The title of “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model” may conjure to mind narrow and somewhat dated ideas of mainstream perceptions of sex appeal, but their most recent runway show flipped the script. After holding their first in-person casting call, women of a variety of sizes and shapes arrived to audition to walk the runway. While the catwalk featured recent Sports Illustrated covergirl Danielle Harrington (the third black cover girl after Tyra Banks and Beyoncé, a variety of other models also made headlines gracing the runway.
Paralympian Brenna Huckaby walked the runway with a prosthetic leg and Mara Martin didn’t let the responsibilities from her new mantle of motherhood get in the way of an opportunity to strut the catwalk for Sports Illustrated at Miami Swim Week, but rather embraced them, showing off a one-shoulder bikini while breastfeeding her newborn:
Martin’s turn on the catwalk wasn’t just about displaying how good a certain piece of swimwear can look, but also how beautiful motherhood can be, too. Her embrace of nonstandard feminine beauty went viral, receiving praise across social media from those commending her efforts in highlighting the oft-ignored compatibility between the responsibilities of motherhood and feeling sexy. Martin was more than happy to have challenged these norms, commenting that “I’m so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL!”
While the show claimed to equally represent a diverse range of models, The Root reports that black models were told that casting was closed, in addition to restricting afros in the show. In a video posted on Facebook, model Joia Talbott shared the following: “They told us they didn’t want any more black models, and that afros were a no-no. They was definitely not feeling my afro at all, so I didn’t stand a chance, right? Wow. We’re ready to go back to LA where we’re appreciated, and we book.”
It’s clear the show wasn’t perfect but we can agree that it was a start and we hope this signals a new horizon for the media giant.