Brenna Huckaby is a serious badass. The snowboarder, who will be competing in the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang next month, lost her leg due to complications with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The athlete’s leg was amputated in 2010, when Huckaby was just a freshman in high school. Now she’s on her way to competing for the gold.
The best part? Huckaby and her family moved from Louisiana to Utah a few years after her surgery, where she got into snowboarding as a way to get back into athletics. That’s right: Huckaby didn’t return to snowboarding after her amputation, but actually learned how on one leg.
Now, the 22-year-old is continuing to break barriers as the first amputee to be featured in Sports Illustrated‘s famous Swimsuit Issue. Huckaby told Cosmopolitan that she’s thrilled about the positive messages she’s received, especially from other women with disabilities.
My butt hits the newsstand today(literally😝) Im still smiling and freaking out over this huge milestone in women empowerment. It’s funny to read things that say women shouldn’t need to pose nude or in swimsuits to feel empowered, and I agree. I feel empowered daily. I feel empowered standing on the podium or getting my daughter to eat broccoli. Confidence comes in all forms. It was my choice to put myself out there in a sexy way because yo gurl wants to show people she is sexy (regardless of everything else). If you don’t want your sons to look at my body in that way let’s teach them to respect women no matter what they wear! My achievements are no smaller or greater because I’m in a swimsuit. I will forever remember this day as one of my favorites. The women behind SI couldn’t have made me feel any better or more confident. 100% one of the best companies 😍From @si_swimsuit go to their website to see more from the shoot and to see all the other strong women! I’m still on cloud 9.
But Huckaby did have some concerns about how the shoot would be perceived.
“[The response has] been extremely positive and uplifting, which I was hoping for,” she said. “Before doing the shoot, I thought, ‘Holy cow, I’m opening myself up for a lot of good, but potentially also a lot of bad.’ I wanted it to be done right. I wanted to represent women with disabilities the right way.”
One woman’s message stuck out to Huckaby the most: “If I had seen these pictures when I was younger, that would’ve made [such a] difference in my recovery after cancer,” the woman in question told Huckaby. “Just hearing that made the shoot that much more worth it.”
Representation is important! And Huckaby, with her purple mermaid hair, totally killed it.