In 2005, Marquita Pring was flipping through an issue of Cosmopolitan when she saw a voluptuous photo of “plus-size” model Crystal Renn that changed her life.
“It was the first time I’d seen thickness and proper curves in a magazine and I freaked the f- -k out,” said Pring, 29. “I never had anybody I could relate to before who looked like me. But after that, I was like, ‘This is my dream.’ ”
Now she has turned her biggest fantasy into reality.
The 6-foot-tall upstate New York native is a member of the 2020 rookie class for this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.
Pring was preparing for New York Fashion Week, where she walked the runway for Christian Siriano and Tommy Hilfiger in September, when her agent broke the good news.
“I jumped on my bed, screamed, buried my face in my pillow and screamed some more,” Pring recalled. “I totally lost it.”
A few weeks later, she was in Wyoming for her big photo shoot, rocking a two-piece in 19-degree weather as she posed among patches of snow. Her excitement kept her warm.
“You just let adrenaline take over and realize this is probably one of the biggest moments of your career,” Pring said.
But it hasn’t been an easy journey to the top. Working as a “curve” model for the last 13 years, Pring has faced a few obstacles.
Growing up about two hours west of Albany in the small town of Clinton, Pring struggled to fit in and accept her body.
“Looking back at shopping experiences with my friends, I remember crying my eyes out because at Abercrombie or American Eagle I couldn’t fit into anything,” she recalled. “The biggest sizes wouldn’t even go up above my knees. It was traumatizing.”
She felt different from her peers, too.
“Everyone had a white-picket fence, a mom, a dad and a dog, and I was the only child with a single mother — the brown girl with the white mama,” she said. “We were the outliers.”
Eventually, she figured out she could use that “other” feeling to fuel her fire.
At only 16 years old, Pring signed with Wilhelmina Models and booked so many gigs that she was able to persuade her mom, who works as a grant writer, to move to New York City for her senior year of high school. After briefly studying at Baruch College, she dropped out to pursue modeling full time and signed with Ford Models.
Although Pring has always been considered a plus-size model, she’s never been a fan of labels.
“To me the term ‘plus size’ is completely outdated and just unnecessary,” she said. “I immediately think, ‘Plus what? There’s an average, normal size that we should all be and anything more than that needs to be called something different?’ You’re your size — and that’s it.”
Pring has long been an outspoken activist for body positivity, appearing in V Magazine’s first curvy editorial in 2010 and later starting a women’s “curve” modeling collective, Alda, with four other models, including superstar Ashley Graham.
“Alda means ‘wave’ in Icelandic,” she said. “Like a wave taking over the fashion industry.”
IMG Models snapped up all five of the women.
“The fashion industry has not only been more open to curves, but [now] we make so much more money,” Pring said. “Before, we were doing the same jobs as straight-sized models and making not even a third of the rate they were getting.”
She believes in living life on her terms — even if it means nearly missing a photo shoot with Italian Vogue.
In 2011, the model had turned her phone off for a week while camping in a South African nature reserve. When her then-boyfriend switched his on to check voicemail, he had “a million” messages, many from Pring’s agent.
“I called my agent and she was like, ‘What the f- -k? I’m going to kill you,’ ” Pring said, laughing. “They miraculously got me on the next plane from Capetown to New York.”
And now, Pring, who is single, feels like she’s ready to soar.
“I’m free as a motherf–king bird,” she said.