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The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Special Edition Issue has been around for 50-plus years. Some of the top names in modeling and sports have graced its pages in various states of undress. This year’s Swimsuit Issue will have all those same elements readers have come to enjoy and expect in issues past, but the 2020 issue is extra special because it will also feature a history-making model.

The history of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

The debut Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue hit newsstands in February 1964. Editor Andre Laguerre discovered when the sports calendar slowed during the winter months; he could fill that chilly void with photos of warm destinations and hot women, and readers would enjoy it. He was right.

Since that first issue, it’s regularly appeared at newsstands each February up until last year, when it came out for the first time in May. In 1997, Sports Illustrated transformed the special edition from a section within an issue into its own stand-alone issue, separate from the weekly magazine. 

Through the years the Swimsuit Issue has featured some of the most famous models, including Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley, Paulina Porizkova, Elle Macpherson, Heidi Klum, and Tyra Banks. In recent years, the issue has featured female athletes, including Steffi Graf, Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, Danica Patrick, and Anna Kournikova. 

Sports Illustrated calls for re-creation of swimsuit issue photos from years past

With much of America staying indoors and looking for entertaining things to do for much of 2020, Sports Illustrated challenged its Instagram followers to get creative with the #SwimsuitIconChallenge and send photos recreating some of their favorite models and poses from the past. 

The followers responded in a big way with some interesting tales accompanying their photos. The most surprising submission came from the 1982 SI swimsuit covergirl Carol Alt. The 59-year-old Alt recreated the 2008 cover featuring Marisa Miller, who was nearly nude, and didn’t shy away from getting as close to the original as possible.

“You just want to say ‘Hey, look, I work out, and I’m 60 freaking years old this year!'” she told The New York Post. “I never expected this, believe me. When I [first] went to push the button to share, I had to stop and take a deep breath,” Alt said.

Valentina Sampaio is first trans model

Valentina Sampaio has developed quite a reputation for making history. In 2017, she appeared on the cover of Vogue Paris as the first transgender model. A couple of years later, Victoria’s Secret hired her. The next natural step of progression was the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. This year the 23-year-old Brazilian is the first transgender woman featured in the issue. Sampaio is named as one of the “rookies” in the popular issue. 

Sampaio understands the importance of her appearance in the magazine and appreciates that the publication wants to champion “a diverse set of multitalented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way.”

For Sampaio, it is personally significant, because back in her home country 129 transgender people were murdered in 2019. She said even with the new laws, people don’t widely respect and comply with them, and the authorities aren’t enforcing them either.

There’s no denying Sampaio’s appearance in the magazine is history-making. She’s hoping her appearance can translate into something that is more significant and difference-making to its readers, particularly those back in Brazil. 


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