Each week, our Friday Feature celebrates powerful women from our tribe who share their magic with the world in unique and inspiring ways. This week, we spoke with model Hunter McGrady. The curviest model to be featured in Sports Illustrated, Hunter is breaking boundaries in the realm of body positivity, and uses her platform to not only help young women everywhere embrace their bodies, but also to talk about and break down the stigma around depression and anxiety.
You come from a line of models (grandmother, aunt, and mom) and your dad was an actor, so you were familiar with the entertainment world from a young age. How did this influence your childhood and your decision to become a model?
"I always saw my mom’s magazines and thought she was (and still is) one of the most glamorous women on the planet and I wanted to be just like her. I still do! Same with my dad. I loved going on set with him and seeing the inner workings of what goes in to making a T.V. show or a movie!"
When did you start modeling? Was there a point when you started feeling pressure to look a certain way or meet a certain standard?
"I started when I was 16 years old! I felt pressure immediately. We didn’t have plus-size models when I was 16, so there was only one way that was really accepted, so I tried desperately to look that way."
Was there a breaking point during your size 2 days when you realized that something needed to change?
"Yes! I showed up at a photoshoot that I was hired for and they turned me away because they didn’t realize “how big I was” at a size 2! I was so embarrassed for them. I didn’t want to model if that’s what it was going to be."
When did you learn about the plus-size modeling world and why did you decide to join it?
"I saw the cover of Vogue Italia Magazine that featured plus-size models Robyn Lawley, Tara Lynn and Candice Huffine and I saw these gorgeous women who looked like me! I wanted in on that."
Since you made the switch, how has your relationship with your body and your mental health changed? Is it something you still grapple with?
"I’m at peace with my body, my growth, and who I am. I was so used to trying to change everything about me that I could never just be ME. I’m comfortable with who I am, my body, my rolls, my cellulite, stretch marks etc. Of course I have days where I wake up and I don’t feel great, but I’m human and that is normal and that is OK!"
What did it mean to you to be the curviest model to appear in Sports Illustrated?
"It of course meant a lot for my career, but for me personally I knew that women everywhere who may have never felt like they were represented would be able to open up the magazine and relate to someone and feel sexy and know they are beautiful and worthy in their own skin."
As respected and celebrated as body positivity is, it can still be hard to love our bodies when media - particularly social media - is projecting a specific ideal. What is your advice to women who are struggling to embrace their bodies?"Agreed! I think it is CRUCIAL to follow people who bring value to your life. We have that responsibility and capability to do so. Don’t allow yourself to even see the accounts who make you feel bad! Take back your power!"
As Miley Cyrus would say, "Everybody has those days." How do you make yourself feel good on the days you just don't feel your best?
"I’m huge on positive affirmations. They changed my life and how I viewed myself and others. Saying things in the mirror like, “I am enough,” “I am more than my body,” “I am worthy,” etc! I also turn to a gratitude journal! Writing down things I am grateful for and things I do have in my life that is so wonderful! Music is also a great way to get you up and going!"
Between inspiring an entire generation of women to love their bodies, and planning a wedding, you are a busy woman! How do you make time for self care on a daily/weekly basis and what does self care look like to you?
I always make sure I have time to myself. I pray every single day, I do my positive affirmations and I make sure I workout and have a good meal. I never allow myself to be forgotten because I know that will not only affect me, but everyone around me.
How does self love play a role in your relationship (and soon to be marriage!)?
"It’s huge! You can’t fully love someone else when you don’t love yourself. My fiancée is extremely supportive of what I do and whatever I need to do to feel good. He lifts me up and I am so grateful to have him."
What is your favorite way of expressing yourself?
What does choosing yourself mean to you?
"It means that I am a priority. If I don’t take care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually. There is no way I will be able to take care of other things in my life."
What do you love most about yourself?
"My hips! They were the one thing that was always 'too big' for modeling and now they are one of my greatest assets! I love them!"
If you could give your high-school self one piece of advice knowing what you know now, what would it be?
"Enjoy it. Don’t put so much stress on what you look like, you’re beautiful the way you are."
What is your message for our tribe?
"Don’t focus so much on what you look like. Focus on what you can offer this world! You are beautiful, smart, strong, empowering! We are so much more than a body!"
Finish these sentences:
Women should: "champion other women."
Women can: "love themselves."
Women will: "be broken of these societal chains."
I am: "WORTHY"
My ring is my reminder to: "love myself everyday."