The untold story behind this viral Sports Illustrated runway moment.

This week, Mara Martin woke up to find her face on almost every major news outlet in the world.

Why? Because she breastfed her baby as she modelled in a fashion show.

The model made headlines after walking in a Sports Illustrated Swim Search fashion show in Miami, carrying her her five-month-old daughter Aria while she fed from her breast.

The initial reaction was a predictable mixture of praise, judgement and apathy.

Praise for the publication’s support of diversity and normalising breastfeeding, judgement surrounding Mara’s motives (a.k.a trying too hard or grabbing at publicity), and apathy because millions of women around the world breastfeed every single day without a standing ovation.

But according to both Mara’s close friend and Sports Illustrated, Mara’s viral runway moment was nothing more than the result of a split-second decision made backstage.

After trolls called the mum-of-one’s behaviour “attention seeking” and “totally disgusting” in the comments of a Facebook post, VT reports her close friend Samantha Montroy Purcell stepped in to expertly shut them down with the real story.

Mara and her daughter Aria on the runway. Image: Getty.

"To the people with negative comments: Mara is my best friend in real life. She spent 12 hours during the casting IN HEELS holding her 20 pound baby during each day of the elimination process," she wrote.

"The crew loved her baby and had even suggested she do one of her walks with her during the show."

Samantha went on to share how when it came time for Mara to walk, she happened to be nursing her baby, at which point she and Sports Illustrated's editor made the call. She would walk the runway with her daughter.

"The editor suggested she just go for it and take the baby with her. It wasn't planned; [Mara] actually texted me freaking out right afterwards to tell me what had happened."

"There is nothing wrong with it. The baby was hungry. End of story."


MJ Day, the Sports Illustrated editor in question, confirmed Samantha's account on her Instagram story, posting, "simple decision made between two working moms. PERIOD."

But perhaps the best thing that's been said about the whole thing came from Mara herself.

She couldn't understand why her name was in the headlines when the other women who walked in that fashion show - an army cadet, a cancer survivor, and a two time Paralympic gold medalist - were far more deserving of our attention.

Cancer survivor Allyn Rose, who had a mastectomy. Image: Getty.
Paralympian Brenna Huckaby. Image: Getty.
The show also featured women of all different shapes, sizes and ethnicities. Image: Getty.

"Can’t believe I am waking up to headlines with me and my daughter in them for doing something I do every day. I’m so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalise breastfeeding, and also show others that women can do it all," she posted to Instagram earlier this week.

"But to be honest, the real reason I can’t believe it is a headline is because it shouldn’t be a headline. My story of being a mother and feeding [Aria] while walking is just that. Last night there [were] far more deserving headlines that our world should see. Those are the stories that our world should be discussing."

Here's to more diversity on runways and billboards, always.

Do you want to see more diversity like this in the fashion industry? Tell us in the comments.