“I knew people were going to say that I wasn’t a good role model and all of this stuff," Raisman shares. "I did the issue because I love my body. I can express myself in any way that I want. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to judge me. I think being a role model is about being a kind person.”
“It really made me realize that women do not have to be modest in order to be respected," she adds.
Learning to appreciate her body didn't always come easy for Raisman, who also confesses that she felt insecure growing up.
"It’s something that develops over time. I think everyone goes through phases in life where they feel insecure. I have plenty of times. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to appreciate my body," she reveals. "Young girls should be taught that there’s no ideal body type. We’re all different and unique in our way -- if we all looked the exact same, we’d be very boring."
The Olympic gold medalist also hopes to help young girls feel more comfortable about their changing bodies.
"A lot of people feel really uncomfortable when they get their period or they’re going through puberty -- especially with all the pressure of social media and the comparisons to other girls. Girls feel really insecure and awkward at that stage -- your body starts to change. Instead of feeling uncomfortable and not talking about it, I think it’s important to have this conversation," she says. "It’s important for young girls to be inspired and do something that makes them want to be a better person — to work hard or to push themselves to the limits -- no matter what that is."
Raisman made her debut in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue earlier this year alongside her teammate Simone Biles. See more from the shoot in the video below.