Introducing 2023 SI Swimsuit Model Angel Reese

The Bayou Barbie will make her debut in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue!

A record 9.9 million people tuned in for the NCAA women’s basketball final last month, a history-making moment for the sport and the first-time champion LSU. It was also a game-changer for star forward Angel Reese, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

“Having so many people come back to me and say, ‘You guys have changed the game. You guys have been a part of history,’ I embraced that,” Reese says. “Just being able to be a part of this has just been amazing for me this year, and it’s been a blessing.”

Reese also hopes LSU’s 102–85 win over Iowa will help to push the needle forward in women’s college athletics.

“We’ve done so much within a year,” the Baltimore native shares. “We weren’t even supposed to be in the Final Four. We had nine new players, and it was coach [Kim Mulkey]’s second year in the SEC, so we didn’t know what to expect. We just went out there and had fun all the time and put in a lot of work all season.”

Reese, who transferred to LSU after two years at Maryland, was the nation’s No. 2 recruit in the class of 2020. She has made the most of the move: Reese is one of the top NIL earners at $1.3 million with deals for Coach, Amazon Merch on Demand, McDonald’s and Mercedes-Benz Baton Rouge, to name just a few. Adding to her recent list of accolades, Reese will make her debut in the 2023 SI Swimsuit Issue this month.

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Top by Solo Studio. Swimsuit bottom by Miaou.

“Angel Reese is a phenomenal basketball player,” says editor in chief, MJ Day. “She’s an All- American and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. While we’re of course here to celebrate her incredible achievements and athleticism, it wouldn’t be an SI Swimsuit moment if we weren’t shining a light on Angel’s achievements off the court. Angel is combating the double standard in sports, especially for women. She is making a name for herself as a fierce competitor and an equally fierce advocate for growing the game of women’s basketball. Her intensity, drive and passion around being unapologetically herself and speaking up for what she believes in is helping move the needle forward for women in sports and is liberating the next generation to feel seen and heard. Our goal here is to help empower as many women as we can and we’re beyond excited to do that alongside Angel Reese in the 2023 issue.”

She recently traveled to Los Angeles, where she posed for photographer Yu Tsai. We caught up with the 21-year-old to chat about her time on location, that one viral moment seen around the world and what’s next.

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Swimsuit by Indah. Necklace by Brinker + Eliza.

“I embrace my body and who I am and every mark on my body”

Sure, Reese is tall in stature—she’s 6'3"—but it’s her personality that lets her presence be known. Despite being nervous at first on set, she warmed up to the camera and was a natural.

“I had on thong bathing suits and I didn’t think I was going to be comfortable, but [everyone] made me feel really comfortable,” she says. “I work out a lot. I embrace my body and who I am and every mark on my body. I probably feel the sexiest in a bathing suit.”

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Swimsuit by Indah. Necklace by Brinker + Eliza.

The confidence she exudes is something she learned early on from her mother, also named Angel, who played basketball at UMBC. The elder Angel raised her children—Angel has a younger brother, Julian, a 6'9" forward who plays for Maryland—to stand tall (no pun intended) and with pride.

“I’ve always stood on not getting the answer no,” she explains. “I’ve always just tried to find another way or just do it myself. Don’t ever let somebody tell you that you have to be in a box and stand your ground.”

It was also her mother who let her decide her own path in life.

“She let me do whatever. I ran track; I did volleyball; I did a little bit of swimming, gymnastics and cheer,” Reese says of her childhood. “She never put it on me that I had to play basketball because she did, so she let me experience and do whatever I wanted to do. I just finally decided basketball was going to be my thing. I was kind of good at it, and I was really competitive.”

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Top by Solo Studio. Swimsuit bottom by Miaou.

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Top by Solo Studio. Swimsuit bottom by Miaou.

When she was younger, she often took on and beat her brother and her cousin Jordan Hawkins, who won the 2023 NCAA men’s championship with UConn. Reese is most at ease and feels at peace on the court.

“I can always just go out there and release anything going on in my life,” she says. “When I go to the gym, everything else going on in my life just doesn’t matter. I’m out there having fun, releasing all my feelings, going hard, working hard and just loving the game.”

“Women can be who we are; women can be competitive”

Reese may have made headlines for that John Cena “you can’t see me” hand wave toward Iowa’s Caitlin Clark in the NCAA championship game, but the junior forward says too much was made about the viral moment. 

“Caitlin and I are cool,” says Reese, who is tired of the pitting-women-against-women narrative. “It’s just being able to force people to accept that women can talk trash. The women’s side gets penalized for it or we’re considered as not being ladylike and that we’re not playing by the rules. We work just as hard as the men. Women can be who we are; women can be competitive.”

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Swimsuit by Indah. Necklace by Brinker + Eliza.

Among those paying attention have been Shaquille O’Neal, whom Reese endearingly calls uncle (there is no relation), Drake, DJ Khaled, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, to name a few.

“[I’ve] met so many crazy people I never thought I’d meet,” she says. “To be able to see how much they embrace us; I love the support. You have to realize these have been men who are actually respecting women’s basketball, so that helps.”

Back on campus, LSU football coach Brian Kelly asked her to meet with recruits in hopes of enticing them to join the Tigers. The Bayou Barbie (the nickname was given by a fan and has fittingly stuck) happily obliged. At the program’s spring football game last month, she was the sought-after VIP over Cincinnati Bengals quarterback and LSU alum Joe Burrow. Since returning to school, though, life has been a whirlwind.

“I’m excited and blessed to be able to have these opportunities to go out and be who I am,” she adds. It was hard for her to fly under the radar after the NCAA tournament, so the communications major opted to move her studies online for safety and protection. Don’t get it wrong, she loves the fans and the support, but sometimes a girl just wants to “shop in peace!”

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Swimsuit by Indah. Necklace by Brinker + Eliza.

“There’s always room to be better”

Reese has another year of college hoops before she’s eligible for the WNBA.  She manifests she will be a top-three draft pick. With her passion and hustle, it is an attainable goal.

“There’s always room to be better,” Reese admits. “I’m about to go to USA Basketball, so my goal this summer is to win a gold medal.”

Later this month Reese heads to Colorado Springs for U.S. team trials in advance of the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup (which will be held in Leon, Mexico, this July). Before hitting the road, she has to get through finals this week, having just celebrated her 21st birthday on May 6.

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Top by Solo Studio. Swimsuit bottom by Miaou.

Angel Reese was photographed by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. Top by Solo Studio. Swimsuit bottom by Miaou.

“I feel like I’ve been 21 for a minute,” jokes Reese, who threw herself a big bash in Atlanta and got a brand new Mercedes-Benz. “I had to grow up quickly when I came to LSU, because I came here by myself. This is the first time I’m away from home, so I had to move my apartment, do all this stuff and I’m making money on my own.”

In this Bayou Barbie’s world, life is fantastic, but Reese is never not hustling. She has a plan in place to keep putting in the work to reach her long-term goals.

“I’ve worked hard to get to the life hopefully that I am at in five to 10 years, so just being able to be free and happy and traveling and just having fun,” she says.

Alisandra Puliti


Alisandra Puliti is a NYC-based entertainment journalist with over 15 years of experience. Before joining the SI Swimsuit team as a contributing editor, the Penn State alum held several positions at HELLO! and HOLA! Media, Us Weekly and OK! Magazine. Throughout her tenure, she has been a fixture at events such as the Golden Globes to the Cannes Film Festival and has interviewed the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Eva Longoria, Jay-Z and more of Hollywood’s elite. A self-professed ‘social homebody,’ when she isn’t home binge-watching the newest streaming series or perfecting pasta dishes, her constant wanderlust has her packing her bags and heading out for a new adventure –most likely back to Italy!