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Yumi Nu makes history as first Asian plus-size ‘Sports Illustrated’ model

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Mar 19, 2021 7:29 pm

She joins the ranks of Ashley Graham and Hunter McGrady, who were one of the first plus-size models to break the mold of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.

Model and singer Yumi Nu, who is of Japanese and Dutch descent, has broken barriers by being the first Asian curve model to grace the magazine’s Swimsuit Issue, which is set to come out in July.

The 24-year-old, who has been a plus-size model for 12 years now, announced the news on her Instagram feed, together with her photo wearing an olive two-piece swimsuit on the beach.

“Thank you, @si_swimsuit for letting me tell my story. I’ve grown passionate in recent years in talking about body shame that Asian women and women in general go through, because it was something that was very difficult for me growing up,” she captioned the photo.

“I don’t want anyone to go through life with the lie that they aren’t enough as they are. It stops us from living our fullest lives. WE ARE WORTHY!!! WE ARE DESERVING OF GOOD THINGS!!! LETS GO!!!” she said.

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In an interview with Us Magazine, Nu said her inclusion in the Sports Illustrated issue creates an impact on Asian Americans, who are slowly being represented in media. 

On the same Sports Illustrated issue, Fil-Am model and activist Leyna Bloom also made history as the first transgender woman of color to be featured in the magazine. Meanwhile, 57-year-old Kathy Jacobs debuts on the magazine’s pages as an icon for positive aging.

Aside from modeling, Nu, who is the niece of DJ and record producer Steve Aoki, also has a successful music career under the Dim Mak record label.

Nu has also been vocal with her support of the Asian community, in light of the rise of anti-Asian violence happening in the United States, where she is currently based.

She’s also set to release an ethically sourced plus-size clothing line called “Blueki” later this year, which was inspired by her interactions with fans on Instagram.

“For Asian-American women, there is a shame in flaunting your body and feeling sexy. For me as a plus-size model, we’ve had to evolve and battle this inner voice that hasn’t evolved,” Nu told Sports Illustrated

“I’m plus-size, and Asian, that’s why this is important. I wanna do as much as I can to show other people that we don’t have to be dainty and little. I can say that I know in myself I’m beautiful.”

Banner and thumbnail photos from