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Natalie Mariduena, an SI Swimsuit model who has nearly four million followers on Instagram alone, hopes to raise awareness of “body normality”.
The model first made a splash on the magazine’s pages in 2021 and was featured in this year’s issue available on newsstands now.
“In the industry, you see models that are very thin or you see models that are tall, but there’s not that kind of model that’s right in the middle,” the Chicago native told Fox News. Digital. “I try to stand up for that for others. I want to be an example of that and show that it’s cool and beautiful. [On social media] I show my body, I show my life, I show what I represent and what I appreciate without filter. Whether it’s an image in a bikini or just an image of me on the street in a cute outfit, I want to show that normal body size is valued.”
The 25-year-old insisted she wanted to use her platform to show her female followers that you don’t have to rely on filters and Photoshop to look good.
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“I have so many followers who are young women, very impressionable and who look up to me as an example to themselves,” she said. “I try to connect with people, whether it’s through DMs or the comments section. I’m often told, ‘I have your body type, thanks for showing it.’ These people show me their appreciation and I want to return that love. Because I have this platform, I think it’s more important than ever that I provide positivity to women.”
Mariduena praised SI Swimsuit for celebrating different body types, as well as women of different ages. For issue 2022, Mariduena was photographed in Belize by veteran photographer Yu Tsai.
“It’s the best feeling in the world as a model to be part of a magazine that accepts you and celebrates you for being yourself,” she said. “I remember we ended up shooting about 15 bright and early bikinis that day, in the jungle. I’m in waterfalls, I’m lying on rocks, I’m hanging from bridges, standing in rivers… [but] it was like a little party. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the pictures, but there are about 20-25 people standing behind the camera shouting, cheering you on and motivating you. They’re throwing a little dance party for you.”
Although it wasn’t the first time Mariduena had appeared in the magazine, her photos this year left her stunned, she insisted.
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“I was in shock,” she said. “I saw some of the pictures as we were taking them, but seeing them in the actual magazine, it’s such a surreal feeling. It’s so weird to be this girl from a small town in Illinois who just had no idea things like that were a possibility for her. …And being a part of “Sports Illustrated” is probably one of the most empowering experiences I’ve ever had. I’m able to celebrate my body. They’re so inclusive and accepting. They do such a good job of including all women and creating such a community of acceptance that lifts each other up.”
Despite her accomplishments, Mariduena said she doesn’t always wake up feeling like a model. Like everyone else, there are days when she could enjoy a much-needed confidence boost. And these are the times when she likes to disconnect from social networks.
“On those days, I do what I love,” she said. “I like a good meal. I like visiting my favorite restaurant. I like my healthy food and I like my junk food. I think it’s all about balance. I just like giving a day to myself. It can be something as simple as staying home and enjoying a good meal or going to the beach. I also like to lean on my friends. I think it’s important to have a positive circle and encouraging to lean on whenever you’re feeling down. I know they always crack me up right away. I’m told, ‘You’re doing so well, keep it up’, that’s a lot. I’ve so lucky to have this support system. I think it’s very important.”
Mariduena has over 8 million followers on her social media platforms. She is known for promoting “Do Good” initiatives that focus on sustainability, female empowerment and body positivity. She said they are essential now more than ever.
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“I think cyberbullying is so big in social media,” she said. “Spreading positivity and love for others is so important. Even when someone is doing well, you want to support and motivate them. Your words, whether you have a large audience or just your circle of friends, they matter. Your words affect people. There’s no need for hate and negativity. That’s the message I want to share.
“When I was younger, and I think that’s typical for a lot of girls in high school, I always felt like I had to look a certain way or act a certain way to impress social circles,” he said. she continued. “It wasn’t until college that I realized that being different, being outside the norm, is a lot cooler. I think that’s the big key to my success. I don’t I don’t always follow the trend if it doesn’t feel right to I dress how I want, which makes me feel good I follow my head and my heart.
Mariduena said her goal is to collaborate with more fashion brands and designers in hopes that her body type will be seen by others who can relate to her. She hailed how the modeling industry has evolved over the years and is looking forward to seeing what else she can do for women.
“I’m a fashion girl at heart,” she said. “And I hope women see me as a source of relatability. I hope when women see me, they can see a part of themselves and feel represented. That’s my goal. I want women feel like they can do it too, and their dreams can be a possibility. It was a possibility for me.”