SI Swimsuit’s Hunter McGrady reflects on her success as a curvy model: I want women to ‘feel seen and heard’

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Hunter McGrady is hoping to be an inspiration for other women.

The 27-year-old broke barriers in 2016 when she graced the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit at a size 18, making her their “curviest model ever.”

Since then, McGrady has earned praise as a body positivity advocate and even partnered up with QVC to launch a size-inclusive clothing line titled All Worthy, which ranges from XXS to 5X. The star recently participated in a chat on Instagram with The Knot cover girl Andrea Pitter, founder of Pantora Bridal. During the conversation, McGrady reflected on her success as a model.

“You know, my biggest career high was Sports Illustrated in 2016,” McGrady shared. “It was my first issue that I was in and… of course The Knot cover, which was huge, like being this plus size woman on the cover and it didn’t say anything about my size, you know what I mean? Which was huge. But for me, I think it was the response that I got from women saying, ‘Wow. For the first time in my life, I was able to open a magazine and feel represented, and feel seen, and feel proud of my body.’”


Hunter McGrady has appeared in SI Swimsuit four times.

Hunter McGrady has appeared in SI Swimsuit four times.

McGrady said the numerous messages she’s received from women feeling represented for the first time in the fashion industry have motivated her over the years.

“That has been my ‘why’ for so many years,” said McGrady. “Yeah, I can take a pretty photo, fine, so can anybody. But, you know, making women feel seen and feel heard and feel appreciated and feel valued, that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I created my fashion line. That’s why I am doing what I’m doing because there’s so many of us out there that have been in that spot. I’m still in that spot even though I’m the one helping [to] change it, you know? So, I think it is important and I think that anyone watching, the ‘why’… write it down and think about it every day.”

Despite her success as a model, McGrady said she’s grateful to also work behind the scenes as a designer where she can advocate for women of various sizes. She recalled her experience shopping for a wedding dress before her 2019 nuptials with husband Brian Keys.

Hunter McGrady appeared on the cover of The Knot for their Fall 2019 issue.

Hunter McGrady appeared on the cover of The Knot for their Fall 2019 issue.
(The Knot)

“In this industry, I was in plus-size modeling,” McGrady explained. “Now I do a little bit of designing as well… there’s such a hole in this industry overall. When I was getting married, I noticed that became really prevalent. I’m a larger girl – right now I’m a size 20. When I got married, I was about a size small 18. And I didn’t personally enjoy it. I didn’t enjoy dress shopping. I had to get mine custom [made] because I couldn’t walk into any place and just find something beautiful.”


“… And that’s one of the things that I personally hated, and I still hate shopping in general,” McGrady continued. “Because I live right outside of New York City. I don’t have the luxury to just go and shop on Fifth Avenue or in SoHo. It just isn’t available for me. I can maybe go into a Nordstrom and go up the escalator to the very back of the room where there’s a section that says plus size and there’s five things. That’s not a really enjoyable experience for me.”

Still, McGrady hopes the fashion industry will soon realize there’s a great need to represent all bodies.

Model Hunter McGrady partnered with QVC to launch a size-inclusive clothing line.

Model Hunter McGrady partnered with QVC to launch a size-inclusive clothing line.
(Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

“For me, I always say I dreamt of a world where me and all my girlfriends of all sizes could shop together and enjoy,” she admitted. “Imagine me looking at you and going, ‘Girl, where did you get that top?’ And you say wherever you got it from and I can go on the site and it comes in my size too. What a difference that would be.”

Back in 2020, McGrady spoke to Fox News about appearing in Sports Illustrated for the fourth time.


“Oh my God, it’s amazing,” she said. “Every single year I’m so humbled to be included in such a huge publication. And every year they just outdo themselves. MJ Day, the editor, understands the need for diversity in media. She was really the one who made the decision many years back to include Ashley Graham on the cover and kick off this movement.”

“It was a wonderful move that really opened a lot of people’s eyes to see that we need to see different bodies,” she shared. “We need to see different races, different heights, different shapes, different varieties of people. I can say this year will be more diverse than ever and I’m really proud of it.”

Hunter McGrady hopes to inspire other women yearning to be represented by the fashion industry.

Hunter McGrady hopes to inspire other women yearning to be represented by the fashion industry.
(Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

McGrady also revealed that for last year’s issue, she was feeling her “absolute best.”


“Any kind of insecurity I had just went out the door,” said McGrady. Every year I shed a little bit of that insecurity because let’s face it, we’re all human. I love myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any insecurities. But this year I feel like I really let that out the door and went in feeling with this feeling of just being the best that I can be. And I just had fun with it. I’ve already seen some of the photos and they’re amazing. I just feel really, really great about this issue.”

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