June 4, 2023

Madisin Rian says there is no one standard of beauty.  (Photo: Getty Images)

Madisin Rian says there is no one standard of beauty. (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.

Model Madisin Rian knows a thing or two about staying the course.

Armani Beauty’s spoke model has worked with brands such as Miu Miu and Polo Ralph Lauren and has appeared in the pages of Fashion Portugal And Marie Claire Australia.

Now the 30-year-old is taking on another iconic publication as the 2023 Sports Illustrated swimsuit rookie — a moment of full circle for the St. Louis, Mo. native.

“I was told, ‘You’ll never be able to do Sports Illustrated because you’re too skinny,'” Rian tells Yahoo Life, looking back on her first attempt at working with the publication nearly 10 years ago.

“I got the casting and I wanted it,” says Rian about getting through the first round with the publication, but ultimately not being selected.

“I’ve just had to deal with so many people doubting me and telling me I could never get to this moment,” says Rian. But she did not let this setback stop her from pursuing her career dream of joining the SI team. “Once [the casting] passed, I just went ahead and I said: ‘If it has to be this way, it will be’, says Rian. “Now we’re here.”

Madisin Rian is the 2023 Sports Illustrated Swim Rookie. (James Macari/ SPORT ILLUSTRATED)

Madisin Rian is the 2023 Sports Illustrated Swim Rookie. (Photo: James Macari/ SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)

Her tenacity has helped her navigate the world with an unbridled sense of confidence, even in an industry that can be quite restrictive.

“I was put in a box for a long time,” says Rian. “I’d get it, ‘You’re not tall enough’ or ‘You’re not uptight enough.'”

But despite attempts to lock her up, the model says she has always been safe in who she is.

“I’ve always had a lot of confidence in my body. I was pretty much always like this. And I think you naturally start to feel more confident and into yourself as you get older,” she says.

While much of this confidence is innate, her ability to recognize the subjective nature of beauty standards has also helped her mute the noise.

“In this industry, where it’s all about opinion, there’s no one standard of beauty. There’s no right or wrong way. So I’m very confident in being myself and not wanting to be like someone else,” says Rian.

That said, she recognizes that self-love is not a one-stop destination, but an ongoing journey, with ups and downs.

“Loving yourself is an eternal journey, especially as a woman. Our bodies will always change through different phases whether you are in your pre-teens or your 20s or 30s or even postpartum. It’s a journey.” says Rian, noting that she’s quite excited by the prospect of getting older. “When I turned 30, I really felt a sense of relief, like, ‘Actually, my life has just begun,'” she says. “Age is so beautiful. I wouldn’t want to go back to my 20s.”

And while she’s always been confident about her looks, an impulsive haircut in 2017 would take her to new heights.

“One day I woke up and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to cut it off,'” Rian says of her hair, which she says ended up being one of the best decisions she ever made.

“I was just like, ‘Oh my god… this is me,'” she says.

Shaving her head allowed her to explore her relationship with her hair and its impact on her self-image. Who was she without locks of hair?

“I just wanted to see how I felt about being my most authentic self without hair to hide under,” she says.

“When I made the chop I felt so confident. I never wanted to let it grow back,” adds Rian. “I know it can sound crazy because it’s like, ‘Whoa, you just chopped it off? And that was it?’ But it was really just about self-love, self-confidence, and just a phase where I found out who I was and what made me feel the best.”

And while major aesthetic changes can seem daunting in an industry so hyper-focused on looks, Rian says the decision went much deeper.

“Black women, in general, we have these stigmas around our hair, which is why we feel the need to add this connection to it,” she says. “But we’re not just our hair; we’re more than that.”

And for Rian, who spent so much of her career trying not to be pigeonholed, shaving her head gave her a much-needed sense of freedom.

“I felt liberated,” she says, “taking that bold step and feeling so confident without having her or the need to be attached to it.”

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