Swimsuits4All created a global media sensation last year by paying for ad space in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition — and giving the magazine its first plus-size model in the form of bikini-clad Ashley Graham.
The audacious stunt enflamed worldwide debate about the exclusion of full-figured models in mainstream fashion marketing and all but shamed SI into rethinking its approach to plus-size models — both Ashley and fellow body activist Robyn Lawley will make an appearance in the upcoming 2016 edition, this time in editorial features previously reserved for stereotypically slender bikini models.
So after busting down that barrier, what does Swimsuits4All do for an encore?
We got the answer today when S4A released images of its upcoming ad campaign for the new SI Swimsuit Edition, this time featuring three highly accomplished women in $50 gold halter-top bikinis. But this campaign is more about brains and beliefs than just bodies.
Leading the #SwimSexy campaign is another example of someone you’d never expect to see in the pages of Sports Illustrated: 56-year-old British model Nicola Griffin. She only began working as a mature model three years ago after being asked to pose for a UK hair company, and uses her new role to speak out against age discrimination.
“I hope that women take away from this campaign that you can look fantastic at any size, any shape,” Nicola says. “Healthy, happy, glowing at no matter what age you are, what size you are, just looking good, feeling good.”
She’s joined in the S4A campaign by the multi-tasking Ghanaian model Philomena Kwao, who holds degrees in economics and health care management and campaigns for access to health care in rural west Africa. The 25-year-old also sports a close-cropped natural Afro and runs a blog forum called The Lily Project that mentors young girls.
“I would advise other women to cut out the fuzz, turn on your blinders, and really look inside at you, who you are, what you stand for and what makes you beautiful,” she says. “If you have a part of your body that you like, celebrate it every day.”
Rounding out the #SwimSexy trio is returning S4A ambassador Ashley Graham (above), who in the past year has emerged as the most recognized and vocal body-positive activist in the plus-size modeling community. So far in 2016, the 28-year-old supermodel has fronted a Forever 21 sportswear campaign, launched another lingerie collection for Addition Elle and been named to Forbes magazine’s prestigious 30 Under 30 list.
“The advice that I give to women to help them feel sexier is to look in the mirror and give themselves affirmations,” she says. “I am beautiful. I am bold. I am brilliant. You are sexy. You are worth it.”
Swimsuits4All is cleverly calling its campaign “the gold standard” for plus-size swimwear marketing, and it’s hard to dispute that.
The #SwimSexy campaign includes a TV ad and behind-the-scenes video, both of which we’ve included below. Last year’s ad featuring Ashley notched more than 3 million views on YouTube alone, while a summertime ad starring Denise Bidot did almost as well.