All of the models on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue have been women since its publication in 1964. The models are typically wearing exotic clothing on a beach or tropical island. However, the swimsuits were much more conservative decades ago, such as when Babette March graced the first cover. Since the issue was meant to simply fill the slow winter months for Sports Illustrated magazine, editor Andre Laguerre probably didn’t imagine his idea would turn into a massive marketing franchise that features some of the world’s top supermodels.
The SI Swimsuit Issue started out as a small photo spread of women wearing bathing suits. Now, the models are featured in calendars, Sports Illustrated’s website, books, television specials, and numerous advertisements. Being on the cover of the swimsuit edition is a media event, particularly when there’s only one model on it.
According to CNBC, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue “has made more than $1 billion for parent company Time Inc.” Some of the most well-known women to grace the cover include Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley, Angie Everhart, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, and Valerie Mazza. We know that each and every model is beautiful, so let’s take a look at 20 of the Sexiest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models of all time.
20. Petra Nemcova
Petra Nemcova’s career skyrocketed in Milan after she won the 1995 Czech Elite Model Look competition. She was then featured in campaigns for major brands such as Bulgari, John Lewis, Clarins, and Playtex. Between 2000-2004, she also worked for designers ranging from Yumi Katsura to Custo Barceloa. Photographer Walter Iooss captured pictures of the beauty for the cover of the 2003 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. This allowed her to gain recognition outside of the fashion industry. Petra has been featured in the SI Swimsuit Edition from 2002-2006.
19. Elle MacPherson
Elle MacPherson appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition a record five times: 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, and 2006. She only wanted to model for a year to save up money for law school. It wasn’t long after signing with an agency that she was in a commercial and gracing the covers of magazines. The beauty eventually went on to establish her own company–Elle Macpherson Inc.–after deciding to leave her agency, Ford Models. The 50-year-old beauty is an executive producer of the NBC show Fashion Star, and also owns numerous businesses.
18. Laetitia Casta
Laetitia Casta made an appearance in the S.I. Swimsuit Edition in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. This beauty was also a Victoria’s Secret Angel from 1998-2000. She was discovered at the age of 15 by photographer Frederic Cresseaux while vacationing in Corsica. Laetitia eventually became a spokesperson for the cosmetics company L’Oreal. She has been on the cover of Elle, Glamour, Rolling Stone, and many more. The 36-year-old is also a former “GUESS girl” which helped her gain exposure in the beginning of her career.
17. Stephanie Seymour
Stephanie Seymour made appearances in several Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She has been on the cover of more than 300 magazines including Playboy. The beauty got her start working in department stores and newspapers as a teenager. The 46-year-old wrote a book called Stephanie Seymour’s Beauty Secrets for Dummies and also appeared in numerous films.
16. Kathy Ireland
Kathy Ireland is largely known for appearing in 13 consecutive SI Swimsuit Issues starting in 1984 until 1996. She also graced the cover three times, something only two others did–Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley. She was the cover model for the best selling swimsuit issue, which was the 25th Anniversary Edition. She designs clothing such as wedding dresses, athletic apparel, and gowns. In 2012, British Vogue gave her the title of world’s richest model due to the success of her company and other business ventures.
15. Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks famously wore a red-and-pink polka dot bikini on the cover of the 1997 SI Swimsuit Edition. She was the first African-American woman to grace the cover, and the only other one is Beyonce in 1997. Tyra has been on the cover a total of two times, and also made numerous appearances in the magazine. She was also a Victoria’s Secret Angel and recipient of the “Supermodel of the Year” award from VH1 in 1997. Tyra is a business mogul who has her own production company as well as a fashion and beauty website.
14. Cheryl Tiegs
Cheryl Tiegs, now 67-years-old, is one of three models who appeared three times on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Edition. When she posed in a pink bikini in 1978, it became an iconic image in pop-culture during that decade. Her first big break was at the age of 17 when Glamour magazine decided to have her on the cover. She went on to work with Cover Girl cosmetics, which was among the biggest modeling contracts for that time. In 2004 Cheryl was inducted into the S.I. Swimsuit Issue’s 40th anniversary Hall of Fame.
13. Christie Brinkley
60-year-old Christie Brinkley is a Sports Illustrated legend. In the late 1970s she was able to achieve global fame by appearing in three SI Swimsuit Edition covers in a row: 1979, 1980, and 1981. This was the first time that ever happened. Also, her exclusive calendars for Sports Illustrated reached major success. Christie has been on the cover of over 500 magazines, wrote a New York Times best selling book, and also received many awards for her charity work. In 2005 she was featured in the Sports Illustrated 40th Anniversary Issue Hall of Fame. In 2014, Christie participated in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful special on NBC.
12. Rebecca Romijn
Romijn began modeling while attending college in California. After working in Europe for 3 years, she returned to the United States to work for Victoria’s Secret. In 1999, she landed the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover. This beauty was the first model ever to wear body paint in the magazine. She went on to pursue acting where one of her most well-known roles is Mystique in the X-Men films. The 42-year-old actress continues to work in film and television.
11. Jessica Gomes
28-year-old Jessica Gomes has been in every swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated since 2008. In 2014 she made her seventh appearance, which she mentioned as being a huge honor during an interview with online media network, Pop Sugar. Jessica started out as an actress and then signed with IMG Models in 2004 after moving to New York. The Australian supermodel is considered a sex symbol in numerous countries.
10. Ana Beatriz Barros
Ana Barros was discovered at the young age of 13 while vacationing in Rio de Janeiro, when a representative from Elite Model Management approached her. Shortly after, she was featured in a GUESS campaign with supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio. Ana has appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition seven times: 2002-2007. The beauty has also worked for Victoria’s Secret, Jennifer Lopez‘s fashion line, and Chanel cosmetics.
9. Chrissy Teigen
Chrissy was named Rookie of the Year in 2010 when she made her first appearance in the SI Swimsuit Edition. Another famous supermodel Brooklyn Decker, was the one who introduced Crissy to the people at SI. Although she was already a successful model, this helped Chrissy become more well known in the industry. In total, the 29-year-old has been a part of four Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues. In 2014, she was featured on the cover of the edition with Nina Agdal and Lily Aldridge.
8. Veronica Varekova
The Czech model has been in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated 8 times: 1999-2002 and then 2004-2007. In an interview with Greta Van Susteren on her Fox News show On the Record, the beauty said she never imagined or thought about being on the cover of the well-known magazine. Veronica was inspired to start modeling after someone in a restaurant told her she was beautiful and should try it out. In some of her appearances in the annual magazine, she’s holding her breasts or actually has no top on at all.
7. Bar Refaeli
The 29-year-old actress made history when she was the second Israeli model to be in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2007. Two years later, she was on the cover wearing a bikini, which was also painted on a Southwest Airlines airplane. Many people complained about the image being inappropriate. She went on to co-host a television show and even created her own model casting show in 2012. She has been featured in campaigns for Lucky Brand, Sears, Escada, Samsung, and True Religion.
6. Kate Upton
Kate Upton has been able to use social media to achieve global recognition. She was discovered in 2008 in Miami after attending a casting call, and got signed right on the spot. After moving to New York City, Kate’s success skyrocketed and she landed jobs with Garage, GUESS, and Dooney & Bourke. In 2011 she was Rookie of the Year in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She then went on to appear on the cover in the 2012 and 2013 editions.
5. Brooklyn Decker
Brooklyn Decker was walking in a mall as a teenager when she was discovered. In 2003, she won the Model of the Year award in 2003 at the Connections Model and Talent Convention. Within two months of moving to New York City, Brooklyn auditioned for the S.I. Swimsuit Issue and made her first appearance in 2006. Four years later she made the cover, which David Letterman announced on the Late Show. She is married to tennis player Andy Roddick, and often does charity work. Currently, Brooklyn continues to model and also appears in television shows such as the hit comedy New Girl.
4. Heidi Klum
Heidi Klum is one of the most iconic models to be on the cover of an SI Swimsuit Issue. In 1998 she was the first German to be on the cover of the magazine, and continued to make numerous appearances thereafter. In 2014, the 50th Anniversary Issue of the world-famous magazine featured Heidi as well as other models. The German model is the executive producer and host the hit reality show, Project Runway.
3. Marisa Miller
Marisa Miller appeared on the cover of the 2008 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which soared the magazine to record-setting numbers. The year before she became a Victoria’s Secret Angel. Marisa appeared in every issue from 2002-2008. In the 2007 edition she famously wore only an iPod. Also, she was ranked number one on Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 list the same year she appeared on the cover of S.I. Swimsuit Issue.
2. Cindy Crawford
Cindy Crawford may have never landed the cover of S.I. Swimsuit Issue, but she was a featured model. After moving to New York City to pursue modeling, she quickly became one of the most popular supermodels in the world in the 1980s and 1990s. She’s been on the cover of Vogue, Elle, Allure, People, and more. Cindy’s influence on fashion and culture was massive, such as when she wore the now famous red Versace dress to the 63rd Academy Awards. Many fakes and copies were produced after that event. Although she quit full-time modeling in 2000, the 46-year-old stunner still occasionally accepts small modeling jobs.
1. Irina Shayk
The 28-year-old supermodel has been in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue from 2007-2014. In 2011, David Letterman announced on the Late Show that she was going to be on the cover. Irina made history that year as she was the first Russian to ever grace the cover of the magazine. She’s been photographed for the editions in exotic places such as Chile, Grenada, Naples. and Hawaii. She continues to be a top supermodel particularly in Spain where she was once voted Best International Model.