The Sports Illustrated runway show, which took place on July 16, was the most inclusive show for the swimwear issue to date, and it won’t be soon forgotten. It featured different body types, a mother who breastfed her daughter as she walked the cat walk and a paralympian — proving that there’s no set definition of “beauty.”
Brenna Huckaby is an amputee, yes, but she’s not about to be defined by that one attribute. She’s also a mother, an athlete, a gold medalist and, yes, a swimsuit model.
She lost her leg as a freshman in high school after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, according to Glamour. But she hasn’t let the loss of a leg stop her from pursuing her dreams. She went on to take up snowboarding and become a two-time gold medalist in the Paralympic Games.
And now she can add SI swimsuit model to her long list of accomplishments:
Working With Sports Illustrated
She’s the first paralympian to ever be featured inside the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and she was asked not only to walk in the runway show, but to open it.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, she described the moment she found out she’d be the first of the models to walk out to begin the show as “completely surreal.”
And now that she’s done it, she still feels like it was all a dream.
“I think I’m still waiting for it to sink in,” she told Teen Vogue. “I was so nervous — I remember standing backstage saying how the nerves I felt were like [what I feel] at a snowboard competition. I felt like I was about to ride a snowboard course, not walk a runway.”
Huckaby Never Imagined Being A Swimsuit Model
Her feelings are completely understandable, considering she’d only just come around to the idea that she was a bona fide swimsuit model.
“I was super excited to have the opportunity to pose for SI Swimsuit! When I got the call I was chosen I jumped up and down and paced my room for an hour because I was so excited. Then reality set in and I realized the magnitude of what was about to happen,” she said in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
She also admitted that the idea of becoming swimsuit model would have never been possible without her daughter.
“I have never seen myself as sexy and it wasn’t until Lilah (my daughter) was born that I was comfortable wearing my swimsuit without shorts,” she said.
Motherhood Changed How Huckaby Viewed Her Body
“It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I realized my body was more than an object,” she continued. “That was the moment I knew my body was a tool, a strong and forceful tool that takes me from experience to experience. Once I realized this I finally loved my body.”
And while her 17-month-old may not realize the magnitude of what’s happening right now, she hopes that one day she will understand and feel empowered, just as her mom does.
“When she’s older I hope she is also inspired, motivated, and empowered by my swimsuit shots. I hope she’ll know the courage it took for me to pose in a swimsuit, and I hope that motivates her to step out of her comfort zone,” she told Sports Illustrated.
Of course, now that she’s been featured in the magazine and strutted her stuff down the runway, you’ll find her frequently rocking bikinis — with no shorts in sight!
She recently posed in a bathing suit while enjoying a slice of pizza, as you can see in this photo she posted to Instagram:
Huckaby is embracing herself wholeheartedly, and she hopes others are able to do the same.
“Everyone should feel sexy,” she told Sports Illustrated. “It doesn’t matter what your body looks like, when you feel good in your skin it shows. Let me tell you, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t feel good in your own skin.”
And she hopes that seeing her in Sports Illustrated magazines and on the runway will prove to people that it’s possible to overcome fear, insecurity and more — and love yourself in the end.
“I see it as an opportunity to inspire others. 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. I want other women, regardless of their body, to know they are powerful and sexy.”