Barrier-Breaking Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Models Speak Out

Three models are not the typical sizes and ages seen in the famous issue.

ByABC News
February 12, 2016, 9:10 AM

— -- The three models who are breaking barriers in this month’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue say they are doing so because brands are finally looking beyond the conventional size and age for models.

Nicola Griffin is a 56-year-old mom who started modeling at the age of 53 after her children left home for school. Now, Griffin is rocking a gold bikini in a one-page ad for plus-size swimsuit retailer Swimsuits for All in Sports Illustrated’s famous issue.

“It’s amazing,” Griffin said today on “Good Morning America.” “I’m very, very proud.”

Like Griffin, plus-size model Precious Lee is featured in an ad in the Swimsuit issue for Lane Bryant. The model said confidence is a strength she works on building every single day.

“Can’t in my household was like saying a curse word so I’ve built on that through the years,” Lee said. “[Confidence] takes practice every single day.”

“It’s something that you have to work on and build on every day,” she said. “There’s no magic pill.”

Ashley Graham, best known for her work as a lingerie model for Lane Bryant, is a member of the SI Swimsuit 2016 Rookie Class. She’ll be one of five rookie Swimsuit issue models featured in the magazine when it hits newsstands next week.

“I’m still so speechless about it all,” she said.

Graham, a Lincoln, Nebraska, native, made history as the first so-called curvy model to have an ad in the SI Swimsuit issue. Last year she generated huge buzz when she walked the New York Fashion Week runway in her own Modern Boudoir lingerie line for Addition Elle.

The model said it is about time brands started paying attention to models who are not stick-thin.

“Nobody’s been listening to us,” Graham said on “GMA.” “I’ve been doing this for 15 years and finally Sports Illustrated has come out, Lane Bryant, ‘Swimsuits for All.' There’s been so many brands that are finally saying, ‘You know what, we are going to be the pioneers.'”

“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,’” she said.