When Mara Martin walked the Sports Illustrated runway during Swim Week while breastfeeding her baby daughter Aria, the world snapped to attention. Overnight, Mara became an international symbol for the movement to #normalizebreastfeeding and to empower mothers to keep building their careers and passions with their little ones by their sides. We caught up with Mara for the inside scoop on how her now-iconic runway walk came about, and how she feels about becoming the face of a global mama movement. Got your own questions? You're in luck! Mara will be answering them all on Mindr's Instagram stories tomorrow, Tuesday 8/14. To participate, just drop your questions for Mara (and your Instagram handle, if you have one) in the comments below.
Mara! We've seen the photos, now we need the details. How did you decide to walk the Swim Week runway with baby Aria? What sparked the idea, and what did you hope to achieve?
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was holding their first ever in-person open casting call in Miami Beach, Florida. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to be in the magazine. My fiancé Ryan and I had just moved to Key Largo, which is about an hour and half from Miami Beach. We don’t know anyone down here to babysit and because Aria is exclusively breastfed, my only chance of attending the casting was to take her with me. So I decided to do it!
There were thousands of girls waiting in line and after a long first day, Sports Illustrated called me to invite me to the next rounds. Once they had narrowed down the thousands of applicants to just 16 girls, they told us we were chosen to walk in the runway show. The editor, MJ Day, asked if I wanted to walk in a mommy-and-me look. I thought it would be so cute, so I let them know that if baby Aria was awake and OK then we could include her!
The night of the show, Aria was awake and ready to go in her green bikini. The show kept getting pushed back and she got hungry backstage so I started nursing her, just like I had done all weekend throughout the casting process and like I do on a daily basis. The editor, MJ, saw, and came over and asked if I wanted to just walk down nursing her. She let me know that she supported whatever I wanted to do. And I said I would love to!
So I walked out onto the runway still breastfeeding Aria. It was such a casual and small moment backstage between MJ and myself. I think Sports illustrated in general is an amazing brand that celebrates women exactly as they are, and right at that moment, I was just being a mom and taking care of my little girl.
What was going through your mind as you were walking the runway while holding her in your arms?
I was so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be in the top 16 finalists for Sports Illustrated, which had always been a dream. The whole weekend was so emotional for me, leading up to the moment I walked the runway. When I got the chance to walk with my daughter, it felt so amazing being able to create that memory with her. She was a part of the whole casting process and her being on that runway couldn’t have been a better moment for me.
Did you have any idea that you’d wake up the next day as a symbol of empowerment for women and mothers?
I didn’t think it would even be a thing. Breastfeeding has been such a natural and normal experience for me, it didn’t even cross my mind that anyone would make such a big deal of it. In fact, after the show we went home and tried to get some sleep since Ryan had to work the next day. Little did we know we would be right back the next day for multiple interviews!
I am so grateful and excited to be the conversation starter about normalizing breastfeeding and also showing women around the world to be confident in their bodies.
Although we had no idea it would become this, I will say I am so grateful and excited to be the conversation starter about normalizing breastfeeding and also showing women around the world to be confident in their bodies and to never give up a dream or goal, no matter what obstacles get in your way.
Tell us about the time since Swim Week: what’s it been like being the face of the movement to #normalizebreastfeeding?
It’s been truly amazing seeing all of the support around the world. I have done interviews with almost every major American magazine from People to Teen Vogue and innumerable television shows from around the world, as far as Australia. It’s been non-stop and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We all need to be supporting each other and lifting each other up, not just as mothers but as people in general, and I'm so happy to be contributing to that.
If you could share one piece of advice with fellow mamas worldwide, what would it be?
As far as your bodies, be confident in the way you look. You just created a human; be proud of that. You are extraordinary. Don’t worry about other mothers’ journeys. Focus on your own because that’s all that matters.
You just created a human; be proud of that. You are extraordinary.
As far as parenting, try to cut yourself some slack. You are doing the best you can! There will be days when everything is easy and days that are extremely hard. It’s OK. Your baby is going to be OK. As long as you know that you are doing your very best that’s all that matters. Oh and sleep when the baby sleeps... I didn’t do that the first 5 months and I’m still trying to catch up!
Got questions for Mara? Join her on Mindr's Instagram stories tomorrow, Tuesday 8/14 for all the answers. Just drop your questions for Mara (and your Instagram handle, if you have one) in the comments below.