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Jule Campbell Set the Stage for the Model Moguls We Know Today

SI Swimsuit’s first editor has a long legacy of advocating for women.
jule campbell final

There’s one woman we can thank for making SI Swimsuit what it is today: longtime editor Jule Campbell, who helmed the franchise as its editor for 32 years.

Before 1964, Sports Illustrated had more of a leisure sports vibe, covering hunting, dog shows, birding and more. When the magazine’s editor, Andre Laguerre, was looking for content to beat the winter blahs and bridge the gap between the end of football season and the start of spring training, he enlisted his fashion editor to create a piece featuring swimwear. The result was a six-page story with a cover of model Babette March in a white bikini.

In 1965, Campbell, who had been an assistant in the fashion department, having previously worked at Glamour, took over this assignment, and the editor crafted the issue into a cultural phenomenon that featured “healthier” women in fashionable swimwear. She distinctly wanted to move away from the Twiggy look that was the norm for models at the time. What’s more, she printed the model’s names next to their images, making each of these stunning women more than just a face but a brand and personality.

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Portrait of Julie Stern, left, and Jule Campbell, right, in the Swimsuit office. February 1994

Portrait of Julie Stern, left, and Jule Campbell, right, in the Swimsuit office. February 1994

Campbell’s vision helped to launch the careers of Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley, Paulina Porizkova, Kathy Ireland, Elle Macpherson, Tyra Banks, and more. “Many people claim that they started [the term] supermodel, but I think we were right up there at the beginning,” said Campbell.

Her work also transformed swimwear into a legitimate fashion category and started the conversation around body positivity. SI Swimsuit still prides itself on presenting women in a way that highlights their own personal and unique qualities, and that was something Campbell focused on from the beginning. “I wanted them to look like real people that were beautiful and I think our audience related to that,” she said.

After more than 50 photo shoots, having worked with 154 models, Campbell stepped down in 1996. She set the stage for SI Swimsuit to become a vessel for change related to inclusivity, diversity and equality. Without her and the foresight to see women’s power and voice, the magazine would not have the change-making mindset it has today.

Swimsuit: Behind the Scenes: Portrait of SI senior editor Jule Campbell on location.

Swimsuit: Behind the Scenes: Portrait of SI senior editor Jule Campbell on location.

Beginning on International Women’s Day (March 8), the Pay With Change initiative will be front and center on SI Swim channels through daily spotlights on the women, brands and properties making a concerted effort to fight for women’s equality.