Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue makes a splash every season it comes out. Historically, this has not always been for the most empowering reasons. This years issue, however, features at least one exception. The magazine features its first amputee model, paralympian Brenna Huckaby. Keep reading to learn more about her story, or follow along at the original story in Cosmopolitan here.
2010 was a tough year, which brought Huckaby a diagnosis of osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer which you can learn more about here. Ultimately the bone cancer led to the amputation of her right leg. Huckaby describes that season of her life, her freshman year of high school, as the “lowest of the low.” A few years later, she moved from Louisiana to Utah and developed an interest in snowboarding. Today she competes in the paralympics in PyeongChang.
She’s also creating a landmark as the first amputee model for the swimsuit issue of Sport’s Illustrated. Huckaby says other women with disability send a massive amount of support. She feels a sense of joy over this.
According to Huckaby, response to her modeling have been “extremely positive and uplifting, which I was hoping for. Before doing the shoot, I thought, ‘Holy cow, I’m opening myself up for a lot of good, but potentially also a lot of bad.’ I wanted it to be done right. I wanted to represent women with disabilities the right way.”
One woman in particular wrote to Huckaby that she wished pictures like this existed when she was younger. This woman went through a similar struggle with cancer as Huckaby. She says that if she had seen Huckaby’s pictures during her battle, it would have made a big difference in her recovery. Huckaby says that comments like these are what made the shoot worthwhile.
Huckaby also shares moments form her journey to recovery in her comments and interviews. She describes the necessity of finding enjoyable activities during recovery. For her, this meant going to the gym, proving she could walk and exercise control over her body again. She describes surrounding herself with positive and encouraging people.
She continues to describe how pursuing a dating relationship made her feel normal and desired. Even if the relationship didn’t really turn out right, it gave her a sense of confidence.
Another moment Huckaby shares is the first tie she took her prosthetic off in front of her fiance. “He was the first person that I ever took my prosthetic off in front of.” She says his genuine support and curiosity has helped her feel comfortable with herself. Huckaby continues to say that he has played a big part in helping her realize she is not defined by her prosthetic. “…I don’t need my prosthetic to be who I am.”
The birth of her daughter also reinforced Huckaby’s knowledge of her strength. Huckaby says her daughter helps her to realize how incredible she is inside. Outward appearances just aren’t that important by comparison.
“I know that I am so much stronger than my body,” Huckaby says.
Closing out the interview, Huckaby gave a piece of advice specifically for amputees and women with disabilities. She says not to let amputation stop your life.
“Know that you’re a force.” She reminds those who share her story to remember what’s inside counts. A body is just a tool for who you are inside, she says. “Don’t be afraid to push yourself and get yourself out there.”