Mayim Bialik: I grew up with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue being the most coveted magazine by every boy I knew. Like it or not, it’s the “industry standard” for bringing beautiful women and beautiful bodies to the forefront of a lot of people’s consciousness. I read an interview you did where you said it’s an incredible honor as a model to be in this issue of this magazine. What should be stated is that you are a size 14-16 which is very unusual for SI to feature.

Hunter McGrady: Well, I’m 5’11” and I’ve been everything from a size 2 (at age 16) to a size 18.

MB: Holy Toledo. I’m curious what that was like to be so much smaller than your natural body frame; because you come from a family of ‘normal’ sized women who are tall and broad… Did it feel like you when you were a size 2? !

HM: You know what? It wasn’t normal for me and I knew that all along, but I thought that was what I had to do to be a model. So, I wouldn’t eat, and I would work out for four hours a day. And I tried to keep my hips at 36” which is now my waist size! I kept trying to convince myself to keep it up by thinking “You’re never going to be a model if you cant keep starving yourself.” It was just something that I could not keep up.

Finally it hit me when I went to a modeling job when I was 16. I walked in with my mom and there was a crew of about twenty people and they all were staring at me. The director came up to me and said that they are so sorry but they had to ask me to leave because “We didn’t realize how big you were”…I was 5’11” and a size 2! I was so angry, and I thought, “This is not how I’m going to live my life, so I guess I’m not going to be a model; I guess I’m going to be a freaking engineer or something. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” So, that was kind of the turning point for me.

MB: I’m fascinated with how you got from a size 2 at 16 to be what you consider to be your normal weight now at 23? Did you just start eating like a “normal” non-model person? A lot of people think if you’re a certain size larger than what they think you should be that you must really like food…

HM: From about sixteen to about nineteen, I stopped modeling all together, and I felt like, “I’m going to eat pasta if I frigging want it!” If I wanted a piece of pizza and a slice of cake, I ate it.

MB: You ate like guys get to eat! (haha)

HM: Yeah! When I was modelling, I ate a lot of salad with no dressing and drank water and that was about it. So to get to my current weight, I was eating three meals a day, and I was also getting older and growing into my womanly body; so I had hips, my thighs grew, my chest, my shoulders – everything was growing on me because I was growing into my body. I was becoming a woman. I felt really beautiful in that. And yes, I have tons of stretch marks, but I love them, and to me they’re beautiful, and they make me feel like I’m a woman.

MB: I was a very late bloomer and my breasts grew very quickly, so I have stretch marks on my breasts, but I didn’t have stretch marks until I birthed my two children. I’m going to be really honest with you: I don’t love my stretch marks the way you do. I just don’t. You are being celebrated, and the SI photos are gorgeous and you are putting yourself out there in way that I don’t have the confidence to do. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my body but, I wonder if you can speak a little bit to how women or even men treat you differently in terms of your comfort level with things that not everyone is comfortable with.

HM: For women who have had kids, to me those stretch marks signify that you are able to carry a child in your body; it’s so powerful! Your stomach grew because of it and that is, excuse my language, fucking bad ass! That is so insane that women can do that. My main objective is I want people to feel comfortable around me, I want people to look at me and my body so that if they can relate to me in any way, that hopefully they can go about their day and not stress, that if they put on a bra and there’s a little bulge on the side it’s not a big deal.

MB: In terms of the empowerment you think that girls and young women might get from seeing your photos, do you feel like the public is only comfortable with a woman with your size body if she is being sexy? Can women also be attractive at any size even if they aren’t in a swimsuit?

HM: I think that the public definitely wants to see girls who are sexy, because that’s what women seem to equate confidence with. One of the best compliments I got recently was a girl in about her late thirties who said she had been married for thirteen years and she had never been naked fully in front of her husband until this Sports Illustrated came out. She said she was able to look at me – and she and I have a similar body type – and she said she thought that if I could be  in Sports Illustrated which is considered the “sexiest magazine”, that she could learn to feel sexy too.

MB: That’s very powerful! So, I’ve never spoken to a fancy beautiful model before and I want to ask this: how do you date?

HM: Guys are very intimidated I think, because I’m a lot of woman; it’s true that guys don’t normally come up to me, and because there’s really no secrets in Mississippi, I mean everyone’s pretty much seen all of me at this point – I’m in body paint in Sports Illustrated… I actually have a boyfriend, and he reached out to me on snapchat believe it or not.  

MB: Good luck to you and thanks for talking to me. I don’t want to call you brave because that’s such a weird word, but it’s so bold to have such an articulate person speaking about the struggles of the industry this way and I think you are really cool. Maybe I will some day learn to love my stretch marks because of you.

HM: You’re so sweet. Thank you so much for talking with me.