June 6, 2023

Nicole Williams English is proud to share her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit pregnancy journey.  (Illustration by Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo / Photo: Getty Images)

Nicole Williams English is proud to share her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit pregnancy journey. (Illustration by Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo / Photo: Getty Images)

It will is Yahoo Life’s body image series, which delves into the journeys of influential and inspirational figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.

Nicole Williams English is entering an era of body acceptance after becoming a mother for the first time and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit debutant in the same year.

The 39-year-old model and designer appears on the magazine’s pages as the second visibly pregnant woman ever, after Katrina Scott, who was the first in 2022. And while she was shot for the iconic publication, she’s long been on the UK’s bucket list, she never thought it would happen like this.

English was 7 months pregnant during her photo shoot.  (Photo: Yu Tsai/Sports Illustrated swimsuit)

English was 7 months pregnant during her photo shoot. (Photo: Yu Tsai/Sports Illustrated swimsuit)

“As a young model all I knew was that I had to try to be perfect and make your body look perfect and make your face look perfect. And that’s how it was for me when I lived in New York and at my castings went and tried to get all these jobs,” she tells Yahoo Life of her start in the industry at age 14. “You feel a little insecure sometimes because you go to these castings and see all those models in front of you. It’s just a competition.”

The Toronto native has had a complicated relationship with her body for as long as she can remember and remembers wearing layered clothes to school to give her the appearance of a fuller body. “Growing up, I was super-legged and skinny and gangly, and I hated it,” she explains. “Everyone wants what they don’t have.”

Peer taunting and bullying caused her to look for ways to get out of school. “The only thing that made me feel accepted was that I was in the modeling industry, where you had to be skinny and I was like everyone else,” she says.

While she felt like she belonged, she faced a different kind of pressure to stay in that figure, even as she’s gotten older and her career and life have evolved. “Maybe subconsciously I waited so long to try to have a baby because, you know, I would beat myself up with something like, ‘I haven’t achieved the things I want to achieve yet. I have to wait, this is my career. I have to keep this body or I have to keep this image,” she says.

Never did the first WAGS LA imagine her modeling career reaching new heights after she and her husband, former NFL player Larry English, decided it was time to start a family. But at the age of 38, she received life-changing news that IVF led to a successful pregnancy and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Wanted to join in the celebration. In July 2022, she announced her pregnancy on the brand’s Miami Swim Week runway as the first rookie of the 2023 issue.

Knowing she would be shooting for the magazine while pregnant went against everything she thought was true about the industry and her beauty standards.

“I had to sit there and say, ‘This is kind of crazy, because all these years I’ve thought I had to look a certain way or be a certain way with all this competition and all these girls with perfect bodies. And here I am massively pregnant and going to Dominica to shoot seven months pregnant And this is the way I shoot SI‘, she says. “I think it was kind of a reality check, like I don’t have to be what everyone expects me to be.”

The pre-shoot routine looked different from years past, as English acknowledged that she was “stuck” in the habit of dieting before a job or stressing over imperfections in her hair or her skin. “It’s kind of ingrained,” she says after years of modeling.

To turn that down completely for her shoot with Sports Illustrated swimsuit was refreshing.

“To be able to wake up, look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘OK, I’ve got all this water weight, my face is huge, my belly is huge, I don’t have ankles, but there’s nothing I can do something about it,” she says. “And it’s OK, because this is why I’m doing this. I’m going to shoot like this to show the world, look at me, I’m growing a human being inside me, this is the greatest moment of my life. “

English welcomed her daughter India Moon via C-section in January and continues to grace herself when it comes to her postpartum body. “You look at your body in the mirror when you get out of the shower and a lot happens. You feel different, you sweat cold at night, you leak and you pump at 3 or 4 in the morning. There’s a lot to add look,” she explains. “But I’m not really worried about hitting back or getting snatched like that. I feel so much more confident about my body now and I just know my body will go back when it goes back.

“I’ve already noticed little things like my belly button looks different, I have a scar, my muscles in my stomach are more apart, I don’t have the same shape. But I really love it,” she continues. “It’s like a new beginning, a new chapter, a new body, baby and it’s just beautiful. I accept it, I love it.”

With the last number of Sports Illustrated swimsuit when she comes out she even misses her pregnant body that the world now gets to see.

“I posed with my butt on the beach in the sun with my belly out in a skinny little bikini, and I felt my most beautiful I’ve ever felt in my life,” she says. “I challenge the idea that if you have a baby, you can’t have a career, you can’t work, you can’t be sexy, you can’t be a cool mom. I think you can do it all.”

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