Hunter McGrady is the queen of body positivity. She is open about everything from stretch marks to motherhood and constantly uses her platform to empower other women. And while the SI Swimsuit model has gained a reputation for her no-holds-barred beauty, McGrady admits that where she is today has been a journey.
“In second grade, my legs didn’t touch, and I had a gap in between my legs,” says McGrady. “Some of my other friends’ legs touched, and I thought something was wrong with me so I kept pushing them together to get them to touch. I was so self-conscious that I wouldn’t wear shorts. I wouldn’t wear any kind of tight pants. And it's crazy because in second grade you’re so young. But that’s when it starts."
By 15, McGrady was eager to enter the modeling world, which marked a moment in her beauty evolution. “I started as a straight-size model, which means you’re a size 2 or 4,” she says. “Today, I’m a size 20. I looked very different. But it was just something that I couldn’t keep up with. Every agency I was going to kept telling me to lose weight. I was 114 pounds and six feet tall. I had nothing else to lose. Every day there was someone saying I couldn’t live my dream unless I looked different. That’s hard as a teenager."
More from SwimLife
Finally, around the time McGrady was 18, plus-size modeling started to come into the picture, and McGrady began on the path to where she is today. “I saw this Vogue Italia magazine cover with three plus-size models—Candice Huffine, Tara Lynn and Robyn Lawley. And I was like, Those women look like me!”
It was during this time that McGrady started to come into her own. She started gaining weight after going to therapy and figuring out her body. She signed with an agency handling plus-size models—she was a size 14 at the time—and it was “off to the races.” Shortly after signing, she posed for major brands and then landed Sports Illustrated in 2016, what McGrady calls “the catalyst to the rise of my career.” The first shoot, In Anguilla, featured McGrady on the beach in nothing but bodypaint.
The 2022 edition was McGrady’s fifth appearance in the magazine. It marked another step in her evolution, as the new mom traveled to Belize just six months after having given birth to son Hudson. There she donned a red one-piece with, as she calls it, “Baywatch vibes.”
“I just felt sexy,” she says. “Yes, things look different; I have a lot more stretch marks, and things are just a little bit looser. But there’s something really beautiful in that. So often, when women give birth, they’re told that either they have to bounce right back into this fit little body or that they’re not sexy. And I’m so excited to show that being a mom can be sexy.
“I know that every time I do the SI Swimsuit Issue, I do it for more than myself. I do it for women who are going to open the magazine and feel something and see themselves represented. That’s incredible.”