Mara Martin walked the runway with a sparkling gold bikini and an unexpected accessory during the final stages of a Sports Illustrated open casting call in Miami. Aria, her five-month-old daughter, was breastfed while she went down the catwalk.
Martin claims that her epic stroll came about naturally—and partly out of need. “My daughter Aria was with me throughout the entire casting process for the Sports Illustrated contest,” the Monroe, Michigan-based mother told BAZAAR.com. “The team and crew got to know her throughout the process, and when I found out I made the final 16, the magazine’s editor, MJ Day, asked if I wanted to walk the runway with her for one of my looks.”
Aria was dressed and set for her debut on show day, but “nothing happens as planned,” Martin recounted, “and the show time kept getting pushed back.” Aria began to become hungry backstage. “I started feeding her, as I do every day, numerous times a day, and did throughout the entire casting process, until MJ casually walked over to me and said she would back me if I wanted to continue feeding when it was my turn.”
When Martin’s turn came around, Aria was still feeding. Martin explains, “So I decided to keep feeding her.” “Breastfeeding is a natural thing that has become such a normal part of my everyday life in the last five months that I didn’t even consider it when I decided to leave.”
The audience can be heard roaring Martin on in a video of her heading down the runway. The model mother even gave her baby a set of small blue headphones to shield her ears from the loud music.
Martin, who was modeling in Miami before becoming pregnant, says the Sports Illustrated show is her first casting and work after giving birth. Her daughter is shared with her fiancé, Ryan Vandenburg, who is ecstatic—if a bit surprised—at the good response to Martin’s catwalk.
“When my fiancé and I went home the next day… the phone kept ringing and notifications kept coming in, I’m so grateful and humbled that so many people around the world have shown support to me and what I did on the runway with Aria. I hope that women in general can keep lifting each other up and become each other’s biggest fans.”
Martin has previously stated that she is a supporter of women’s empowerment. “I’m so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL!” she wrote on Instagram the day after walking in the Sports Illustrated contest. “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 her while walking is just that!” she captioned a photo of her newborn daughter.