Hunter McGrady is a professional model who has posed at a size 2 and a size 16. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit star and 2017 TODAY Style Hero isn't afraid to discuss the pressure to lose weight early in her career or how she learned to embrace her natural curves.
I love my hips now.
But when I was growing up and wanting to be a model, my hips were always something that held me back. Every agency I went into, they told me I needed to lose weight off of my hips.
I had gone into a job when I was 16 and I got turned away because of my hips. They said that I was much bigger than they thought and I was fine everywhere else, but if I just had smaller hips, they would photograph me that day.
I was such a young girl, just trying to fit into this box that everyone else wanted me to be in.
I was devastated by that because I thought, "God, these hips are holding me back!" I can't be a model. I can't do something that I want to do.
Eventually, it was enough. I just thought to myself, you know what, I am worthy of all these things that I want in my life; they will happen for me.
I am worthy of being powerful and being successful and feeling beautiful.
Now, I'm in Sports Illustrated and I've accomplished so much. I work with all of my dream clients and it's because of my hips.
They've empowered me and made me feel so confident.
To my younger self I would say, "Don't worry so much about what you look like because you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are smart and you're going to make the world a better place."
As told to TODAY's Emily Sher. This essay has been edited and condensed for clarity.