Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Hooray for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
This year, they chose to take a hint from reality and feature a variety of body types on its covers, including size 16 model Ashley Graham, body painted UFC star Ronda Rousey and straight-size model Hailey Clauson. True, all three are pictured in highly sexualized positions and attire (or lack thereof, in Rousey’s case), but hey, baby steps.
Graham’s rise to coverdome, in particular, is interesting, because she first appeared in the 2015 Swimsuit issue … in an ad for a swimwear apparel company called swimsuitsforall, which offers suits in sizes 8 to 34. All hell broke loose when the public saw a woman looking like Graham—size 16, no thigh gap—in a magazine typically reserved for women with measurements more along the lines of 38-24-34.
This year, swimsuitsforall ran a series of risqué ads, part of its #swimsexy campaign. In a trio of adverts, three non-traditional (i.e. not thin/busty/uber-toned/young/long hair/white) models work a shiny Beach Babe Gold Bikini. One of those women is Nicola Griffin, a 56-year-old mother of fraternal twin daughters, now 21, from Nottinghamshire, England. She’s the oldest person to be featured in a SI swim issue.
Never before has SI included a pinup of a woman who, in her off time, models for a company called White Hot Hair. True, she’s not an actual SI model; swimsuitsforall paid to be included in the issue. But she is there. She looks like a smokin’ hot phoenix rising up out of the ocean. She is a mom. This is epic evidence that the body- and age- diversity movements are gaining ground, and that SI actually has balls.
I got the chance to interview Nicky in between appearances on Good Morning America and E! and calls from Men’s Fitness online. Here’s what she had to say.
Let’s talk about the response to your ad. Is it what you expected? Why do you think people are so excited?
The response to #SwimSexy has been overwhelming! I am so pleased with the attention that the campaign has received. So many people have reached out to me, thanking me for participating in such a groundbreaking ad. I think that women are thrilled to see someone that they can relate to—its about time women of all shapes, sizes and ages are represented in the media.