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Meet the 56-Year-Old Mom in Sports Illustrated

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd write: Hooray for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

This year, they chose to take a hint from reality and feature a variety of body types on its covers, including size 16 model Ashley Graham, body painted UFC star Ronda Rousey and straight-size model Hailey Clauson. True, all three are pictured in highly sexualized positions and attire (or lack thereof, in Rousey's case), but hey, baby steps.

Graham's rise to coverdome, in particular, is interesting, because she first appeared in the 2015 Swimsuit issue … in an ad for a swimwear apparel company called swimsuitsforall, which offers suits in sizes 8 to 34. All hell broke loose when the public saw a woman looking like Graham—size 16, no thigh gap—in a magazine typically reserved for women with measurements more along the lines of 38-24-34.

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This year, swimsuitsforall ran a series of risqué ads, part of its #swimsexy campaign. In a trio of adverts, three non-traditional (i.e. not thin/busty/uber-toned/young/long hair/white) models work a shiny Beach Babe Gold Bikini. One of those women is Nicola Griffin, a 56-year-old mother of fraternal twin daughters, now 21, from Nottinghamshire, England. She's the oldest person to be featured in a SI swim issue.

Never before has SI included a pinup of a woman who, in her off time, models for a company called White Hot Hair. True, she's not an actual SI model; swimsuitsforall paid to be included in the issue. But she is there. She looks like a smokin' hot phoenix rising up out of the ocean. She is a mom. This is epic evidence that the body- and age- diversity movements are gaining ground, and that SI actually has balls.

I got the chance to interview Nicky in between appearances on Good Morning America and E! and calls from Men's Fitness online. Here's what she had to say.

Let's talk about the response to your ad. Is it what you expected? Why do you think people are so excited?

The response to #SwimSexy has been overwhelming! I am so pleased with the attention that the campaign has received. So many people have reached out to me, thanking me for participating in such a groundbreaking ad. I think that women are thrilled to see someone that they can relate to—its about time women of all shapes, sizes and ages are represented in the media.

There have been other moms in the SI swimsuit issue, but they look, basically, like your average SI swimsuit model. (i.e. Elle MacPherson.) Do you think that does a disservice to readers, both male and female?

I have a normal body of a 56-year-old mother with cellulite, stretch marks, little rolls of fat. But that's a woman's body. I'm proud of that fact.

I think that it is important to show a range of real bodies in the media. Some women are thin, some are round—I think that the strength of this campaign lies in the fact that we are showcasing another "sexy." I'm a model, 56. I'm not a swimsuit model (per se), but I'm fit, I'm healthy. I have a normal body of a 56-year-old mother with cellulite, stretch marks, little rolls of fat. But that's a woman's body. I'm proud of that fact. I'm not having to do sit-ups every day. I'm a mother of two children, 56, with all the flaws that go with it.

So many women think that once they give birth, they're forever related to the domain of skirted one-piece swimsuits. But when you posted your SI photo to your Instagram page, you captioned it, "I'm 56 and I #SwimSexy. It's never too late to put on a bikini." What's your advice for moms on busting into the world of bikinis?

It's a mindset. If you're happy with yourself and who you are, if you can embrace your body, you can put a bikini on. But if you're going to criticize yourself and have negative thoughts, that's not the way to go. It's all about accepting yourself the way you are. There are lots of moms out there who have curves, but they look at pictures of size 0 models and they feel badly about themselves. When you've had babies and your body changes shape and size, you lose confidence as well. It's a mindset. Embrace your body—all the curves, all the flaws, just the way you are.

Before this, I'd never worn a bikini. I have very fair skin, so (when I was a young mom), I'd put a wrap around me, sit under a brellie and (only come out) to chase the kids around the beach. For the swimsuitsforall shoot, I'd assumed I'd be wearing a (one-piece) bathing suit. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but the swimsuitsforall team and Ashley (Graham) and Philomena (Kwao, the other #SwimSexy model) made me feel so comfortable. It was a wonderful experience! I felt good in the bikini—sexy, confident.

Your girls are 21. What was their response to the ad?

It's a myth that women lose their sex appeal as we get older. I've never felt sexier.

"My girls have been so supportive! #SwimSexy has changed my life, and I am so pleased that I am able to be a body-positive role model for my girls, as well as other ladies. It's a myth that women lose their sex appeal as we get older. I've never felt sexier. I'm proud that my daughters get to see me looking sexy and confident in a bathing suit."

What are some of your best tips for raising kids with strong body images?

I raised my daughters in a loving environment and accepted them for who they are. I think it is important to support your children and have an open dialogue. (When they were young,) I cooked and put three meals a day on the table, and we ate. I didn't talk about diets, didn't have scales in the house, had healthy snacks. I taught them how to cook and would talk about different fruits and vegetables and how good they make you feel. I set an example for them. Now, they're at university and when they send me Snapchats of what they're eating, it's exactly the kind of things I would eat: loads of broccoli, green tea, yogurt, banana.

(Growing up, I would give them) treats, like chocolate, but in moderation. Now, we have a glass of champagne with some orange juice in it and a strawberry on top when we want to celebrate.

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Any advice for other moms of multiples?

Originally, I found out I was having one baby. Then, at 15 weeks, I had such bad morning sickness and I went to the doctor, who discovered two babies. I was scared to go back because I was worried they would tell me there was another one! It's very difficult, but the years have flown by and if I could do it all again, I would. Twins are a miracle … the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. To have two babies at the same time is so, so, so exciting, so lovely. I loved every minute of it. It's not easy, but it's worthwhile.

Photograph by: Swimsuitsforall

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