Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issues are always extremely popular. Well-known and obscure athletes, models, and singers have graced the cover since Sports Illustrated created the first special issue in 1964.
The 2016 issue, however, features a historic first: Ashley Graham, one of three chosen cover stars, is the first plus-size model to land the coveted slot. When she unveiled the cover on Instagram, Graham — who's a lingerie model for Lane Bryant — said it's for "every woman who felt like she wasn't beautiful enough because of her size."
"You can do and achieve anything you put your mind to," she added in the caption. This isn't the first time Sports Illustrated made history. In 1996, supermodel Tyra Banks became the first African-American woman to grace the cover. Additionally, the 2016 issue also features 56-year-old mom Nicola Griffin and plus-size model Precious Lee. Graham said she's glad to see diversity in this issue of Sports Illustrated and in the world at large. "We are going to be the ones that say, you know, it doesn't matter what size you are. It doesn't matter if you have cellulite. It doesn't matter if things jiggle where they’re not supposed to. That’s still beautiful," Graham said on Good Morning America.
UFC star Ronda Rousey and model Hailey Clauson have their own covers as well. Sports Illustrated's assistant managing editor, MJ Day, chose Rousey because she's a "cultural phenomenon."
"She is the perfect combination of beauty, brains, brawn, and humility," she said. "She possesses a spirit bigger than the space around her and it is both infectious and inspiring. She's a phoenix, as fiery and beautiful as any mythical creature ever depicted." Day also explained how the Sports Illustrated staff chose these three particular cover models. "All three women are beautiful, sexy, and strong," Day said. "Beauty is not cookie cutter. Beauty is not 'one size fits all.' Beauty is all around us and that became especially obvious to me while shooting and editing this year's issue."