” When PEOPLE reached out, representatives for Dr. Oz had no comment.

“I don’t think it’s healthy,” Tiegs added, referring to Graham. “Her face is beautiful, beautiful. But I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.”

The two-time SI cover model attempted to explain her comments on Thursday, only to encounter more criticism. Tiegs has since deleted the tweet.

“To clarify re bodyweight. Being anorexic/bulimic/overweight all connected to health problems,” Tiegs had tweeted. “I want all to be as healthy as they can.”

Meanwhile, others have come out in support of Graham, who told PEOPLE she has “no comment” on Tiegs’ statements. Fellow model and SI Swimsuit Issue cover star Kate Upton Instagrammed a photo of Graham, and called out Tiegs in the caption.

“Let’s empower and support one another! #beautybeyondsize #beautyfadesuseyourbrain #cheryltiegs”

And SI posted a video of their new cover star Friday, with the caption, ” ‘The smaller the bikini, the better.’ We couldn’t agree more, @theashleygraham!”

— SI Swimsuit (@SI_Swimsuit) February 26, 2016

And Graham certainly isn’t letting Tiegs’ comments bring her down. She stunned in a sexy red cutout dress as a commentator for E! on the Oscars red carpet, before hitting the annual Vanity Fair Oscars party Sunday night.

#VanityFair // Dress custom made by @BaoTranchi // 🙌🏽👑💋 #beautybeyondsize pic.twitter.com/62QdewV0Ez

— Ashley Graham (@theashleygraham) February 29, 2016

“Dress custom made by @BaoTranchi//#beautybeyondsize,” Graham tweeted.

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Cheryl Tiegs has apologized to Ashley Graham — and divulged a bit of personal information in the process.

In an open letter to Graham published by Huffington Post, Tiegs, 68, insisted that the media misinterpreted her, resulting in a “manufactured media feud.”

Former Sports Illustrated cover model Tiegs was quoted as saying, “I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them, and your waist should be smaller than 35 .” Many interpreted this as a dig at plus-size model Ashley Graham, who graces one of three covers for this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Also Read: Ashley Graham Responds to Cheryl Tiegs’ ‘Full Figured’ Comments: ‘We Really Need to Change the Industry’

In Friday’s letter, Tiegs said that she was responding to a generic question, not about Graham, and that her response was “based on health concerns because of our nation’s increasing problems with weight linked to diabetes, heart issues and cancer.

“At no time was I thinking of a specific person,” Tiegs added.

“I was not equating beauty to weight or size, but unfortunately that is what the media reported in headlines. I was trying to express my concern over media images and the lack of education in America about healthy choices, thus the reference to the 35-inch waist as a guideline to health,” the model continued, adding, “And by the way, my waist is 37 inches.”

Tiegs added, “Please accept my deepest apology if you were offended or in any way think I was referring to you.”

Also Read: Cheryl Tiegs Blasts Sports Illustrated for Putting ‘Full-Figured’ Model on Cover

On Thursday, Graham responded to Tiegs’ comments, saying that she “rolled her eyes” at them.

“Cheryl Tiegs may have said what she said and it may have hurt a lot of people’s feelings, but my skin is so thick,” Graham told E! News. “I kind of rolled my eyes, I was like, ‘Oh whatever, another one of these ladies.’ But what’s great is that-the fact that she said it-it means that other women think like her. And what that means is that we really need to change the industry.”

‘Sports Illustrated’ Swimsuit Issue: 13 Most Iconic Covers Ever (Photos)

  • 1979: Girl-next-door supermodel Christie Brinkley made the first of three consecutive appearances.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1980: Christie Brinkley returned the following year, this time in a skimpier bikini.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1983: Cheryl Tiegs, who debuted as an SI cover model in 1970, returned for her third time.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1986: Elle Macpherson launched her own trifecta in the Reagan era with this striking pose.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1987: Elle Macpherson returned the following year.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1989: Kathy Ireland made her SI debut in the yellow number.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1992: Kathy Ireland returned three years later, arms crossed.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1994: Kathy Ireland, Elle Macpherson and Rachel Hunter tripled up for this cover.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1997: Tyra Banks became the first black model to grace the cover of the issue.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 1998: Heidi Klum made her first appearance.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 2006: Veronica Varekova, Elle Macpherson, Rebecca Romijn, Rachel Hunter, Daniela Pestova, Elsa Benítez, Carolyn Murphy, and Yamila Diaz-Rahi led an all-star lineup.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 2007: Beyonce became one of the rare non-model (and non-athletes) to land the cover — to help promote her swimsuit line.

    Sports Illustrated

  • 2013: Kate Upton bundled up for her second cover.

    Sports Illustrated

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Ronda Rousey, Ashley Graham and Hailey Clauson are latest in long line of famous models to grace annual cover

Original cover girl Cheryl Tiegs talks about THAT iconic fishnet swimsuit and the courageous #MeToo movement

Cheryl Tiegs, widely considered America’s first supermodel, had been one of the best known faces in the world during her 20 active years in the industry. Best known for her multiple appearances on the covers of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and TIME, Cheryl is among the most beloved OG supermodels.

Meaww recently spoke with Cheryl regarding her time as one of the most sought after models in the world, and the 70-year-old reminisced about how she was spotted by a talent agent when she was just a schoolgirl at the age of 17. The agent thought that she had a very athletic body, one that was fitting to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In fact, she claims to have always been a sports enthusiast, which is something she credits as the reason for being on the cover of the magazine several times.

Cheryl Tiegs on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1983

Cheryl, who describes herself as a “simple girl” did not think modeling was something that would happen to her. In fact, even during the shoot of the famous fish net swimsuit, which significantly raised her profile in 1978, she “woke up, put on some mascara and the palish pink lip gloss and off they went with the photographer to the location.”

So naive was she to the world of fashion that she decided to take a dip in the water because the heat was getting to her. “It was so hot,” she claims, adding that neither her, nor the photographer could have predicted the overwhelming response that the photos which were clicked afterwards received.

Cheryl Tiegs in her famous white fishnet swimsuit

The fishnet photo-shoot, nonetheless, gave her career the boost that was completely unheard of at the time, and which came with a reported $1.5 million two-year contract with Cover Girl cosmetics, then the biggest contract ever. However, it did not come until she made the bold choice of moving to the fashion capital New York all by herself.

“Contracts were never heard of those days and when cover girl and Revlon offered me contracts worth 75 thousand dollars per year and for 3 years I was the hottest, most sought-after model,” says the Minnesota-born beauty.

Cheryl Tiegs on the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’ in 1975

After joining the Ford agency, Cheryl also got the honor of being the on the cover of TIME three times and four times on the cover of People. One of her most popular covers, is the 1978 “All-American Model” story she did for TIME. However, there were still more heights for her to conquer. She carries the sagely advice she received from her agent – Eileen Ford (owner of Ford modeling agency) at the time – “Never stop learning and growing.”

Soon after, the chain of department stores, Sears, approached her to develop a signature clothing and accessory line and become the face of the brand for 10 years (from 1980 to 1990). The first retail venture by a supermodel, the Cheryl Tiegs collection neared $1 billion in sales by 1989. Cheryl was credited with helping the retail chain’s 1980s turnaround, and once again appeared on the cover of TIME, this time for a cover story titled “Sassy Sears.”

During the time, she worked with their design team to come up with a line called Sassy Sears and claims to love that period of her life, because the job allowed her to “think for the public and feel normal.” She also created wigs, hair accessories and eyewear for Revlon simultaneously. A doll in her likeness was also created in 1990 as part of the “Real Model Collection,” which additionally featured Christie Brinkley and Beverly Johnson.

A Cheryl Tiegs doll was created for the “Real Model Collection”

She reveals that while her professional life was at an all-time high, she had no real friends. In fact, because of her hectic schedule, unknowingly she lost touch with a lot of people and found herself very alone. Thankfully, her family always saw her for who she was and not what the public saw her as. They would always “sit and talk, eat together,” she says.

Despite the busy schedules of the time and the long photoshoots that came with being a supermodel, Cheryl still finds being the spokesperson of Cambria – a natural quartz – as the most grueling experience of her life. She was on an airplane traveling all over the country every week, attending cocktails and dinners. This is probably why, despite reaching the zenith of her career, Cheryl decided to take a break from everything.

Then again, taking short breaks is something she has done as often as she wanted during her career. She says it was much easier to log off – get cozy in her retreat home and switch of the phone and be away from paparazzi, way more than it is today.

Everything about the industry is different today. Where the models during her prime had to do their own makeup and drive themselves to the location of the shoot, the models of today have an entourage to do everything for them. The pressure, nonetheless, is all the more, she opines, considering the people around them dictate what they do and how they do it.

Cheryl Tiegs created wigs, hair accessories and eye wear for Revlon

She also respects the Me Too movement and the women who found the strength to join it. She says she did not “have the guts to speak out” at the time, so of course she is supportive and encourages women to speak out now. The fear of losing out on her career forced her to be quiet and seeing the power of the movement now, she wishes she had the ability to speak up when she had things done to her.

Cheryl has been married four times – to advertising executive Stan Dragoti (1970–79), photographer Peter Beard (1981–83), aspiring actor Anthony Peck (1990–94) who is also a son of actor Gregory Peck, and yoga instructor Rod Stryker (1998–2001). She has three sons: Zackary, with Anthony Peck, and twins Theo and Jaden, who were delivered via surrogacy during her marriage to Rod Stryker.

Despite being married into the Peck family – which was a huge name in Hollywood – she did not entertain any aspirations for acting, as it was “never was her calling”. In fact, she claims to not have the talent for it.

Cheryl Tiegs walks the runway during the 2015 Le Vian Red Carpet Revue at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on June 1, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for Le Vian)

She recalls her photographic expedition to investigate the management and widespread destruction of African wildlife in Kenya as the most enchanting experience of her life. It was her friendship with photographer Peter Beard, whom she met in New York in 1978, that led her to this path. Peter, who had a ranch in the African nation, took her along for tracking animals and photographing them without hurting them at all.

At 70, she is still one of the most beautiful women in the world. So, what is the secret to her beauty? “Keep it simple, eat healthy and exercise,” she reveals. To this end, she goes on plenty of hikes and does Yoga as often as she can. You can feel the strength and calmness of these exercises in her advice for all the young women out there: “Listen to yourself. Stay quiet and let your mind and body speak to you. Be Bold. Live your dream.”

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Hunter McGrady says she prays for her haters on social media. The plus-size pinup also discusses appearing in the coveted magazine for the third time and where her confidence comes from.

NEW YORK – Hunter McGrady is no longer a rookie.

The 26-year-old plus-size model is appearing on the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for the third time and she couldn’t be prouder to officially be crowned as the magazine’s “curviest” pinup today.

But her rise to success was far from easy.

PLUS-SIZE MODEL RETURNS TO SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT

While McGrady originally started modeling at 16, the star was told she was too big at a size 2, prompting her to take a hiatus for a few years. Ultimately, McGrady decided to accept her “God-given body” and hasn’t looked back.

McGrady spoke to Fox News about appearing in SI for the third time, why she prays for her haters and how her fiancé really feels about the sizzling snaps.

Hunter McGrady traveled to Costa Rica for her newest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit snaps. — James Macari/Sports Illustrated

Fox News: This is going to be your third consecutive year being in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. What does this mean to you?
Hunter McGrady: I’m so thrilled to be a part of it for three years in a row. This year is especially important because it’s a diversity issue, so we have incredible women in it that just really represent all shapes, sizes, walks of life. And every year MJ Day just ups the ante, and it just gets better and better and better. So, I’m so excited.

Fox News: Takes us back to that very first time when you saw yourself on SI. What was going through your mind?
McGrady: So, my very first shoot with them was in body paint, and it was absolutely incredible. It took 12 hours to paint on. And when I saw the photos for the first time, my heart dropped. I’ve never been so excited and so proud in my life because I’m a size 16, 18. I’m a curvy girl. So, to see those photos in this huge magazine was just such a remarkable moment, not only in my life but in my career. It was just wonderful.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT NAMES HUNTER MCGRADY AS 2018 ROOKIE

Hunter McGrady wore nothing but body paint when she appeared in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit for the first time. (Josephine Clough/Sports Illustrated)

Fox News: It’s been said you’re the curviest model to appear on Sports Illustrated. How do you feel about that?
McGrady: It’s incredible. That is a title that I hold so near and dear to my heart because I know growing up, I never was able to open a magazine and really see someone that resonated with me. I want to make this change not only for our generation but pass this down to the next generation so that we can see diversity, we can see inclusivity in magazines, billboards, on television, across the board, because it’s so needed, and it just takes little by little, step by step, and Sports Illustrated is just the leading for in this whole matter.

Fox News: You previously discussed reaching a place of self-acceptance when it comes to your body. How did it get to that point?
McGrady: You know for me, as for many people, it was a long journey. Self-love is a never-ending journey, and it’s an everyday thing that we have to go through. And whether that be affirmations, whether that be exercise, whether that be therapy. Whatever it is that makes you feel good. For me, personally, it took me a few years to really get there and fully embrace myself, my curves, my stretch marks, my cellulite. All the things that just make me who I am.

For me, it was positive affirmations. Quite literally standing in the mirror and telling myself, “Hunter, you are worthy. You are enough. Your stretch marks are beautiful. Your cellulite is beautiful. These are the attributes that make you who you are, and there’s only one of you, and it’s special. You’re special in your own skin.” It took me a while to learn that, but through the help of therapy and family and friends and mental health help, I got there, and it’s amazing. But again, that doesn’t go to say that I don’t have days where I struggle, because we’re all human.

Hunter McGrady attends the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2018 Launch Event at Magic Hour at Moxy Times Square on Feb. 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

Fox News: It was reported that when your photos were first published in the magazine, you, unfortunately, had to deal with trolls on social media. How did you deal with that?
McGrady: My family always told me, “Hunter, hurting people hurt people.” And that’s just simply put. And whenever I see those comments, that phrase just plays through my head, and I pray for them. I mean, it just goes to show how badly we need this now more than ever. The more comments like that I get, the more I’m like, bring it on. We need this. This is so apparent that this something that we need to continue fighting for and continue talking about and this narrative needs to continue moving forward. You know, there are always people who don’t like you.

Hunter McGrady insisted she’s proud of her “God-given body.” (Courtesy of Hunter McGrady)

HUNTER MCGRADY RECALLS THE MOMENT SHE ACCEPTED HER GOD-GIVEN BODY

Fox News: Why do you pray for your haters instead of taking a different approach?
McGrady: It’s just not worth my time, you know? They are clearly hurting. They obviously have insecurities of their own, and I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be insecure and feel bad about myself, so then I have to put that on others. And I’ve been there, so I understand that. So, if anything, I make it a learning lesson and I just say I’m praying for you, and God bless. I hope the best for you. I hope that wonderful things happen for you because better to kill them with kindness. You can’t fight fire with fire.

Hunter McGrady says she responds to her critics with kindness. (Getty)

Fox News: Where does your confidence come from?
McGrady: It’s funny. I was more confident in a teeny, tiny swimsuit at my size than I was at a size two. For me, and for most people, it’s the mental health… The better I feel about my body and who I am, the more comfortable I am to wear anything I want. People always say… you shouldn’t wear stripes or string bikinis or polka dots or prints or this and that and the other. And so, I’m like, “Well, I’m going to wear all of it then.” I don’t see anything wrong with wearing everything that you absolutely want to wear. And for me, I was able to look in the mirror and say, “You know what? This is who I am and I love my body. I love myself. Every bit and piece of me.” So swimsuit shopping for me now is fun. Granted, there’s not a ton of options for plus size women, but I think that we’re getting to a place where there can be, which is awesome.

Hunter McGrady attends Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2017 Launch Event at Center415 Event Space on February 16, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/FilmMagic,)

Fox News: How did you and your fiancé meet on Snapchat of all places?
McGrady: He reached out to me. He was on a date with a girl, and she had mentioned my Snapchat to me, and so he followed me for about five months. And I was going from LA to New York. And he had reached out. I was in New York and said, “Hey do you want to get some dinner?” I’m so and so. I said, “Add me on Facebook.” I didn’t know who he was, and I wanted to see what he looks like. So, he added me on Facebook, and our first date was three days. And now it’s been three and a half years and we’re getting married in a month.

Fox News: How does he feel about your photos on SI?
McGrady: He is the most incredible and supportive and secure and amazing man I’ve ever been with in my life… I’m putting myself out there, and I’m really putting it all out there. And he’s the first one to buy the magazine. He’s the first one to say, “Babe, this is amazing. You look killer… This is beautiful.” He’s so special.

Hunter McGrady shared her beau is nothing but supportive when it comes to her blossoming career. (Josephine Clough/Sports Illustrated)

HUNTER MCGRADY TALKS BODY PAINT PICS

Fox News: Many brides immediately go on diets for the big day, but you’re choosing to skip the weight loss race. Why?
McGrady: I never quite understood why people used their wedding as a weight loss journey. For me, I’ve had friends who have gotten married and all of a sudden, they show up on their wedding day and they look nothing like themselves. Of course, I think exercise is important. Eating right is important. Taking care of yourself is important. But I think that these … Sometimes people go to extremes for their wedding day, and I always say, well your fiancé asked you to marry as you are right now. You’re beautiful as you are. For me, it was not something that I had to lose a ton of weight for that one day. I’m happy where I’m at. I feel good. I feel beautiful. So, I’m going to show up on my wedding day just like this.

Hunter McGrady attends Andrew Warren of Just Drew NYC Presents Special Collection at “City of Hope” Luncheon at The Plaza Hotel on May 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Fox News: What’s a misconception you feel the public still has about you?
McGrady: I think that a lot of people feel that women, we don’t deserve respect because we’re in a magazine like Sports Illustrated. Or if I post a bra photo. For me, women deserve respect with their clothes on or with their clothes off. And I think that that’s the important lesson and the most important thing I can get out there because I get a lot of people saying “Why are you doing this? And you’re Christian.” Or you’re this and you’re that. And I deserve respect regardless of what I’m wearing.

Hunter McGrady’s grandma (left) and mom. (Courtesy of Hunter McGrady)

Fox News: Your mother and grandmother were both models. How did these two women inspire you to pursue the family business, so to speak?
McGrady: I grew up with these two incredible women. My mom is someone I always looked up to, and I still do. I remember going through all of her magazines and tear sheets and just saying, “I want to be just like my mom. I want to be just like my mom.’ I just thought she was the most glamorous woman, and again, I still do. And that was just something that I really wanted to do, and they set such a great example for that. And here I am. It’s really a cool, full-circle moment.

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