Model and singer-songwriter Yumi Nu is making history this year.
Nu, who is of Japanese and Dutch heritage, has been named the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's Rookie of the Year, making her the "first Asian curve Sports Illustrated model," according to one of her Instagram posts.
In an Instagram video posted Thursday, the plus-size model opened up about what the photo shoot meant to her personally and for others who look like her. "For Asian American women, there's a lot of shame in flaunting your body and feeling sexy. And I think for me as a plus-size model, we've had to evolve and battle this like, inner voice that hasn't evolved.
"I'm plus size and Asian. That's why I'm like, this is important," she continued. "I want to do as much as I can to show other people that we don't have to be dainty and little. I can say, I know that in myself, I'm beautiful."
Nu elaborated in a recent interview on why she's keen on sharing her personal story now more than ever. "Our society's view of Asians in the model minority myth lens has silenced us for many years. In this time of anti-Asian violence, it's so important now more than ever for Asian people to be heard and supported," she told People.
"The division and racism in our world has gotten so bad; we've grown so far from love and connection. I want to create a space for people to feel heard and safe. That's my purpose on this earth."
Photographer Yu Tsai, who photographed Nu for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit in Tampa, Florida, also shared the same behind-the-scenes video. "This is such a special photoshoot with @si_swimsuit with @_yumi_nu @mj_day Thank you for always putting spot light on diversity and inclusion for women of all color, race and age. I ❤️ you all!" Tsai wrote in the accompanying caption.
Nu added in another post, "What an incredible honor it is to be in such an inclusive and beautiful magazine that has pushed the envelope since day 1."
MJ Day, the editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, said in a statement: "We work with a lot of incredible women. Yumi, however, possesses the most amount of confidence and appreciation for herself and body that we’ve seen.
"She doesn’t hold herself to any traditional beauty standards and is gracefully unapologetic for seeing herself as a powerful, beautiful, sensual woman. She shows up for women in a strong way and is on a mission to end the conversation around limiting women in the industry. Not only is she stunning, and an extraordinary model, but she radiates warmth and the kind of energy that we always want around. Yumi's photos are some of my favorites and so is she!"
In addition to modeling and singing, Nu is preparing to launch her own plus-size clothing line called Blueki, which will offer sustainably sourced and ethically made apparel in larger sizes.
Robyn Lawley became the first plus-size model to be featured in the swimsuit edition six years ago. That same year, Ashley Graham was the first plus-size model to grace the Swimsuits for All ad in the issue, too. Graham was named the magazine's Rookie of the Year the following year, and she thanked her fans "who stood up for curves."
The special magazine issue has a track record of featuring a diverse group of models. Last year, Valentina Sampaio became the first openly transgender model to appear in the publication. Halima Aden became the first model to wear a hijab and a burkini in 2019's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. The annual magazine has also highlighted older models such as Nicola Griffin, who was 56 when she posed in a gold bikini for a Swimsuits for All ad in the 2016 issue.
The 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue will hit newsstands this summer on July 20.