24-year-old Hunter McGrady features prominently in a black and white pictorial for the 2018 edition of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue. The image, featuring a naked McGrady staring directly into the camera with life-affirming texts written across her plus-sized body, occupies the most coveted spot in the 2018 issue. McGrady may be a size 16, the national average for American women, but she has no longer has issues with this fact.

Growing up in Los Angeles, California; McGrady believed that she belonged in front of the camera. Her mother’s and father’s careers as model and actor, respectively, had no small influence on this belief. McGrady was first signed on to a modeling contract at the age of 16; learning that as a nearly-6-foot-tall, size 2 model, she was considered too large for fashion. Infuriated by the industry obstacle, McGrady abandoned all food by salads and started a daily four-hour exercise regimen to slim down to a size 0.

McGrady remarked that the exercise may have helped her lose weight, but it left her gaunt, unhealthy and severely depressed. McGrady eventually decided that a modeling career was not worth sacrificing her well-being and shifted her focus to finishing high school, finding work as a nanny and not worrying about what she ate.

By the age of 20, McGrady had transitioned from sickly teen to curvaceous woman, inspired by the affirmation that she would love her body regardless of its form. McGrady cites the cover of June 2011’s “Vogue Italia” as a major source of inspiration for making a second go at a modeling career. The issue featured Tara Lynn, Robyn Lawley and Candice Huffine, all plus-sized women, posing in lingerie with pasta and red wine. McGrady reached out to Wilhelmina Models, her mother’s agency, and was immediately signed with work for 2013’s Miami Swim Week, as well as Nordstrom, Forever 21 and eventually Sports Illustrated.

McGrady made her Sports Illustrated debut in its 2017 Swimsuit Issue, clad in nothing but body paint. 2018’s issue features a series of black-and-white photos inspired by the #MeToo movement. McGrady was even allowed to choose the words that grace her skin in the series. McGrady truly believes that she is beautiful in her body and that that body is worthy of success and joy.

While Hunter McGrady is featured in several photos within the 2018 issue, Danielle Herringtonion received the honor of being its cover model.