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Sports Illustrated thinks this woman is ‘plus-size’

The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue features its first 'plus-size' model. But you could never tell by looking at her.


Marisa Kabas

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 6, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 2:43 pm CDT

Wednesday would have been the 102nd birthday of Rosa Parks, a proud woman on the front lines of the fight for equality. Now, the makers of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition are carrying the torch for equality, or so they think.

The sports and once-a-year-boobs purveyors at SI are featuring a “plus-size” model for the very first time, and you can bet they’re feeling quite proud. Robyn Lawley is a 25-year-old Australian model and according to industry standards, the size 10 model is considered outside the waify norm.

James Macari/Sports Illustrated

But let’s look at the facts: Lawley is 6 ft. 2, and a size 10 at her height is definitely not the same as for the average woman, who is around 5 ft. 3. Statistics aside, for the untrained, misogynist eye, would Lawley even stand out from among the other, less “curvy” models?

None of this is to take away from Lawley’s success: Her body type is a step in the right direction, albeit a small step, and she’s even penned a few articles for the Daily Beast about body image and created her own swimwear line. In fact, the skimpy orange bikini she wears in SI’s “Rookies” section is of her own design.

But the only truly plus-size model to appear in this year’s issue is 27-year-old Ashley Graham, a size 16. Before you start your golf clap, allow me to clarify: Graham appears in a paid advertisement spread for swimwear company Swimsuits For All.

You might’ve thought you couldn’t pay SI enough to feature a model this soft and full-bodied, but apparently you can put a price on anything.

The ad features the hashtag #CurvesInBikinis, and it’s important to make a distinction between the goals of SI and the goals of Swimsuits For All. They sell bathing suits for women size 8 and up, and they’re even launching a line with GabiFresh, a vocal body positive, plus-size blogger. This spread is certainly a win for them, and for Graham, who said in a statement: “I know my curves are sexy, and I want everyone else to know that theirs are, too. There is no reason to hide and every reason to flaunt.”

E! Online celebrated the ad, stating: “Curves are in—and apparently, Sports Illustrated got the memo.” No, they didn’t get the memo: They got the money. The magazine does not deserve an ounce of praise for deigning to feature an ad, for money, from a swimsuit brand, which makes sense for a swimsuit issue.

Robyn Lawley told Time, “I don’t know if I consider myself as a plus-size model or not. I just consider myself a model because I’m trying to help women in general accept their bodies.”

That’s all well and good, but pinning up a photo of Lawley will do little to help shorter, much curvier girls embrace their own bodies. While Sports Illustrated might think they’re doing some great public service, the reality is that they have a few more degrees of curves to go.

Photo via Robyn Lawley/Instagram

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*First Published: Feb 6, 2015, 12:00 pm CST