The only sign before tulips pop that Spring is coming is when the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition, pops up in newspaper stands and bookstores. The idea was "invented" by Andre Laguerre and the first issue was published in 1964. That same year, Martin Luther King Jr. won The Nobel Peace Prize, The Ford Mustang made its debut, Beatlemania arrived at JFK, Cassius Clay won the Heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, a Hershey Bar cost a nickel, and Eddie Vedder was born.
That was 53 years ago, and though many models have come, gone, and stayed, the issue becomes more popular every year. Elle Macherson leads all models with five cover shoots, and five other women are tied for second with 3. The issue has certainly been controversial, from being viewed as a symbol of female beauty that tastefully crossed the line between sports and fashion, to being seen as dehumanizing and even pornographic. Still, photo shoots have taken place all over the world, included models and athletes, women of all races and religions, and has recently expanded its view on body types.
Some covers influenced style and pop culture but didn't ultimately cause the model's career to skyrocket, while others used it as a platform that propelled their career. Maria João was the first and only Brazilian with a cover shot in 1978. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, in 1999, wore a see through, almost medieval, chain link bikini that left little to the imagination, and in 1995, Daniela Peštová featured the 1st bikini where tie strings replaced a waste strap. She was on the cover again in the 2000 issue, which as a sign of the times, included the never to be repeated idea of 3D glasses. Finally, in 2002, Yamilla Diaz-Rahi wore a lose fitting bikini bottom with room between the fabric and skin of her inner thighs. Then, Katie Upton and Hannah Davis Jeter, in 2015, set a new record on just how low a bottom could go.
People from all walks of life have loved to hate and hated to love the issue. Sports Illustrated has made billions over the edition, and so have models and athletes. Regardless, the issue sells, isn't going anywhere, and many of the models have donated endless time and money to charity. Unarguably, the issue chronologically captured America's evolving taste in fashion, sexuality, and culture.
15 Christie Brinkley
The Christie Brinkley dynasty began in 1979 and lasted three years until 1981, with her famous cover shot in Captiva on February 9, 1981. The price of the Swimsuit issue leaped to $1.50, and Christie wore a lavender bikini with cuts and folds of material along the straps. Her body was lit up in front of a sunset with blue and purple water and she was surrounded by seagulls. That same year, the magazine, "Inside Sports," published it's first swimsuit issue to a very underwhelmed audience. She was an 80s star, married musician Billy Joel in 1985, and was in his video "Uptown Girl." After modeling, Brinkley acted on TV and film, most notably in the hit, classic movie "Vacation," where she raced by The Family Truckster in a red Ferrari and skinny dipped with Chevy Chase. Now, Brinkley lives in Sagg Harbor on Long Island, is worth an estimated $80 million, and is a staunch democrat and activist for human and animal rights.
14 Carol Alt
Carol was the model for the 1982 issue shot on the Kenyan Coast. She wore a one piece, red bathing suit before with a sailboat in the distance and a sunset which with her long, dark hair and blue eyes. She appeared in 100's of magazines and was known for her "girl next door" look. A year layer, she married New York Rangers player Ron Greschner but they divorced 13 years later. The girl from New York City turned to television and film and was a contestant on "The Celebrity Apprentice." She also starred on Italian television with a series of T.V movies. In 2007, her career focused on health and beauty products as she founded the company Raw Essentials. Her dedication focused on wellness as she joined Fox, and started a day time television show called "A Healthy You & Carol Alt."
13 Paulina Porizkova
Paulina won back to back cover shots in 1984 and 1985, and changed the style of the 80s where women were thinner and bikinis were skimpier. The decade clashed at every corner- John Lennon was shot, Genesis and other bands brought pop sounds in their music, and basketball was a great sport. Christie was blonde and American, Paulina was brunette, and the first cover woman from Central Europe. After the shoots. she was featured in "Vogue," "Elle," and many other magazines, as well as advertising campaigns by "Versace," "Chanel," and "Christian Dior." She them moved on to television, film, and then married Ric Ocasek, lead singer of "The Cars," who she had met YEARS earlier in the band's video to the song "Drive." She is still acting and also writing. She wrote a children's book, a novel, and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.
12 Elle Macpherson
Elle was the next superstar model to take over Sports Illustrated with a three year cover run from 1986 through 1988. In 1987, her shoot illuminated her as a fun loving sun worshiper, but it was her cover shot in 1988, where her aura, pose, and stare made everyone think she was looking at them. She would be on the cover two more times for a record 5 shoots. The price jumped to $2.95 as the magazine's popularity soared. Elle's career also jumped forward. Aside from her modeling gigs, she appeared in magazines ("Elle"- 6 times), "Playboy," and walked run ways for Louis Vuitton and Ralph Loren. She later entered the fashion design business with her own lingerie line, beauty products, and wellness products.
But it's not all about her, as she supports the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. She is an ambassador for the Smile Foundation which helps the families of children with rare diseases. She is also a patron for the National Association for the Children of Alcoholics.
11 Cheryl Tiegs
Tiegs first appeared on the cover in 1970, but her 2nd cover shot on January 27, 1975, took the models career to another level. Shot in Cancun and sold for 300% more for 75 cents, Tiegs' bikini exposed more skin than almost any cover till that time. Her career took off as she appeared in many magazines including "People" and "TIME," and in 1978 posed in the infamous Fishnet Bathing Suit and for the "Pink Bikini" poster, both becoming iconic, pop culture images. As her career continued, she was also on "Celebrity Apprentice" with you know who and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She continued to model, act, and now, at 69, she lives in California. She serves on the Board of Directors of C.O.A.C.H. for Kids, is an Ambassador for the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, the Farrah Fawcett Foundation, and promotes environmentally conscious living.
10 Kathy Ireland
Kathy appeared in 13 straight issues, but it was the 25th Anniversary issue in 1989 on Mexico's Pacific Coast that SI called the greatest cover of all time. Her career catapulted as she appeared in multiple magazines, TV shows, and films. But it was her business mind and ventures that lead to even greater success. She started a clothing line in 1993, and then founded Kathy Ireland Worldwide, which was recognized by Forbes. She also spoke at the fourth Youth Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters, encouraging young people to get involved in ending poverty. She has written 6 books, and is involved in multiple charities such as the Marine Corps' Toys For Tots and 9-1-1 For Kids.
She's a staunch supporter and encourages equality in women's athletics, and hosted several LPGA Golf Tournaments. She has also jointed the political spotlight with her outspoken support for Israel. In 2010, she worked on a documentary in Israel called "Holy Land Heroes" about wounded soldiers and terror victims.
9 Ann Simonton
Ann graced the cover in 1974 in a grey bikini with a rather oddly fitted bikini bottom. Her freckled, innocent, wide smile shined on the cover, but 3 years before her life took a horrific turn. In 1971, she was gang raped at knife point in on her way to a modeling shoot which ignited her activism to end sexual assaults. She became a feminist and was arrested 11 times for non-violent protests, and in the 1980s, she and Nikki Craft protested against pageants that objectified women.
She went as far as wearing meats such as baloney, turkey, and steak and also shaved her head. She has also written a book, and continues guest on talk shows and lecture at universities. She's certainly kept busy.
8 Tyra Banks
Tyra was the first African American woman to be on the cover of the swimsuit issue and was featured twice. Her first was in 1996 in South Africa with Valeria Mazza and they both wore leopard patterned bikinis. But then, in 1997, she graced the cover alone in a revealing red and pink polka dot bikini. As she worked as a model, she simultaneously became an actress in films such as "Higher Learning" and "Love and Basketball." She's also worked in television, from the nineties sit com "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to The Tyra Banks Show which ran for five years and won an Emmy. Her show was critically acclaimed as one of the first day time dramas to focus on teenagers. She also wrote two books, one entitled "Modelland," which topped the New York Times Best Seller list in 2011. Most recently, she has launched a cosmetics company and was a guest lecturer at Stanford.
7 Babette March
Babette March, now Babette Beatty, graced the very first cover on January 20, 1964, from Cozumel. She wore a white bikini, where the bottoms looked more like men's underwear, maybe even a diaper, and the top looked like a silk, white band. Her hair was short and dark, and she's standing and smiling in front of the ocean. She was born in Berlin, and at the time of the shoot she was modeling for Ford and making a whopping 85k a year. She was also enjoying the high life, from Florida to New York and California, and partying with the likes of Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol. Since then, she married Dale Beatty, an architect, and settled in Oregon, far away from the hot spots and scene, where she has become a chef, opened an art gallery, and bakery.
6 Heidi Klum
In 1998, breasts, and one eye, the other covered by windswept hair, covered the entire magazine. Her career, as most who were featured by The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, quickly escalated as she hosted 4, Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows. and she was the main focus of Joanne Gair's body painting works from 1997 to 2010. She also made her move into television, video games, and music videos. One of her most famous commercials was an advertisement imitating Tom Cruise's underwear, air guitar scene from the film, "Risky Business" for Guitar Hero World Tour. She was also a fashion designer, and in 2013 joined the hit show, "America's Got Talent." Too bad that show wasn't so "PC"! Klum also led "Walk for Kids," a community 5k to raise funds and community awareness for The Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. But just when it seems there is almost nothing else she can do, Klum was honored with the Crystal Cross Award for her charity work, most notably for her contributions to the Red Cross after Hurricane Sandy.
5 Petra Němcová
Her 2003 cover shot in Barbados certainly left little to the imagination as she wore a fishnet bikini top and pulled the strings on her bikini bottom to show off her hips. Petra was discovered in Prague and has since worked for elite designers like Lolita Lempicka, Gai Mattiolo Erreuno, and was featured in campaigns for Bulgari and Cartier. Like Klum and many other "Cover girls," she was a subject of Joanne Gair's body paintings. But on December 26, 2004, she and her fiancé, Simon Atlee, were trapped in one of the worst natural tragedies. They were in Khao Lak, Thailand, during the Indian Ocean Tsunami that shocked everyone. Atlee drowned and Němcová suffered a broken pelvis and serious internal injuries. Amazingly, she held on to a palm tree for eight hours until she was airlifted to a hospital. Undaunted, in 2005, Němcová started the Happy Hearts Fund after the tsunami and was designated as Ambassador-at-Large for Hait. "Glamour Magazine" awarded her a "Survivor Award" for her work.
4 Veronika Vařeková
Veronika covered the 2004 issue, the "4oth Anniversay, Hall of Fame Edition" in Montauk, New York. The Czech model would be shot 8 times, from 1999-2002 and 2004-2007. Though she continued to model in magazines, like so many others she branched into television and was interviewed by Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, and Charlie Rose. In 2004, she followed the footsteps of other models and married hockey player, Petr Nedved. Nedved was also a Czech, an extremely overrated player, and Vařeková probably realized that and they divorced 2 years later. She was also too tough for him, for she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro two years later. She also became an ambassador for the African Wildlife Foundation and volunteers for the SZPD Orphanage.
In 2007, Beyoncé wore a pink and yellow bikini on the cover of the Swimsuit Issue. The Houston born, "Mega Star of the World" had come a long way from winning a talent show as a teenager by singing John Lennon's "Imagine." She's a pop star, actress, fashion designer, icon, sex symbol, and she's just reaching her prime as an artist. But look at what she's doing off the stage and away from the camera. After Hurricane Katrina, she helped found the Survivor Foundation to provide housing, participated in Hope for Haiti Now, raised money to fight childhood obesity, married Jay-Z, was embarrassed by Kanye West, and performed at the Super Bowl. In between and after, she joined the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund.
She also created plans to work for female education and empowerment, is taking part in "Miss a Meal", and in 2016, she was named the Most Charitable Celebrity of the year.
2 Marisa Miller
Marisa's shoot on the U.S Virgin Islands in 2008 was not the first image where a bikini top was replaced by long hair, but it was the first time models hooked a thumb into their bikini bottoms and exposed as much as possible. Imagine two inches lower than the picture here. After the shoot, she modeled for "Vogue," "Victoria's Secret," and then signed contracts with Harley Davidson and the NFL. Not only were her magazine sales through the roof, but the online issue drew a record 228 million views. Miller's career spread to T.V and film, where she acted in the feature length movie "R.I.P.D" in 2013.
What many people didn't know was she was a free spirit and posed naked, owned and rides a Harley, and is an avid surfer. Though most models don't dedicate themselves to charity work until their career begins to slow down, Marisa hasn't taken that approach. At 39 years old, she is an ambassador for the American Cancer Society, raises awareness of breast cancer, and is a part of the Surfrider Foundation. She is also an ambassador for the USO.
1 Kate Upton
In 2012, Kate Upton showed up for her first cover shoot in Australia, and the world has never been the same. Her left hand was posed behind her head, her right on her hip, and her bikini consisted of three tiny triangles, two for her breasts and one for below. A bathing suit could not be smaller. She was on the cover again in 2013, with an open down coat covering half her breasts in Antartica. The Michigan native is only 24, and she is married to baseball player Justin Verlander. She still models, sits court side at NBA games, shows up on MTV, has been on Saturday Night Live and other television shows. She has also appeared in five movies since 2011, including "The Layover" in 2017. Now don't be alarmed by what seems like her lack of charitable donations, for she has a lot of time ahead of her. Alot of time, and many more issues...