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Kelly Hughes Responds to Negative Criticism and Scar-Shaming

The first woman to model with a C-section scar in SI Swimsuit speaks out.

After inspiring women everywhere to embrace the power of their scars by becoming the first woman to showcase her own C-section scar in SI Swimsuit’s 2022 issue, Kelly Hughes reveals that while most people were supportive, some responded negatively.

In an interview with Fox News, Hughes was asked, “Some critics have said, ‘SI Swimsuit is a magazine of women in bikinis. Do we really need to see this?’ What would you tell those people?” She responds in good spirits, saying, “It’s interesting, I was shocked that about 99% of people that reached out to me have been supportive. Even the press I received after my photo went viral was supportive. Sure, sometimes people like to make their comments – it is Instagram – but I’ve gotten an overwhelming number of positive comments from both men and women. Of course, you still get comments like "who cares?" or "she’s half-naked" or "we don’t want to see this" – all those comments are generic. And the truth is, there will always be people out there who want to dim your light.”

The 2022 SI Swimsuit model has been shining that light and sharing it with others. Hughes created the #scarlovechallenge to help other women celebrate their own scars. On her IG she wrote, “I am challenging you all to a scar challenge 🙌🏼🙌🏼 After reading your messages and seeing how empowered and represented you felt seeing my photos in Sports Illustrated I thought how much greater would it be if you could see 100’s or 1000’s of peoples photos embracing their scars as well together. A community to encourage one another 💕 ALL SCARS are welcome…hashtag #scarlovechallenge”

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Hughes has been open about the raw realities of motherhood (her son, Harlem, was born by C-section in 2018). It seems no amount of negative comments can hold Hughes back from continuing to uplift her supporters. Hughes told Fox News, “All I can say is I don’t understand how someone can make negative comments, especially on someone’s social media posts. There’s no need for it. You don’t gain anything from that. But the overwhelming amount of positive comments from people proves that something like this was needed. This is about representation. Think about those mothers out there with C-section scars wearing a bikini at the beach. Sometimes it peeks out.”

Those mothers out there have been responding to Hughes in full force. “I’ve received so many messages from women telling me they’ve felt so insecure going to the beach that they buy a bigger bikini or just choose to wear a one-piece to avoid the scrutiny,” says Hughes. “They go out of their way to not show the scar because they’re insecure about it. They’re worried about what people may say or think. Now, Sports Illustrated is having that conversation. It was so needed. You shouldn’t need to accommodate everyone else just so they can feel better. You’re so much more than any negative comment someone may have to say.”

By extension, Hughes's open vulnerability has given added confidence to some of her followers. “I’m getting messages from women telling me how empowered they feel, and how confident they feel to wear that bikini again after having a baby,” she says. “I look at my scar now, and I’m proud of what I went through. I embrace it. I’m still here. And that’s exactly what my photo shows. I just hope it can encourage others to feel the same.”