Sports Illustrated model Natalie Mariduena wants to represent ‘body normality’


Natalie Mariduena, a Sports Illustrated 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 very thin models or tall models, but there’s not that kind of modeling that’s right in the middle,” the Chicago native told Fox News Digital. “I try to defend that for others. I want to be an example of that and show that it’s cool and it’s 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.

“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 to us.’ These people show me their appreciation and I want to return that love to them. Because I have this platform, I think it’s more important than ever that I provide positivity to women.

Natalie Mariduena
Natalie Mariduena says she wants to portray body types that aren’t skinny or tall.
Getty Images for Sports Illustra

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 bikinis early 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.

Natalie Mariduena
Natalie Mariduena says she wants to be an example for young women.
Getty Images for Sports Illustra

“I was in shock,” she said. “I saw some of the photos as we were taking them, but seeing them in the real magazine, it’s such a surreal feeling. It’s so weird to be this girl from a small town in Illinois who had no idea that things like this were a possibility for her. …And being part of ‘Sports Illustrated’ is probably one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I can celebrate my body. They are so inclusive and accepting. They do such a great job including all women and creating such a welcoming community 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 love 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 to give a day to myself. It can be something as simple as staying home and enjoying a good meal or hitting the beach. I also like leaning on my friends. I think it’s important to have a positive, supportive circle to lean on whenever you’re feeling down. I know they always get me out of there. Being told, “You are doing so well, keep going” goes a long way. I am so lucky to have this support system. I think it’s very important.

Natalie Mariduena
Natalie Mariduena has more than eight million followers on social networks.
Getty Images

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.

“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 touch people. There is no need for hate and negativity. This is the message I want to share.

“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 touch people. There is no need for hate and negativity. This is the message I want to share.

“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 become a possibility. That was a possibility for me.”

New York Post

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