The 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was just released and I just can’t help but blog about it. As a journalist, the history of companies and people’s stories intrigue me. The history behind Sport Illustrated and the evolution of the SI Swimsuit Issue are noteworthy, as is, this year’s cover model, Kate Upton, who I playfully refer to as Kate UpTOP.
Yep. I like Kate for two reasons: she’s got curves AND her meal plan consists of more than just air. And, every women can relate to the difficulty of getting a bathing suit to fit, even after trying on 1,345,987 just to find the ONE. Kate does this flawlessly, which is exactly why she’s SI’s cover model this year. More on the 20-year-old beauty’s bold-bared bravery in a minute.
Sports Illustrated launched in the early 1950’s, with early content focused on polo, yachting and safaris, in an effort to attract potential lucrative ad money. The first ten years hit with a thud, with the magazine losing money each year, until Time brought English European correspondent, Andre Laguerre to the U.S. as managing editor. Laguerre, who covered the 1948, 1952, and 1956 Winter Olympics, was the critical infusion needed to successfully revive the magazine from a niche publication to the current popular sports magazine it is today, with an estimated 23 million weekly readers, including my brother-in-law Todd.
In 1963, in an effort to entice sagging winter magazine sales, Laguerre hatched an idea which laid the groundwork for today’s swimsuit issue. Laguerre’s concept was simple, obvious, and profitable:
Sports + Beauty + Bathing Suits = Goldmine.
Better than E=MC2, right?
Smartly, Laguerre solicited the help of fashion reporter, Jule Campbell, for the first-ever swimsuit shoot, featuring cover model Babette March. The pictures hit store shelves in January 1964 as a five-page ‘bare’ bones supplemental pullout. Over the next three decades, Campbell passionately transformed the SI Swimsuit Issue into the revenue powerhouse it is today by tweaking the equation just a nip.
Supermodel + string + salacious curves + body paint + exotic locations = $1 billion dollar revenue.
The 2013 SI Swimsuit Issue took seven months and 90,000 miles to shoot 10,000 pictures and 100 hours of video of 22 models in a reported 500-800 bathing suits. The SI Swimsuit Issue is an exotic moneymaking splash every year, with more than $35 million in ad revenue reaching 70 million consumers in print and online platforms. Brands sell out in 24 hours. Exposure is off the charts.
Which brings me back to Kate Upton, whose exposure these days is up in the ranks of former SI cover models Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Tyra Banks, Brooklyn Decker and Kathy Ireland. All have become pretty spicy businesswomen. Ireland, by the way, was on the 1989 cover of the best-selling SI Swimsuit Issue ‘ever’ – the Sports Illustrated 25th Anniversary Issue. ‘Kathy Ireland’ is now is a $2 billion dollar empire.
Born in Detroit in 1992 and the great granddaughter of one of the Whirlpool co-founders, Kate was raised in Melbourne, Florida. At 16, she quit high school, after being ‘discovered’ in 2008 at an open model call for Elite Models in Miami. Looking back, her decision was a ‘no brainer’ as her perfect imperfections grace the cover of the SI Swimsuit Edition for the second straight year.
Unlike Victoria Secret models who brave underwires, stilettos, eye-poking wings and skeleton-inducing diets, Kate fits the SI model mold perfectly, having the sultry combination of personality, athleticism, exotic beauty, and curves. SI models have an edge over VS models, having to deal with uncomfortable temperatures, animals, and often unexpected exotic elements (and by that I mean bugs).
Oh, and SI models have to like paint. Yes, lots of body paint. Oh, and they have to tolerate sand in hideway spaces. And messy wet stringy hair falling in just the right places. And they have to endure 2 a.m. wakeup calls for pre-dawn primping before pre-dawn lighting checks. And they need to learn life skills, like how to break a wave and slither in cold, cold water. Or in Kate’s case, sizzle in sub-zero temperatures in Antarctica.
As a woman, I was on a mission to find out how in the world did she pull that off?!!
Now don’t be fooled by her cover shot donning a white Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber jacket squishing her like an Elizabethan queen (imagine being the liner in that jacket?). This poor girl – who to her benefit can go from makeup to mud like many equestrians (she is) – stood in all her glory in -21C in the Antarctica with nothing more than a holey scarf, a couple of strings strung together, in a pair of really cool boots (I really do like those boots), surrounded by unimpressed penguins. Penguins mate for life by the way, well, most penguins. Oh, the secrets those penguins could tell.
Kate told The Sun this past weekend, that the “view of Antarctica was breath taking,” and the experience, “was spiritual with the pink mountains and huge icebergs.” Her words, not mine, but I’m quite, quite sure only Kate focused on topography. Please.
Now I don’t know how far North you’ve ever lived, but I’ve stood in -4 degree temperatures covering stories in Upstate New York for 13 long winters, fully dressed, encased in down feathers, gloves, boots, and hats. The snow is crunchy and the air feels like ice pins on your face. It only takes a few precious minutes before fingers and toes go numb, the eyes water and the air freezes making your eyelashes stick together, as your shivering lips make it difficult to talk and think – no less smile effortlessly for the camera. It then takes hours, a hot tubby, and hot chocolate to thaw out.
Enough about me. Back to Kate with her curves that captivate the brain like a drug.
The fact that Kate Upton braved all that, au natural, puts her very high in my book in the bold and brave department. C’mon, there’s not a Khardashian in LA that could pull that off! And, I found out, according to Kate, she suffered. She did indeed. The freezing temperatures affected her eyes, ears, and – the HORRAH – just about frostnibbled her – um, UpTOPS!
Respectfully, I surely hoped someone was there to…help.
I’m happy to report that The Sun, Toronto Star and Huffington Post confirm that Kate has recovered. Phew.
The things women do to illustrate their love of sports, eh?
Finally, just one more thing. And this is important. If you’re lucky enough to date a girl who can still slay a bikini, you need to know a bikini is never about the style or price tag. It’s about the fit. Whether it’s a bandeau top, string, or standard bikini, $20 or $120, if it hugs the curves just right, it’s coming home.