MILTON — Milton High alumna and wounded U.S. Marine veteran Kirstie Ennis appears on the cover of ESPN’s 2017 Body Issue.
The magazine, released July 7, features athletes from various sports, all nude.
Ennis graduated from Milton High in 2008 and at 17 years old joined the Marine Corps. In 2012 the CH-53 door gunner was in a helicopter crash. She suffered damage to her brain, face, spine, and doctors had to amputate her left leg above the knee.
“It started out like many missions I had done in the past,” Ennis said, “but resulted in my life being changed forever — mentally, physically, and emotionally.”
Ennis went on to participate in Walking with the Wounded, a 1,000-mile event in the United Kingdom to support wounded veterans. She hiked to the summit of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for East Africa rural communities’ need for clean drinking water. The week of July 17, Ennis will travel to Papua, New Guinea to climb one of the Seven Summits, Carstensz Pyramid. Ennis has also become an avid snowboarder since her injuries.
July 13, between returning from an appearance at the 2017 Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards ceremony in Los Angeles and preparing for Carstensz, Ennis discussed the ESPN shoot.
May 31, ESPN photographer Peter Yang and crew photographed Ennis rock climbing nude at Joshua Tree National Park in California.
The 26-year-old wasn’t completely comfortable but looked at the pictures as a self-image boost.
“They remind me that I’m still beautiful,” she said.
Support from the ESPN crew helped, too.
“The photography and film crew producer, everyone in hair and makeup were amazing people,” Ennis said. “Obviously, the closer I got to the shoot, the more nervous I got. (They) built me up so much (and) reinstilled confidence in me. It was pretty empowering in the grand scheme of things. They were so supportive. They wanted to see me succeed.”
She appreciated how the crew let her climb, with little direction, for the shots.
“(It was a) very organic thing. It was pretty great. Nothing was staged. Even when my hair was blowing, it was just the wind.”
While her parents were initially hesitant with the shoot, Ennis’ father was proud of the reason she was doing the shoot, she said.
“A lot of people are looking at me on a very unique platform,” Ennis said. “Whether it’s a little girl struggling, or (someone) with body dysmorphic issue, or a grown man dealing with being down and out because he suffered an injury, the biggest thing is you control your circumstances. It doesn’t matter. If your head and heart are in the right place, you can overcome anything.”
All of Ennis’ back tattoos visible in the shot are significant, she said.
“The biggest one that takes up two-thirds of my back is skeletons dressed up as a bride and groom in a Victorian picture frame.”
While the image may sound macabre, it means something wholesome.
“My family is from Navarre. (My parents) married at 18 and they’re still married to this day. You can tell they’re madly in love with one another.”
The skeletons symbolize the marriage vow, “’til death do us part,” Ennis said.
“I’m refusing to get married until I know I’ll be with the person for the rest of my life. I think too often we’re quick to throw in the towel or get married for the wrong reason, or don’t try hard enough, and get divorced.
"I believe in the sanctity of marriage and love.”