Hunter McGrady discusses breaking past boundaries and inspiring young women.

February 13, 2018

The “In Her Own Words” project is a perfect example of what happens when powerful women with compelling visions come together and create. 

I remember going into what I thought was going to a regular photo shoot with Taylor Ballantyne.  Before the shoot began, I was chatting with some of the other women that were participating in the project: Jamie Frankel, Robyn Lawley, and Mary Guthrie. All different sizes, all different walks of life, all different ages, all different experiences, and all talking about the one thing we had in common-The pressure we felt by society to change and fit the norm. 

As we were talking, Jamie came up with the brilliant idea of doing the shoot with words written on our bare bodies. Words that were personally meaningful to us. Words that we thought embodied our story, our truth, and our viewpoint.

Taylor Ballantyne

It was no longer just a typical photo shoot for all of us. It transformed into a very personal, intimate, empowering and profound moment in our lives. 

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A blinded and brainwashed society has tried to convince me that as a tall blonde woman with a pretty face, I’d never be taken seriously. The beauty with out brains, blonde bimbo has for too long been the cliché de jour. Additionally, I was told that I would never make it as a model because I wasn’t thin enough, had stretch marks, cellulite on my legs, rolls when i sat down, and less than perfect skin.

Both my grandmother and mother enjoyed successful modeling careers. As a young girl, I heard them tell stories of their many adventures, world travels and interesting experiences. Naturally, I wanted to join in that legacy. But it seemed I was not qualified. 

So when I was graciously given the opportunity to share my truth and voice with the world through this shoot, I chose my words deliberately, thoughtfully, consciously and responsibly. 

I know and understand from experience the power of words to hurt or to heal, to hold back or to inspire, to criticize or to embolden, to deliver or to bind. As spoken and written thousands of years ago, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  

The first word I wrote on my body was “worthy,” which means “having or showing the qualities or abilities that merit recognition in a specified way.” I genuinely believe that we are ALL worthy of feeling this way regardless of the way we look. 

Taylor Ballantyne

As a society driven by social media and modern technologies, we put far too much emphasis on physical appearance. We are living in the generation of Face Tune and Photoshop. We can morph our images into perfect versions of ourselves—versions we think people will be more approving of. Nothing is more disheartening, more inauthentic, more self-alienating, and self-damaging than desperately trying to be someone you are not.

The second word I chose was “fearless.” I have had to become fearless in an industry that has not always accepted my body type, and still has trouble doing so. I had to be fearless doing this shoot knowing that I am putting myself out there and allowing myself to be vulnerable to criticism from people who have not quite got on board the inclusively train yet! (Choo! Choo! Were leaving! Lol.) 

I remind myself everyday that, while I do this for me, I also do this for the women AND men who don’t have a public platform to demonstrate what fearless looks like. 

The third word I chose to write on my body was boundless. I deliberately wrote this down my leg, the strongest part of my body, to represent the very literal foundation of my body and the foundational mindset one must have in order to fully realize and bring into fruition their dreams, desires and passions. Short of a limitless mindset, one is left with nothing more than unrealized wishes and daydreams. 

Taylor Ballantyne

Humans are evolutionarily predisposed to resist change because of the risk associated with it. Despite that natural inclination, we must resolve to do so, for it is needed now more than ever.

When I received the phone call from Taylor informing me that not only did SI Swimsuit editor MJ Day want to pick this shoot up for Sports Illustrated, but that she wanted to keep it, black and white and UNEDITED, I just broke down in tears of gratitude. That’s when I fully realized the magnitude of passion I have for society to change its preconceived notions and prejudices. 

We must get to a place where we are not ashamed to be who we are, not afraid to speak our truth, not held back by the gatekeepers, the experts, the naysayers, the uninformed and unenlightened.   

Taylor Ballantyne

This crusade is so powerful, so challenging, and so very needed right now. The current misguided and blindly accepted narrative must be challenged and ultimately changed. To open this magazine and see something like this shoot, is groundbreaking and controversial in all the best ways possible. 

This particular shoot is for every little girl who has never felt like she could live up to the expectations and unrealistic, inauthentic images she sees daily in the magazines, on TV, in the movies, and on billboards blanketing the world. This issue, this shoot, these personal and honest words are for you. We want you to know we hear you, we see you, you matter.

See all of Hunter's gorgeous photos from her In Her Own Words shoot:

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