Sports Illustrated has been making history with its Swimsuit Edition since 1964, when the debut cover featured model Babette March in a “scandalous” bikini. Since then, the magazine has issued many other groundbreaking cover images. In 2017, for example, Ashley Graham became the first-ever size-16 model to be featured. Tyra Banks became the first Black woman to grace the cover alone in 1997 and then became the magazine’s oldest model at age 45 in 2019.
This year, the American sports magazine is highlighting three models, all of whom are women of color making history. The magazine posted a compilation of the three covers on Twitter.
“Meet Your #SISwim21 Cover Models: @naomiosaka [Naomi Osaka], @theestallion [Megan Thee Stallion] and @leynabloom [Leyna Bloom],” tweeted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.
— Sports Illustrated Swimsuit (@SI_Swimsuit) July 19, 2021
Twenty-six-year-old Megan Thee Stallion, of “Hot Girl Summer” fame, is the first rapper to appear on the SI swimsuit cover.
“She captured the world’s attention with her music and style, but what caught our attention was her unfiltered approach to the way she makes you think,” said Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor-in-chief MJ Day in a statement. “She uses her platform to push boundaries, dissect societal norms and encourage humans to think about the backward way our society continues to operate. Megan is a vessel for change, and we are honored to have her on our 2021 cover.”
Model and actress Leyna Bloom, 27, was the first trans woman of color to star in a Cannes Film Festival movie, one of the first trans women to walk the runway at Paris Fashion Week and the first trans woman in Vogue India. Now, she is also the first transgender cover model in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit history.
In an Instagram post, the model said she was “happy, honored, and humbled” to be a swimsuit issue cover model.
Twenty-three-year-old tennis star Naomi Osaka holds four Grand Slam titles and will compete in the Olympics in Tokyo. She’s the first Asian player to be ranked a world No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association. But her actions off the court are what caused her to stand out to the publication. In May, she made news by announcing she would not be doing press conferences during the French Open in order to prioritize her mental health.
“What drew us to Naomi was her passion, strength and power geared toward consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice and mental health,” shared Day. “She is wholeheartedly dedicated to achieving the impossible and has succeeded time and again. We are so honored to have one of the fiercest female trailblazers in history as one of our 2021 covers.”
Osaka is the first Black female athlete to grace the cover of the magazine.