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Hunter McGrady Dishes on the Early Days of Her Career

The SI Swimsuit model also preaches that motherhood can be sexy.

Hunter McGrady has been part of the SI Swimsuit family since 2017. Her first photo shoot was an on-location body paint feature in Anguilla. But the road that brought her to Belize to shoot for the 2022 Swimsuit Issue started long before hitting that Caribbean beach six years ago.

Growing up in Los Angeles, McGrady — whose parents were both in the entertainment industry — got an early jump in the business, with some bookings as a 3-year-old. She pursued modeling full-time at 15. “I started as a straight size model. In the industry, that basically means that you are like a size 2,” says McGrady. “To give you an idea, I’m a size 20 now. But it was just something that I couldn't keep up with. Every agency I was going into, they kept telling me, ‘You have to lose weight.’”

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That first foray into modeling was so upsetting, she took a break from the profession altogether. Through therapy, McGrady learned to better accept her body and by the time she was 18 she started modeling again as a plus-size model. After Ashley Graham appeared on the cover of the 2016 SI Swimsuit Issue, McGrady noticed the industry start to shift. “It's interesting because I feel like Sports Illustrated has really truthfully been the catalyst for change in the media,” she says. McGrady continues to champion that shift. She founded her own all-inclusive line called All Worthy with QVC. The line is the largest (and most inclusive) size range the shopping network has ever carried. Says McGrady, “All Worthy is really about celebrating women as a whole. We all can be on the same playing field. We all can show love. We all can be respected and respectful, and we all can be kind. And we all deserve wonderful things—we really do. That's my whole point of All Worthy, that we all are worthy. And that is forever my mission.”

Now 29, McGrady has broadened her pursuit for worthiness as a new mom (son Hudson recently celebrated his first birthday). She’s become an important voice in a new space. “I think the biggest advice I would give [to new moms] is don't look at what other people are doing,” she says. “I thought breastfeeding was going to be a breeze, but I had a really hard time with it. I had so many friends come to me and say, ‘You know, don't ever compare your motherhood journey to anybody else. It looks so different for everybody.’ And that's what makes the world go round, right? We were all raised so differently. We are all so different—that's what makes us so beautiful. And every day it's something new. I think that it’s important to really honor yourself during this motherhood journey.”

She adds, “I want women to feel valued and validated and accepted and enjoy this one very precious, precious life that we have without having to spend every waking moment being told that they have to change themselves. And I wanna do it together. I want us all to come together and be the change that this world needs.”