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Shattering Perceptions: It's Time to Rethink Everything You Thought You Knew about the SI Swimsuit Issue

There's beauty in diversity, in inspiration — and in rethinking all you thought you knew about the Swimsuit Issue.

We all need a little inspiration now and then, so here’s a quote for your refrigerator or the front of a T-shirt or your Pinterest board: “Do what you know,and perception is converted into character.” In other words: Be true to who you are, and your understanding of the world — and the world’s understanding of you—will coalesce around your best self.

Of course, to make that happen you’re going to have to shatter a few perceptions along the way. So let’s get real about exactly what the Swimsuit Issue is and what it represents. Sure, it was born as a midwinter diversion for a mostly male sports magazine audience — but through- out its 55-year history SI Swimsuit has been conceived, planned and produced by an editorial staff comprised almost entirely of women. Two of our three covers this year were shot by females. Josie Clough, who was four months pregnant when she photographed Camille Kostekon Kangaroo Island, in South Australia, last October, has had her work in the issue three straight years now. Laretta Houston, meanwhile, is new to the Swimsuit family. Tyra Banks recommended her to shoot Tyra’s third SI cover — though Houston didn’t know it at the time. “There are so very few women of color behind the camera,” Tyra said to me in January. “Let’s find a talented person and change her life!” So we invited Houston to the Bahamas to shoot 2019 rookies Olivia Brower, Winnie Harlow and Kelsey Merritt. Once she got there, we surprised her with the news that she’d also be shooting a modeling legend for the cover.


Tyra’s choice was driven by a spirit of empowerment and inclusion — something those who still think of SI Swimsuit as a monument to supermodel-y sameness and perfection should keep in mind. With the 34 exceptional women in this issue we’re celebrating beauty in all its forms. Pretty faces? Yes — but also so much more. Mothers. Athletes. Businesswomen. Women of color. Women of different shapes and sizes. Women from all walks of life. What connects them? A determination to own who they are and demonstrate how limitless we can all be.

So: Do you feel confident and strong in a string bikini? Go for it. Do you feel that way in a burkini and a hijab? Halima Aden does, and this year she’s the rst woman to wear them in the Swimsuit Issue. Does a swimsuit still make you feel gorgeous 36 years after your first SI appearance? Paulina Porizkova says yes, and in addition to her photos this issue includes her erce back-page essay in which she addresses ageism head-on.


The conversation shouldn’t stop at body diversity or how a woman should look or dress to be worthy of media celebration. SI Swimsuit wants the focus to be on women’s actions as much as their appearance. Alex Morgan is on one of our covers — she and U.S. national soccer teammates Megan Rapinoe and Crystal Dunn and Abby Dahlkemper joined us for a shoot in St. Lucia, right after the barrier-breaking announcement that national team players were suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination and equal pay. And Kostek’s cover, a year after we discovered her in our annual Model Search casting, marks the launch of a modeling career swimming in potential. (Even as her star rises, the search is on for the next breakout. Model Search 2020 launches this July in Miami.)

Speaking of potential — both ful lled and limitless — let’s talk about Tyra. In 1996 she became the rst woman of color on the Swimsuit Issue cover; in the years since she’s transformed herself into nothing less than a mogul, a cultural force and a supernova of inspiration and empowerment. She’s kind of the Swimsuit Issue ethos come to life, everything we know this franchise can be. We hope that after you’ve visited and explored the additional images, videos and stories there, you think about the women, SI Swimsuit and yourself in a new light.

Oh, and that quotation we started with? It’s from Ralph Waldo Emerson. He may have owned a famous path of forest in Massachusetts, but you probably didn’t see his connection coming to a franchise thought to be about sun, sand and sex appeal. Boom. Perception, shattered.

See all of Halima Aden's stunning SI Swimsuit 2019 photos: