Ashley Graham has become a beacon of body positivity throughout her career, but a new ad for her capsule collection with Swimsuits For All is pushing the boundaries of diversity and redefining sexiness in all its forms. Shot on the cobblestone streets and sandy beaches of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the ad appears smack in the center of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue—a publication that for all intensive purposes subjected scantily clad women to a primarily male gaze for the past 53 years. But things seems to be shifting at the glossy and companies like Swimsuits For All are finally redefining what a bikini body really looks like in a landscape laser-focused on thinness and youth.
Last year, Graham became the first plus-size model to ever cover SI’s coveted swimsuit issue, and in 2017 she’s breaking new ground by appearing alongside real women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes, and sizes—a new move for the pioneering swimwear brand. “We wanted real women,” said Sara Mitzner, creative director of Swimsuits For All. “We wanted it to be real and authentic, to show that these women really look great in a swimsuit.” And that includes casting 80-year-old abuelas who have no reservations about sporting a leopard-print maillot or bikini alongside a supermodel. “Using “real” people to sell goods and send a strong message is a strategy many fashion designers—like Demna Gvasalia, Rick Owens, and even Dolce & Gabbana—have wised up to recently. It’s a tactic that allows shoppers to easily identify with the women featured and imagine themselves in the clothes, ultimately leading to more sales.