Sports Illustrated features a model with an exposed C-section scar for the first time

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit will be featuring a model sporting a C-section scar for the first time in its 58 year history to celebrate mothers who have them.

The magazine’s annual swimsuit issue, which will hit stands on May 16, stars Kelly Hughes, 42, proudly showing off her scar in a bikini.

“I have never shown my scar before and it’s very personal to me,” Kelly admitted in an interview with Scary Mommy. “I struggled for a long time truly embracing it, so to show the one thing you’re most insecure about in the biggest magazine in the world brought a range of emotions.”


Kelly, who is the mother of Harlem, a 3-year-old boy, initially struggled to accept the mark, especially since she works in an industry that emphasizes physical attractiveness.

But now, she has completely accepted—and embraced—her scar.

“I truly haven’t felt more empowered by my scar as I do today, and this photoshoot made me feel more confident than ever. There’s an incredible shift happening in the world today with inclusivity and normalizing the changes our bodies go through and experience so to be a part of this moment is so incredible and liberating,” she said.

Kelly Hughes and her son Harlem in Disneyland

This Swim edition is in partnership Frida Mom. Frida Mom has recently launched C-Section Recovery, a product line that helps mothers recover from post-op.

Kelly discovered she was pregnant in 2018 Kelly discovered she was pregnant in 2018. She had practiced breathing techniques and prepared for vaginal delivery. This helped to reduce anxiety and pain during labor. She also hoped to have a quick recovery so that she could return to work.

However, after 36 hours of contractions, Kelly still hadn’t dilated past 7 centimeters. Doctors recommended a C section to keep the baby safe.

“I was hysterical,” she recalled. “I studied so many birthing options, and C-sections weren’t on my list.”

Kelly Hughes wearing a bikini

Every year, more than 1.2 million C-sections are performed in the United States. However, despite its commonality, the procedure leaves some moms with physical and emotional scars due to unplanned C-sections and misconceptions that label the surgery as the “easy way out” compared to vaginal birth, which is anything but true.

Kelly experienced unbearable pains, nausea, and vomiting a day after she returned from the hospital. Kelly was diagnosed with an infection in her uterus when she returned to the hospital. She had to go back in for a second operation, which involved the reopening of her C-section.

After eight days in hospital, Kelly was able go home. She had been working so hard to care for her newborn and recover.

Kelly Hughes wearing an elegant green outfit

Kelly flew to Canada in the second month after her second surgery to shoot for a line of maternity clothes.

“We did the job, but flying and moving around was still a challenge. Lifting even my luggage [into] the overhead compartment wasn’t fun,” she said.

Kelly believed that going back to work would make her feel better, but it took her four months to heal physically. Mentally it took years.

But at this point, she has accepted that motherhood has changed her—scars and all.

Kelly Hughes and her son Harlem

“The idea of being what you were before you had a baby for many is not realistic — in a sense we give birth to our new selves,” Kelly said. “It’s the journey that makes us who we are and that’s something to embrace and hold tightly no matter what stage we’re in.”

“I can proudly say today I look at my scar and it was worth it, and I would do it all over again,” she continued. “It’s my story and I will wear it like a badge of honor for the rest of my life.”

This year’s issue also features other history-making moments: the first model to show a visible baby bump, Katrina Scott, who is expecting her second child, and curve model Hunter McGrady, who was photographed just six months after giving birth.

It’s so good to see big magazines such as Sports Illustrated making an effort to be more inclusive! I hope more publications follow suit.

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