Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue's cover model cried when she found out she was chosen

Danielle Herrington, 24, is the third African-American model in the magazine's decades-long history to grace the cover of the annual swimsuit issue.
8:01 | 02/14/18

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Transcript for Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue's cover model cried when she found out she was chosen
object objectify or empower women. Here's my "Nightline" co-anchor juju Chang. Daniel Herrington was just crowned cover model of this year's "Sports illustrated" swim Utah edition. It's amazing I feet "Sports illustrated" is iconic. Huge. The 24-year-old from Compton, California, is only the third African-American to grace the cover ever. After Tyra banks. I seen her on the cover and was like I'm black I want the to do it. She's my role model now. She went from rookie to cover girl in just one year. The magazine has become a launching pad to household name status, if not gold plated brand name status, Kate Upton, Chrissy Teigen the list goes on. It's not just about who looks best in a bathing suit. It's a platform for them. Some argue all of those cleavage and booty shots are objectable in the midst of the #metoo movement, but editor insists the issue has been an unlikely crusader for body confidence and creativity. A lot of people say it's object fiction. We're about celebration. I don't do anything thinking let's sexualize this person. I want to create beautiful imagery that captures people's attention and celebrates beauty and these women. The criticism that the swim suit edition gets is it's all about objectifying or sexualizing women what's your thought on that? I think women should have the ability to express themselves however they want to. I feel like they should still get respect for that. You should meet Tyra. She got to a chance to meet her idol as part of the reveal. Nice to meet. Nice to meet. What was going through your mind? Everything from being a little kid watching her -- sorry. From being a little girl watching her on television and to seeing her, like, you know, go on and be super successful in everything she did and you know, it just, I -- like. It gets you. Gets me every time I think about it. What makes you so emotional? I guess, like, just growing up in Compton and just having a dream to be something bigger and to be, you know, something bigger than myself. And that's like what Tyra was for me. She was such a huge influence on my life and my career because I always wanted to be like her. What did she say to you? She said do you have a good accounta accountant, she told me go to the party but not the after-after party. She's not just your fairy god mother but your mom a little bit bgs tough. Yeah to hear that from her I'm like okay I want to follow in your footsteps and do everything can correctly. The issues her all-female crew have been steadily breaking the cookie cutter standard model of beauty putting graham on the cover in 2016. That cover was cultural touch ninety absolutely made everyone rethink what Normal was in this industry. No one looks at Ashley graham and sees anything but a beautiful woman. She's also changing the game. With her cover on swim suit there came a cover on "Vogue" and she changed everything for a sub set of women that can look to that and say I'm good enough. I can do this too. This issue features scant illy clad women of all shapes and sizes. Maybe it's athletic, lean, willowy, curvy, maybe it's petite, maybe its mid size you will never make everyone happy but we go to great length to be inclusive. Yet "Sports illustrated" readership is still 78% male. Last year only three covers features women. This year the magazine featured a nude project titled "In her own words" created and shot all by women. Giving voice to these women that so often have no opportunity to speak to who they are outside of their physical appearance, a mother, a nurturer. In my 12 year career never had an all-female career. It blows me away. I can see it in your eyes it's really vital, important, why? Because he want it to become Normal. All women for any workforce whether surgeons or doctors more you see it more it becomes Normal. The ten women painted words on their bodies to express themselves, an idea conceived by hunter Valentine. For sailor Brinkley cook -- work in progress. Sailor, when you saw the images, what was your reaction? I was so excited. I mean, I mostly, I've struggled with my body since before I could remember. Last year cook was photographed with a veteran si cover girl her mom Christie Brinkley and sister. This year she's rookie of the year. She said she grew up insecure and felt attacked by the tabloid spotlight and internet trolls that follow. There's always going to be a critic. Always. No matter what size you are. I've been a size 0 and a size 12 and always had someone coming at me for something. You know. I truly realized I need to just be okay with myself. Why try and continue on trying to please everyone. Because that's literally impossible. Valentine says the models were in control of the shoot. This was not about body, not about physical, this was about voice, about inner beauty, inner strength, about allowing these women to step forward to have a voice and a platform the right way. To think that anyone could take what we've been doing and label it as object fiction makes me sick because I feel like for me and for tailor and for robin we've been ftrying to create this image and message, that is, standing in your truth and power and taking control of your seflt and who you are. For these women it's about redefining beauty. It is in fact more than skin deep. I don't have a problem if someone says the issue is over sexualized because that's Normal. I also have a problem who looks at "Sports illustrated" issues and say that's amazing, beautiful, gold, aspirational, that's a healthy discussion that we should all be having because I think human nature doesn't lend itself to one way or another but should lend itself to acceptance. When I was growing up was signed as a runway model in L.A. And I had curves so it was like, oh, no she's a little too curvy for this or that, and it's like, why not, how come I can't, you know, be part of it too. Why do I have to fit a mold you know. I feel with "Sports illustrated" they celebrate it. They love me for my curves. Curvy's okay? It's okay. For "Nightline" I'm juju G in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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