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Hunter McGrady and Sports Illustrated Swim Models on Body Diversity: ‘It’s About Time’

People logo People 2/17/2017 Julie Mazziotta
© Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Sports Illustrated made its focus body diversityin the 2017 Swimsuit issue — and the models could not be happier.

Hunter McGrady, who debuted in the issue as its curviest model ever, was thrilled to see the magazine push for change.

“It’s about time that we are seeing this in the media, like come on now, it’s been long enough,” McGrady, 23, tells PEOPLE. “I feel so proud to be a part of it.”

Kate Upton in Sports Illustrated Swim, on stands now © People Kate Upton in Sports Illustrated Swim, on stands now

And three-time cover modelKate Upton, 24 agrees that the issue is empowering for women.

“Every page you flip through, every woman is different, different shape, different size and different age,” she says. “The one thing that’s consistent through the magazine is that they feel confident and they feel good, and they exude that.”

Robyn Lawley, the first curvy model to pose for the magazine in 2015 — and who again graced its pages this year — says body diversity is something she’s been working toward her entire career.

Robyn Lawley © People Robyn Lawley

“Considering my whole career has been based on that, I’m thrilled and very excited, and to actually witness change and be a part of the actual change is the best part,” Lawley, 27, says. “Having Serena Williams, Christie Brinkley, having iconic athletes, there’s something literally for everyone, it’s very exciting.”

One of those “iconic athletes,” Aly Raisman, was wowed by just how many female athletes are represented in the pages.

Aly Raisman in Sports Illustrated Swim, on stands now © People Aly Raisman in Sports Illustrated Swim, on stands now

“They never had this many athletes, and it’s amazing,” the gold medal-winning Olympian, 22, says. “I’m 5’2 and as a young girl I didn’t know it was possible for me to model in this issue because I wasn’t tall enough. I think it’s amazing that now it’s changing and you can be any size, any height and any size jeans you can be and I think that’s amazing.”

Raisman has plenty of fans among the other models, including Bianca Balti, who was named SI‘s 2017 Rookie of the Year.

“My favorite is the sporty and muscular type that was shown, like finally in a Sports Illustrated magazine,” Balti, 32, says. “My favorite was Aly and Simone , because I spent the whole summer looking at them at the Olympics and I feel like it’s so feminine and beautiful.”

Along with size diversity, SI pushed for age diversity, and brought back one of their most iconic models, Christie Brinkley, 63.

“Another one I loved was Christie Brinkley,” Balti says. “It’s amazing, I wish I was her, not only the beauty but the smile is also contagious. I feel like it’s due and it should always be like that, the world is diverse why shouldn’t a magazine be diverse?”

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