Hunter McGrady’s modeling career didn’t come easy.
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit star grew up being “enamored” by her mother, who was also a model. It was at age 15 when she was ready for her close-up – but the experience was painful.
“I’m 6 feet tall, and back then, I was a size 2 and 114 pounds,” the model told Health magazine for their latest issue. “I was very thin, and I tried to be that thin. I was just like, ‘Let me see how thin I can get.’ I hadn’t even fully gone through puberty yet. I went into agencies, and every single agent kept telling me, ‘You’re great, we love you. If you can just lose a little bit more, we’ll sign you.’”
McGrady said she was determined to be accepted by the modeling industry. But there was one moment that made her quit.
The latest issue of Health magazine featuring Hunter McGrady hits newsstands December 17. (Photographed by Ben Watts)
“The last straw was when I booked a job and was like, ‘I’m the thinnest I’ve ever been. This is fabulous,’” recalled the 28-year-old. “I walk in and everyone’s staring at me. The producer comes over and is like, ‘Listen, we have to talk to you. We didn’t realize how big you were.’ It was a stretchy t-shirt company. They didn’t even give me an option to try anything on – they just said they wouldn’t work with me. After that, I told my mom I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was really feeling it emotionally – and dealing with anxiety and depression.”
McGrady admitted she needed to get therapy.
“Mentally, I knew I needed help,” she explained. “I really had to strip away everything I had been told and had learned. I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s sad.’ But it’s also the first building block of the career I have now. I really had to learn about my body and learn how to nourish it and love it again.”
According to McGrady, it was therapy that gave her the building blocks to love herself. And with time, she became more confident to pursue modeling again. She also noted how seeing models Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine and Robyn Lawley on the cover of Vogue Italia cover compelled her to try once more.
Hunter McGrady said she’s proud of being a plus-size model. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
“They were plus-size models – I didn’t even know that was a thing,” said McGrady. “During my time off, I had grown physically and mentally. I thought, ‘These girls look like me now.’ So, I went to Wilhelmina Models, and they signed me.”
McGrady also revealed she’s proud of being labeled a plus-size model.
“It’s funny, when I first started, I didn’t want to say I was a plus-size model – I was just a model,” she reflected. “And along the way, a lot of women were like, ‘I actually really love being called plus-size – I’m not ashamed of it.’ I am pro-woman – if you want to be called plus-size, great! For me, now, I’m like, ‘Hell yeah, I’m a plus-size model.’”
McGrady, now a mom, made her SI Swimsuit debut as part of the brand’s 2017 model search. Then in 2018, she was brought back to become a rookie.
Hunter McGrady is now an advocate for body positivity. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)
Back in 2020, McGrady spoke to Fox News Digital about appearing in Sports Illustrated for the fourth time.
“Oh my God, it’s amazing,” she said at the time. “Every single year I’m so humbled to be included in such a huge publication. And every year they just outdo themselves. MJ Day, the editor, understands the need for diversity in media. She was really the one who made the decision many years back to include Ashley Graham on the cover and kick off this movement.”
“It was a wonderful move that really opened a lot of people’s eyes to see that we need to see different bodies,” she shared. “We need to see different races, different heights, different shapes, different varieties of people. I can say this year will be more diverse than ever and I’m really proud of it.”
McGrady also revealed she felt her “absolute best” posing for the magazine.
Hunter McGrady is now a proud mom. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
“Any kind of insecurity I had just went out the door,” said McGrady. “Every year I shed a little bit of that insecurity because let’s face it, we’re all human. I love myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any insecurities. But this year I feel like I really let that out the door and went in feeling with this feeling of just being the best that I can be. And I just had fun with it. I’ve already seen some of the photos and they’re amazing. I just feel really, really great about this issue.”