Body-positive models are vital for young girls

Growing up, I always wanted to look like the beautiful women I saw in popular magazines like Cosmopolitan or Glamour. I remember the first time I saw the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in high school and was determined to have the body of 2008’s cover girl Marisa Miller. Little did I know how Photoshopped and unrealistic this standard of beauty was.

At the time I would work out every day, even after an intense volleyball practice. I was trying to be someone other than myself because I thought the only way I would be liked would be if I had a body like the women I saw in magazines. As a teenager, I based my expectations of body image on what I saw in the media and today that pressure remains.

This year, SI’s highly-anticipated swimsuit issue made its annual debut on Feb. 9 and was more revealing than ever. As usual, the models stripped down to the bare minimum for the shoot, showing off their slim figures. But what was a surprise to most readers was flipping to the page of an advertisement that featured Ashley Graham.

The fact that seeing a heavier-set woman in the SI Swimsuit Issue was surprising to most is disappointing and reflects how the media has such a strong impact on how our society views beauty and body image. It is disheartening to read negative comments on social media opposed to SI’s decision to run the ad or to read that some believe Graham doesn’t belong in the magazine.

This was the first advertisement I have seen that actually portrays a real woman, and it was so refreshing. Only five percent of women naturally possess the body types portrayed by Americans in the media, according to Do Something, an organization that promotes social change for adolescents. For the other 95 percent of women, we are forced to believe we are supposed to look like the models in the media in order to be accepted by men.

Although Graham’s appearance was an overdue step in the right direction to promote positive body image for women all over the world, she is in an advertisement. Graham’s appearance is part of an ad for the plus-size bathing-suit company Swimsuits For All. SI should have put her on the cover instead of hiding her within an ad if they were really trying to make a statement.

The SI Swimsuit Issue hits newsstands every year with their ultra sexy cover that leaves women–especially young girls–feeling the way I did in high school. At least with their 2015 issue, they are beginning to break these unrealistic standards by adding models of all sizes. Although it is disappointing that it has taken this long to have a plus-sized model grace their pages, I am happy that SI has shined light on a new role model for young girls to admire.

Curvy women are not on the cover of most magazines and are usually not the focus of ‘Women Crush Wednesday,’ but they should be. Jennifer Lawrence has recently been praised for her advocacy for positive body image and also has been likened to the media’s poster girl for this issue. We need more women in the public eye like Lawrence and Graham to promote women with a positive and realistic image.