May 2, 2019
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue may not be on stands until May 8, but this year's issue is already getting tons of buzz for incorporating a diverse group of models. Editor MJ Day recently spoke about her intention of shattering conventional ideas about beauty with this year's line-up, discussing model Halima Aden, who appears in a burkini. "We believe beauty knows no boundaries," Day said in a story about the issue on SI.com.
Day's point of view also means that the issue celebrates mom bods of all shapes and sizes: Several stunning models featured throughout the pages are mothers of varying ages, including Tara Lynn, 36, Paulina Porizkova, 54, and Lais Ribeiro, 28. Parents.com recently caught up with the SI model mamas about positive body image and motherhood—and the relationship between the two.
On tackling ageism by appearing in this year's issue: "That was the highlight for me. It's something I've been dealing with since my mid-40s. From about 45 and on, this really amazing thing happens where you just start going invisible, and it happens gradually. Every woman I've talked to in her 50s knows this feeling. [But] times have changed so much, and it's time not to fail to see women in their 50s. Women in their 50s are the most powerful. I still feel pretty and sexy and relevant and, interior-wise, I feel like I'm so much smarter than I used to be, so this is a good age for me to show off and not disappear."
On representing her age group in the issue: "There are probably 30 models I can think of off-hand who are my age and who look younger than me, and MJ chose me. And I think it's because I look like I'm 54; I don't look like I'm 39. I think it's wonderful to look whatever the f*** age they want—it's your body, do whatever you want with it. But when you no longer have examples to look to who are actually age-appropriate, then we have a little bit of a problem."
On how motherhood affected her body confidence: "Being through natural childbirth twice with no drugs made me seriously feel like a warrior. Like, you can send me out into the zombie war, and I will handle it. The amount of pain—the things that our bodies do are so amazing. It empowered me probably beyond where I should be empowered, but still I feel like, if I can do that, there's nothing I cannot do. That was really awesome, and that was worth going through the pain to know I can. As far as the signs that pregnancy leaves behind, goddammit, that's not my favorite part of it. A lot of women are all, 'Be proud of your stretch marks,' and I desperately tried to be, but I'd rather they weren't there, frankly."
On getting back in shape after baby: "I am very big on people trying to breastfeed and nurse if they can, and as long as you're nursing, you can't really worry about looking as you did before. You have to give yourself that break of like, 'Look, I'm feeding another human being right now, and I'm not going to go insane and lose all the weight.' You deserve to be a bit kinder to yourself. Treat yourself gently. Give yourself a break, but be aware of the health choices that you make; you're also making them for your children. You want the energy to run after your kids. ... Getting in shape is the least important in the grand scheme of things, but as far as making yourself feel good about you, it's pretty important."
On maintaining a sense of self through motherhood: "Once you're a mom, you're not supposed to be sexy, right? It always seems like people have a hard time [with that]. We have the term 'soccer mom.' What's expected of you is to be there for your children and to no longer really have a sense of yourself; that's no longer important. And me, now, having children in my 20s, I think that's a terrible idea. Because then you end up having done nothing but support your children and bake cookies, and then what? I think it's really important to keep a sense of yourself as a mother, because obviously, once that kid pops out, it becomes the most important thing in the world for you, your priority at all times. That's a given. So, I think what's not a given is take out time to do your own thing. Maintain a sense of what you like to do, what makes you you—not you as a mother but you as a woman."
On SAHMs vs. working moms: "If you're not a stay-at-home mom, you draw the ire of the stay-at-home mom, and if you are a stay-at-home mom, you draw the ire of the working mom. We as females need to get a more solidarity, prop each other up instead of rip each other apart."
On post-baby body pressures: "Your body goes through changes that you may or may not love or appreciate. A lot of moms struggle with the question of 'how to get my body back.' I feel like, first of all, that baby is out—you just got your body back. Like, now the decisions you make about your body are no longer directly affecting your child. You can take a painkiller when you have a horrible headache, instead of worrying, 'How this is going to affect my baby?' And then for the rest of it, talking aesthetics, fitting into that dress before you got pregnant, we just need to appreciate that we made a baby, and that is so incredibly important and so magical, and yeah, there are some changes that come along with that, but we have to be patient with ourselves. Give the process some time. We see all these all celebrities 'bouncing back' in no time—and they have professional nutritionists and trainers and a ton of pressure on them. Were they really happy to get their body back to where it was in a matter of eight weeks, or did they have to sacrifice other things in their lives that they don't talk about? And is their body even really back to what it used to be, or are they putting an Instagram filter on it?"
On ageism: "Change is inevitable in every way. We have such this fixation in our culture of retaining youth, and any time a woman mentions her age or is asked her age, no matter what she says, the automatic response of everyone around is, 'No! You couldn't be! I thought you were—insert actual age minus 5 to 10 years.' And it's because we value this idea of impossible youth when that's just function of time, we get older and older. And I think it's time that we embrace those changes and the maturity that age brings and allow ourselves to age and change, especially through motherhood."
On enjoying her age: "I'm getting more and more comfortable, just comparing myself to my peers less. You, as time goes on, have a stronger sense of who you are and what's important to you, and fitting in with people around you just becomes so much less important."
On work-life balance: "There's something about going away [for a shoot] and coming back again that helps refresh and renew. I think every time I come back from a trip, I have a little bit better, more patient, and more appreciative mother than when I left. I don't think it's possible to be a total super-mom but also be career woman who's working full-time and look cute all the time and be some attractive, perfect partner. I don't think it's possible to do all those things at the same time. Something's gotta give. Luckily, having systems in place in your family—like your kids are taken care of, but as a mom you can retain a sense of identity or a career, if you want, that's so important. That's the key to my mental health."
On self-care: "I love to take a little time-out and go to the gym. That's always a time that's all about me and re-energizing my mind and getting rid of stress and strengthening my body, so I can pick up my big boys! Or, like, going for a brisk walk, if I can't get to the gym. Taking the time to socialize on a Thursday with the moms. Taking a little bit of time and feeling connected to my community."
On the message she hopes to send as a body positive, curvy model: "I hope the example I'm setting is not to look like one specific thing, but to embrace our individuality and love our body in every state."
On body image changing over the years and with motherhood: "When you’re younger, you’re more caught up on your appearance and other people’s perception of you. Over the years, what has become most important to me is to be happy and healthy. So, however that affects my body, I accept it, no matter what. I had my son at a pretty young age, and I must admit, I bounced back fairly quickly. I think age more so has helped me learn to embrace the added curves and marks us women get. I have also learned to listen to my body and stick to the workouts and diets that work for me."
On her biggest challenge parenting these days: "I think parenting itself is a huge challenge. As parents, we are constantly questioning ourselves and how our parenting decisions will affect our children. However, because my son has autism, I have learned to try and find little wins every day."
On the pressure to "get your body back" after baby: "Don’t compare your journey with someone else's, because everyone’s body is different. Find the workouts and meal plans that work for you. Also, embrace your new body! Being a mother is a beautiful thing, and we should love the bodies that we get from that."
On the best advice she's gotten from a fellow mom: "'Always do the best that you can do.' As a parent, you can constantly feel overwhelmed and wonder if you’re doing a good job. As long as I know I’m doing my best and what’s best for my child, that worry starts to fade away."