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From Yahoo! – In this op-ed, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Hunter McGrady shares what it’s really like to shop for swimwear as a plus-size woman — and how the experience inspired her to design her own size-positive swimwear collection.
As summer approaches and magazines are featuring the obligatory ”How to Get the Best Beach Body” articles, there’s one thing on most plus-size women’s minds: swimsuit shopping. In addition to all the pressure the media puts on women to look a certain way, we are now feeling that same pressure when we’re shopping for swimwear.
Being a plus-size woman, swimsuit shopping has never been fun or easy for me. As I’d rummage through the racks of swim at retail stores, I’d usually find only a few pieces that are size XL. Still, I’d head to the dressing room to try on pieces that I already know will be disappointing. I’d look in the mirror and the cute little bikini that I’ve always wanted — the one that all my girlfriends wear — is barely covering my nipples, let alone my breasts. The straps are digging into my shoulders, already leaving red marks, and the bikini bottom might as well be a tissue with a string attached. Every single time, I leave defeated. This is what it feels like to shop for swimwear when you’re plus-size.
For a long time, we have been told that plus-size women are not worthy of wearing the same things as thinner women — especially when it comes to swimsuits. And even when there are plus-size swimwear options, they usually consist of all-black one pieces that cover you from your neck to your knees, because, once again, we are told by society that if you are a bigger size and you have stretch marks or cellulite, you need to cover up.
Swimsuit shopping needs its own makeover. Instead of telling women something is wrong with our bodies, we should be encouraging people to wear whatever we want as long as we feel our absolute best. Whether that is a one-piece, a tankini, a high-waisted brief and bikini top, or a little string bikini, wear it. No one should be chastised because of their size.
The truth is, we live in a blinded and brainwashed society that benefits from making women feel bad about their bodies. Dr. Gail Dines once said, “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” What’s more, we live in the generation of Facetune and Photoshop. We can morph our images into unrealistic versions of ourselves — versions we think people will be more approving of. Nothing is more disheartening, inauthentic, and self-alienating than desperately trying to look like someone you are not. And yet, that kind of airbrushing — and the negative body image it perpetuates — has become the norm.
When I was asked to collaborate with Playful Promises, I was ecstatic because they are one of the few brands that truly stand for diversity. When you go to their Instagram feed, you’ll see gorgeous women of all shapes and sizes displayed proudly. Working with this brand, I sought out to create playful, flirty swimwear that would inspire confidence in women of every size — so no one would have to experience the frustration I felt shopping for plus-size swimsuits each season.
No matter what society says, we are worthy of feeling beautiful in whatever swimsuit we choose to slip on. Stop allowing people to tell you who you are and what you can wear. Don’t let them have that power over you. Your life changes the moment you make the decision to embrace your body just the way it is. Your rolls, your stretch marks, your cellulite pockets: they’re beautiful because they are human. We must get to a place where we are not ashamed to dress how we choose, and not held back by the gatekeepers, the experts, the naysayers, the uninformed, and the unenlightened.
I challenge every plus-size shopper to approach swimwear season with an attitude of confidence, strength, power, and beauty. Together, we can create the new normal.