Ashley Graham, Size 16 Body Activist and Fashion Model, Makes History With "Sports Illustrated" Swimsuit Edition Cover

Kimberly RipleyLife

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Ashley Graham, a size 16 body activist and fashion model, made history this weekend when she learned she landed one of three covers of this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

Graham learned the exciting news at the cover reveal on Saturday night.

“I thought Sports Illustrated was taking a risk by putting a girl my size in the pages,” Ashley Graham said. “But putting me on the cover? They aren’t just breaking barriers; they are the standard now. This is beyond epic.”

The model credits Sports Illustrated swimsuit editor MJ Day for helping her reach her goal of becoming a cover girl.

“MJ came over to me and she had tears in her eyes and she said, ‘This is going to make history,'” Graham says. “And in that moment, I knew that I wasn’t just there as a favor, I wasn’t there just like ‘Oh let’s put the big girl in.’ I was there because I was supposed to be there.”

Ashley Graham doesn't believe she is the only one to emerge victorious from landing this Sports Illustrated cover. She believes it is a victory for society as well.

“Girls who are insecure about their bodies, girls who feel fat, girls who have cellulite, girls who have stretch marks on their body--those are all the things that I had as a kid and I never had a woman like me growing up to look at,” she explains. “I had my mother and that’s one thing, but to have somebody who has cellulite, who has things that jiggle, who has back fat and talk about how you can be an overcomer and not let society take you down for all of that. That’s real.”

The first person Ashley Graham called when leaving the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover reveal was her husband

“My husband said, ‘I told you!’” Graham said. “And then he goes ‘Yesss.’”

In addition to Ashley Graham, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and model Hailey Clauson also landed Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition covers.

Fans can check them all out on Monday, when the swimsuit edition hits news stands.

Kimberly Ripley
Kimberly Ripley is a freelance writer and published author from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A wife, mom of five and 'Nana' to Lilly and Aiden, she loves cooking for her big family and watching HGTV in her spare time. Kim is guilty of starting way more home design projects than she can finish. Visit her at Twitter and Facebook.