In this political moment, where we are hours from inaugurating a president who apparently believes his fame gives him the right to grope women, it is especially important for young women, particularly young Jewish women, to have role models. And they do, in two-time Olympic gold-medal winning gymnast Aly Raisman, who proves that one needn’t be tall, rail-thin, and blonde to be beautiful; or, more importantly, strong and successful.
Here’s what Raisman, 22, said about her experience posing for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, hitting newsstands coming in February: “I loved the photo shoot. It was such an empowering feeling to be so confident and happy with the way I looked. I work so hard for the body that I have and believe that all women should embrace how beautiful they are, no matter their body type.”
Last summer, the Needham, Mass., native used her fame as a platform to speak about having a positive body image as a female athlete in the pages of the ESPN Body Issue. “The perfect physique of a gymnast,” said Raisman, “I don’t think that there is one, which, I think that’s why gymnastics is so great. There are [gymnasts] that are really, really, really thin and really flexible, then there’s also my body type. I have more muscle to me.” She repeated similar sentiments in December, saying:
Being in gymnastics, you’re always in a leotard…and you always have those days when you feel insecure. It’s completely normal, it happens to everyone. I try to start my day by looking in the mirror and picking out things that I like about myself instead of picking out what I don’t like about myself.
Shot in Houston, Texas, Raisman wears a bikini and poses at a skate park for the SI shoot. Fellow Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles also posed for the issue. The championship pair Raisman and Biles have both been interviewed in the past about the challenges that professional gymnasts face in regards to body image. “There was a time when both of us were told our body fat percentage was off,” Raisman said.
In an Instagram post featuring one of the Sports Illustrated spreads, Raisman accompanies the image with a caption, reminding her followers once again that “It is 2017 and there is NO perfect or ideal body type. SI SWIM celebrates women for being unique and beautiful in our own way which is why I am so happy to be a part of it.”
Perhaps the President-Elect could learn something from Raisman’s pride in her body and statements that no one body type is perfect. One can only hope.
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Miranda Cooper is an editorial intern at Tablet. Follow her on Twitter here.