After Christie Brinkley endured the Hamptons nor’easter earlier this year, she went on help Sports Illustrated change how the world defines a “model.” Brinkley, along with fellow Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue veterans Kate Upton and Olivia Culpo, held an open casting call to select models of all shapes and sizes to strut down the runway at Paraiso’s Miami Swim Week finale.
According to Inside Edition, the magazine has been making strides to market itself as more inclusive to women who are the not of “typical model proportions.” In 2015, Ashley Graham became the first plus sized model to be included in the Swimsuit Issue, and by 2016, she was chosen for the cover.
It was my pleasure to meet each and everyone of you incredible unique individuals! . I enjoyed hearing your inspiring stories. I realized the one thing you all had in common was big dreams and I wish for you all that all your dreams come true! @mj_day Can you please email me everybody’s names so I can tag them? @si_swimsuit
Now Brinkley and the other panelists have taken the magazine a step further, with the finale of the swimsuit show. The team chose to not only feature plus sized models, but also women with stretch marks, tattoos and cellulite; a Paralympian with a prosthetic limb; and a woman breastfeeding her five-month-old daughter while strutting down the runway to the sound of the audience’s explosive cheers.
The mother, Mara Martin, wore a sparkling gold bikini, while daughter Aria donned a dazzling green bikini bottom. This was done to make a statement about the negative reactions and comments that mothers receive for breastfeeding in public.
Martin crafted a touching Instagram post explaining that she can’t believe she’s seeing headlines about something she does every day and that there were several models more deserving of a feature story. She subsequently received hundreds of thoughtful comments from mothers praising and thanking her for helping to normalize breastfeeding. The full post can be seen below.
Wow! WHAT A NIGHT! Words can’t even describe how amazing I feel after being picked to walk the runway for @si_swimsuit. Anyone who knows me, knows it has been a life long dream of mine. I can’t believe I am waking up to headlines with me and my daughter in them for doing something I do every day. It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least. 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! But to be honest, the real reason I can’t believe it is a headline is because it shouldn’t be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that. Last night there are far more deserving headlines that our world should see. One woman is going to boot camp in two weeks to serve our country (@shauntness), one woman had a mastectomy (@allynrose), and another is a cancer survivor, 2x paralympic gold medalist, as well as a mother herself (@bren_hucks you rock) Those are the stories that our world should be discussing!!!! Just thinking about all that was represented there… I desperately need to give the most thanks to @mj_day for this. She supported me in what I did last night. Without her support this wouldn’t even be discussed!!!! She and the entire Sports Illustrated family are the most amazing and incredible team to have worked with. THANK YOU for letting all 16 of us be our true selves, strong beautiful women!!! Because of you, my daughter is going to grow up in a better world, where she will always feel this way!!!!!! Lastly, to every single woman that rocked that runway with me. Be proud. I know I am of you! You all have inspired me in ways unimaginable. I love you all!!! #siswimsearch
Unfortunately, there are far more articles this week discussing how amazingly beautiful Brinkley looks at 64, rather than the swimsuit show designed to challenge those very expectations of beauty. Hopefully, all of these models will remain in the spotlight, not as sexualized objects, but as powerful representations of the vast diversity found in the female sex.