For the first time in Sports Illustrated history, the magazine’s annual Swimsuit Issue has featured a Paralympian, with snowboarder Brenna Huckaby stripping down to her bikini in the name of normalising disabilities.
“I have never seen myself as sexy, it just isn’t my personality,” the US athlete, cancer survivor and mother of one said of her photoshoot.
“It’s very rare, if ever, you see a woman with a disability pose in sexy swimsuits. I want to help change the stigma behind disabilities.”
The shoot, which took place on the beaches of Caribbean island Aruba, saw the purple-haired 22-year-old rock some eye-catching swimwear designs in a series of provocative poses, all the while showing off her prosthetic leg.
Huckaby lost her right leg to osteosarcoma – an aggressive form of bone cancer – when she was 14, after complications with chemotherapy meant doctors had to amputate her limb in order to prevent the tumour from spreading.
The physical impediment this created forced her to give up her burgeoning career as a nationally ranked gymnast but, being an active person, she soon found herself giving snowboarding a try.
A natural athlete, the then-15-year-old quickly developed a passion and aptitude for snowboarding and moved from Louisiana to Utah to pursue the sport seriously.
Set to compete in the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang in March, Huckaby is now mother to 17-month-old daughter Lilah, her first child with fiance Tristan Clegg, a snowboard instructor.
Even the pregnancy was a miracle – Huckaby had previously been told by doctors she couldn’t conceive.
“I haven’t always been comfortable with my body,” she told Sports Illustrated after the revealing photoshoot.
“When I was a teenager I would wear shorts with my swimsuit every time. I would rarely take my prosthetic off in front of other people … It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I realised my body was more than an object.”
This year’s Swimsuit Issue also featured a handful of other female athletes, most notably US gymnast Aly Raisman, 23, who posed nude with phrases including ‘trust yourself’ and ‘abuse is never okay’ written on her body.
The Olympic gold medalist is a survivor of sexual abuse and recently bravely testified against her abuser, former US Gymnastics team national doctor Larry Nassar, in front of a packed courtroom.
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Golfer Paige Spiranac, 24, also starred in the magazine’s pages and spoke openly about her experiences of cyber bullying after she was accused of “sexualising” the sport when she appeared at her first tournament at the age of 22.
She admitted she was concerned about how her half-naked photos would be received by her worst critics.
“Even though being in the SI Swimsuit Issue has always been a dream of mine it would be a lie to say that I didn’t think about what the response might be,” she said.
“I mean I wear leggings and people say that the way I’m dressed is inappropriate! But in the end, it’s not the opinions of other people that matter – it’s if you’re doing things that make you feel happy, fulfilled, and empowered. You can’t let negativity hold you back from living your life!”
The 2018 Swimsuit Issue cover girl is 24-year-old Compton-raised model Danielle Herrington, who is the third black woman to grace the magazine’s front, after Tyra Banks and Beyonce Knowles.