SI Swimsuit photographer Laretta Houston took an unusual path to her place behind the lens. The daughter of a military father and a Filipina mother who traveled a lot, Houston spent most of her time growing up with relatives, modestly raised in the Philippines. At 13, following the death of her mother, Houston entered the foster care system, ultimately landing in the United States. She worked as a web developer and designer who spent her lunch breaks taking photographs before pursuing photography as a fulltime career.
Her unique background gives her a powerful perspective as she sees each project as a personal journey. Her eye for capturing beauty led her to photograph Tyra Banks in 2019 for the issue’s cover. Banks and SI Swimsuit editor in chief MJ Day surprised her with the assignment, noting the strength and grace of her work.
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Houston returned to the SI Swimsuit fold in 2022, photographing five WNBA stars in St. Thomas. While on set in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Houston talked about the strength of her subjects, Sue Bird, Nneka Ogwumike, DiDi Richards, Breanna Stewart and Te’a Cooper. “What’s my favorite part of being a woman? Being able to step in my power as a woman. I think that's powerful,” said Houston.
While Stewart found beauty in being different, and Richards has learned to love her height and curves, Houston finds deep meaning in helping others see the beauty in themselves. “Beauty means a lot to everybody, right?” she says. “It's different for everybody. For me, I like to pull out the beauty that they've never recognized. As a photographer, I would like to pull that out and show that to them. I like to see them smile. I hope that I’m able to shape someone’s life every time I put them in front of my camera.”