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SI Swimsuit rookie Hunter McGrady: 'This is my God-given body'

Hunter McGrady

 (Emerson Miller)

Hunter McGrady made a splash as one of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Rookies of the year and stirred headlines for being the magazine’s curviest woman ever.

“I love my body now. I love everything about it,” said McGrady to PEOPLE Magazine. “I’ve been an 18, I’ve been a 10/12, and I’ve been everything in between. Right now I sit at a 14/16, and I love it, because this is my God-given body.”

This is a surreal moment for me. You guys I have been bursting to tell you all about this! I want to thank @MJ_Day for an opportunity like this to do the SI model search and for being a force in this industry and everyone at @si_swimsuit for promoting that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Beauty is not a number. It has no limits. I have never felt sexier than I did in this shoot. Thank you to @joannegair and team @therealmarissajade and @trendytribals for working your magic on my body. These women painted this suit for 12 hours and I never wanted to take it off. Women, for anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable or insecure because of rolls, or stretch marks, or cellulite, or acne, or felt like you didn't measure up because you weren't represented in the magazines--THIS IS FOR YOU! You are beautiful. You are STRONG. You are powerful and together we need to lift eachother up and inspire one another. There's too much going on on this world to let eachother fall by the wayside. Shot by another incredible woman- @josie_clough amazing sexy beach hair by @adammaclay thank you to my agents @uralucky1 @marissamuscari @ginabaronedirectorofficial @jaimegoldberg_ @wilhelminamodels for being such hard working and dedicated team! We did it ! 😜 #breakingboundaries #siswim

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But success didn’t always come so easy for the 23-year-old pinup.

MEET THE 56-YEAR-OLD SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT MODEL

McGrady told the celebrity news publication how, at age 16, the-then aspiring model, who stood at a towering 5’11”, would spend hours at the gym and starving herself to maintain her 114 lb., size 2/4 figure.

“My hips were always the bigger part of my body, and I was already so thin that I couldn’t keep shaving them down. I physically could not. And everyone was telling me that I could,” explained McGrady. “At that time I thought my dreams of becoming a model were crushed.”

#flashbackfriday At age 15 I was told by 4 agencies that I needed to lose 3 inches off of my hips to be a model which would have put me at a size 00. I would desperately work out for hours and eat few calories per day, HOPING I could fit the bill. It wasn't until 18 years old, 3 years of insecurities brought on because I thought I wasn't good enough, that I wouldn't measure up! I realized that my body was not built to be that thin. Today, I'm so thankful I'm able to pursue my dream and still promote a healthy body image. He will fill the desires of your heart! Chains are broken! I see it in so many young girls these days who are striving to have a thigh gap, or for their hip bones to stick out, or to fit a size 0. Not everyone's body structure is made like that. Be the healthiest you, you can be. Be active, use the things God provided for you, focus on HIM and Embrace the body The Lord gave you! HE CREATED YOU IN HIS PERFECT IMAGE! You can't deny his sweet creations!

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And even with a smaller frame, she still couldn’t book jobs.

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“I walked into one of my very first modeling jobs at a size 4,” she explained. “They looked at me and said, ‘We didn’t realize you were this big,’ and they sent me home. And I was so upset, and so livid, that I was getting picked at, already, at just a young 16 years old.”

It was then that McGrady decided to do something completely different: accept her body. She later joined Wilhelmina Models where she started to land gigs. However, there was one assignment she was hoping to score.

“I always told myself that one way or another I was going to get in there,” she said on appearing in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

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McGrady got the call in December and was featured in the Feb. 15 issue. She joined Ashley Graham, who made history in 2016 for being the first plus-size model to appear in the magazine. McGrady wore a hand-painted swimsuit in the new issue, which took 12 hours to create.

“It’s a moment — not just for me, but for women in history — to be in this issue,” said McGrady. “Finally, we’re being heard. I just want women to see this and feel inspired and feel sexy and feel like they can own their body and own their skin. And men, too!”

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