Kelly Hughes made history this summer when she became the first model to bare her cesarean-section scar for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition in the magazine’s 58-year history.
The outlet partnered with Frida Mom to raise awareness of Pay With Change, an initiative aimed to “positively shift the mainstream cultural narratives associated with women’s bodies – especially when becoming a mom.”
The proud model and mom wore a nude-hued skimpy string bikini for the 2022 issue which features Kim Kardashian, Maye Musk, Ciara and Yumi Nu as this year’s cover girls.
Hughes delivered her now 3-year-old son via cesarean. She joins Katrina Scott, 2021’s Rookie of the Year, who was photographed when she was six and a half months pregnant, as well as Hunter McGrady, who posed for the outlet six months postpartum
After Hughes’ photo went viral, the founder and designer of the jewelry brand HÜES partnered with ESTAS Beauty to start the #ScarLoveChallenge on social media to spread a feeling of empowerment and change the societal stigma around scars. The challenge encourages participants to reinterpret Hughes’ photo showing off their scars. Every time a #ScarLoveChallenge photo is posted, ESTAS will donate $1 to World of Children, helping disadvantaged children around the globe.
Hughes spoke to Fox News Digital about the struggles she endured during labor, the insecurities she faced after giving birth, as well as how she now responds to negative comments on Instagram.
Fox News: How did you get involved with SI Swimsuit?
Kelly Hughes: One of my friends in New York, who is also a model, saw that they were looking for a girl with a C-section scar, and they were shooting in the Florida Keys, which is close to me as I’m in Miami. I reached out to my agency, they proposed me and that’s how I got the job. It’s so wonderful because my friend is also a mother. And without her, I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity. So it’s beautiful to see one mother supporting another mother.
Fox News: Take us back to your shoot. What was that like?
Hughes: I had a million things running through my mind before I even started shooting. I had never shown my scar before. And I have been really open with how I struggled with insecurities around my scar. I originally didn’t want a C-section because the bounce back was going to be much harder being that I’m a model.
Society just puts so much pressure on you to “bounce back.” I wasn’t a size two anymore. I wasn’t doing too much modeling in a bikini in the first place. So it was scary at first to show my biggest insecurity in a magazine like Sports Illustrated. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received.
Fox News: How were you received on set?
Hughes: As soon as I arrived, the editor just made me feel so confident and beautiful. She turned my insecurity into the most beautiful thing in the world. She just made me feel so much better about my scar. I felt so much more confident about myself. I just looked at my scar in the mirror and I realized I shouldn’t have to feel so insecure about this anymore. And when it was time to shoot, everyone reacted the same way. They made me feel so empowered and inspired. I imagine how many beautiful women they’ve seen, and now I get to be part of that representation. The experience was a healing one for me. It just really helped me to overcome my insecurities.
Fox News: How important was it for you to show off your C-section scar despite your insecurities?
Hughes: To be honest, I had no idea how much this would impact people. But my photo went viral all over the world. This is something I probably wouldn’t have done before, but I also didn’t see myself in the same way I see myself now. And I think it’s beautiful that a magazine like Sports Illustrated is showing a woman with a C-section and saying, “she’s beautiful.” Now, I realize how important that photo is to me because I had no idea how underrepresented this was.
Apparently, one in three women are having C-sections now – that’s a large number of women. But this doesn’t just resonate with women who have C-sections. This also resonates with women who have scars in general and are insecure about them. The fashion industry has evolved, and they’re finally starting to embrace different women. We don’t have to all look the same. So this photo represents so much more than a C-section scar… I feel a true responsibility to continue this conversation.