Sports Illustrated caught our attention this year when it featured a plus-sized model for its Swimsuit Edition for the first time ever. Australian Robyn Lawley, who is repped by Wilhelmina Models, has been modeling for eight years, appearing in campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Chantelle and Barneys, and in editorials for Vogue Italia and Cosmopolitan. She also has a successful food blog and cookbook, is a successful DJ and has her own line of swimsuits. And even though the SI editors thought her swimsuit line was generally too modest, she did get to wear one of her more revealing bikinis during her debut shoot.
I spoke to Lawley over the phone from Los Angeles, where she is due to give birth any day now to her first child. She spoke about her hunch that she was pregnant on set, working with the team in Wyoming and how curves have always been a part of SI. You can see all her images from the issue, out on newsstands Monday, below.
What's is like to be a part of the Swimsuit edition?
I'm so happy. We shot it so many months ago and as a model, it always sucks, the waiting game. I've had to wait and wait and wait and finally it's been released. I was talking to MJ [Day, senior editor at Sports Illustrated] today and they are all so happy, I'm happy, and I just love the shot so I'm really happy with that. And James [Macari, photographer] was awesome to shoot with. The whole team was so much fun, it's unreal to join this Sports Illustrated family.
How were you initially approached about being shot for the issue?
I did a casting not last year but the year before, and MJ really wanted to use me and we couldn't make it work. And then I went again last year and did another casting and, yeah, it was just the right time. MJ said, "You've been on my radar for so long, I've wanted to use you for so long." I'm really happy that with Kate Upton's success, it's really bringing back that curvy look. We booked it and then I shot it in June.
Did you know you were pregnant at the time?
I was in my first trimester. I didn't really know, I had a feeling because I was very tired and I wasn't feeling very well. It was exhausting for me. MJ was seven months pregnant. You just get turned off food completely and me getting turned off food is such a rarity, so I knew something was up. I kept working, I worked up until I was six months pregnant, modeling-wise, and I'm still working. I've got my swimwear and my cookbook stuff always on the go.
How was the shoot at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming?
The team is literally one of the nicest teams I've ever gotten to work with. I even told MJ today that the fashion world can get such big divas and I'm really down to earth, so I love people who just want to have fun on set and they are all about that. And they are all about you. They're like, "This is about you, Robyn, we want to know about you," and I thought, "What?" They were exhausted, they had been shooting for two weeks straight around America and they work so hard. It was like an 18-hour day in total, it was bonkers, but at the end of the day, I was the last girl they were shooting.
When I finished shooting, I went to my hotel and I ate two hamburgers in a row because I was starving. And then I conked out for like 12 hours. I ordered one and it wasn't good enough. I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to cooking and they overcooked it, so I ordered another one but I was so hungry, I ate it. I thought, well I'm extra hungry all of sudden. I think it had something to do with pregnancy, and then I slept forever.
How does it feel to be the first plus-size model ever to be a part of the Swimsuit edition?
I've always thought that 'first' anything, it's a little bit tokenistic. SI has had curvier girls, if you look back when it first launched in the '60s and '70s. Those girls were real, man. They were sexy and I like that, that's what I aspire to as a model. I tried to go down the skinny route in the beginning of my career because that's what was in fashion. When I saw Kate Upton doing so well, I thought, 'Wow, I actually might be shot for this because Heidi Klum [and others], they're still a size six or a size eight and I'm a size 12. But Kate Upton looks a little bit more curvy, so maybe I will have a chance to do SI." And then for it to actually happen just blew my mind.
Do you know plus-size model Ashley Graham, who also appeared in the issue in an ad? Have you spoken to her?
I think all the models above a size 10 know each other [laughing]. Ashley is amazing, she's such a sweetheart and she's doing it for Swimsuits For All which stocks my swimsuits, so I'm appreciative they are taking out ads. I think it's awesome.
What was it like to get to wear one of your own suits in the shoot?
Yeah, we've got one suit in there, it's a Palm D'Or bikini which I'm really, really excited about because when I met with them last year, I brought all of my swimsuits with me. I think I might have worn one, I can't even remember. And I said, "Just so you know, you might need these suits that fit me," and they were like, "It's ok, we're not really after the fitting suits, we want tiny, tiny bikinis." Mine are supportive and covering. But I did get to shoot one of my more sexier bikinis. I'm really excited to see that in the issue.
My own swimwear fits me the best because we make it to my body. I was like, "Well, I have a whole range!" I love the orange one by MM. It's super sexy. You know, we did a massive fitting and they really let you go through it and anything you're not comfortable with, you don't have to wear. It's a very supportive shoot, it's all girls, it's kind of really awesome.
What led you to start a swimwear line in the first place?
I could not find a suit that fit me. I posted a photo on Instagram from five years ago that the paper loves to keep running of me wearing underpants in a beach shot, when they wanted to shoot me as a new model that's going to go to America to start her career. I hated suits cutting into my love handles especially, and even if it was in my size, it was so small. So I started to design them and then we found a company that we liked and approached them.
When is your activewear line coming out?
We are going to take our time, I really want to get this one right. And I want to try everything on and go running and exercise in it but because I'm pregnant, I have to take a little bit of a pause. We've got most of the prototypes and I really want to try them all on and go kick some butt and see how they feel.