The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is an American staple. The annual issue, which features models and athletes baring as much skin as humanly possible without veering directly into pornography territory, has been going strong for the better part of half a century. The annual edition, which comes out every year in February or early March, has provided many teenage boys their first glimpse of the female form – or at least, in the days before the Internet, anyway.
The first edition hit news stands in 1964, while the best-selling issue ever was the 1989 25th-anniversary edition, which featured the irresistible Kathy Ireland on the cover. Some of the other notable covers include the 1977 cover, which featured more than one model (twins Yvette and Yvonne Sylvander) for the first time, as well as the 1994 cover, which featured three models for the first time (Rachel Hunter, Kathy Ireland – again – and Elle Macpherson) as well as the 2006 cover, which reunited eight former cover models, including Ireland.
It is estimated that at its peak, the annual edition brought in $35 million in advertising revenues. As time has gone by, the edition has lost some of its edginess (it’s tame by today’s standards), but it remains a true barometer of down-home American (and Brazilian, and Australian and Swedish…) beauty.
Stay with us as we count down the 10 hottest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Cover Models.
10. Bar Refaeli (2009)
Bar Rafaeli is one of the most wondrous gifts ever given to the West by Israel. The insanely hot model was linked to playboy actor Leonardo DiCaprio – and for good cause. The highest-paid Israeli model in the world has led campaigns for many major fashion houses and first appeared in the SI Swimsuit Edition in 2007 and was on the cover in 2009.
A shot of her from the magazine was painted on the side of a Southwest Airlines 737, spurring controversy and complaints from customers, some of whom regarded the image as overly sexualized and offensive to families. Maybe to blind families!
9. Brooklyn Decker (2010)
Brooklyn Decker has long been considered one of the most perfect women in the world. She is a perfect ’10’ and knows more about football than many of your contemporaries. When she first burst on the scene in 2007, she co-hosted a video segment picking NFL games alongside SI’s irascible Dr. Z, Paul Zimmerman. The segment, which aired weekly throughout the NFL season, showcased Decker’s natural charisma and likability, neither of which were on display in the lousy Battleship movie, which she co-starred in alongside Taylor Kitsch.
In her personal life, Brooklyn married tennis pro Andy Roddick, with whom she has a son, Hank, who was born on Sept. 30, 2015. Get a load of her now, because now that she’s a mom, I don’t foresee Brooklyn doing too many more bikini shoots where she is not actually wearing half the bikini, as she is above. Thankfully, we will always have 2010.
8. Tyra Banks (1997)
Tyra Banks has been featured on reality shows and has hosted America’s Next Top Model for so long that many, many people have forgotten just how insanely hot Tyra Banks was at her peak. The stunner was also the first African-American to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition as well as GQ. She was also featured as Zoe in Coyote Ugly, but really, who knows what any of those bartenders’ names was?
Their job was to be insanely hot, and guess what? Tyra Banks was exceptionally hot. Since those days, Banks has spoken out publicly against the untenable body standards forced upon young models. It’s an excellent cause, but those untenable body standards gave us this perfection. Life’s funny that way, huh?
7. Marisa Miller (2008)
Marisa Miller posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition from 2002 to 2008, culminating with her landing on the cover of the 2008 edition wearing a bikini bottom and some strategically placed blue necklaces. Miller was about 30 when she appeared in this photo, showing off her trademark flat tummy, which she attributes to eating while naked. Apparently, you eat a lot less when it’s all hanging out, Miller said. “Can you eat a plate of nachos while you’re naked? I can’t,” she told People magazine. Miller, now 37, went on to become a spokesmodel for the NFL and was ranked number 1 on FHM magazine’s Sexiest Women in the World poll.
Miller has also dabbled in acting and made her film debut in R.I.P.D., the Jeff Bridges-Ryan Reynolds film that featured real-life detectives tracking down spirits who are hiding in human bodies. Despite Miller’s presence in the film, R.I.P.D. was D.O.A. at the box office. Too bad. She deserved better.
6. Elle Macpherson (1988)
Elle Macpherson, the Australian model known as ‘the body’ in the 80s, graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in 1986, ’87 and ’88, as well as reunion covers in 1994 and 2006. Guess what, though? No matter how much time has gone by, Macpherson’s classic beauty and statuesque physique haven’t faded even a little. The model, who spent time dabbling in acting in the ’90s with fare such as If Lucy Fell and Sirens.
In Sirens, MacPherson’s nude scene inspired her to pose nude for Playboy magazine in 1994, back when Playboy still featured insanely hot women without any clothes on – unlike today. Since those days. Macpherson has held a slightly lower public profile, working as an executive producer of the NBC show Fashion Star and was the host for the first season of the show in 2010.
5. Hannah Davis (2015)
With her come-hither smile and her wind-swept hair, the image of Hannah Davis in the act of removing her bikini bottoms is one that will be soon seared into your memory. I know from experience. Davis, who is mostly known as being one of Derek Jeter‘s ex-girlfriends (one of many) spent her formative years growing up in the Caribbean nation of St. Thomas, which may indicate why she is so eager to get her swimsuit off.
Caribbean natives all know that any swimsuit will simply get in the way of frolicking on sandy-white beaches as shimmering blue water is all around. Sorry. Got distracted there. Davis played tennis and was also once a member of the Virgin Islands National Volleyball team. She first appeared in the SI Swimsuit Edition in 2013 and 2015 marks her first appearance on the cover.
4. Irina Shayk (2011)
Irina, who was born in Russia as Irina Valeryevna Shaykhlislamova in Yezsmalinsk, Russia to a coal miner father and kindergarten teacher mother, made the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in 2011. Posing on her knees on a beach in Hawaii, Shayk parlayed her natural, um, assets into a lucrative modelling career with appearances in many different media after her initial appearance in the SI Swimsuit Edition in 2007. More recently, Shayk appeared as a placard bearer for the Russian National Team in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, held in Sochi. She made her acting debut alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in the 2014 action epic Hercules.
3. Kathy Ireland (1992)
Oh, my. Kathy Ireland is simply amazing. In the days before the Internet, this goddess was the queen of the pinup, with her flawless body and girl-next-door facial features. She was everywhere in those days, doing late-night talk shows, guest starring on sitcoms and appearing in football movies as a female kicker who doubles as the love interest for a 300-pound Samoan, as was the case in the Scott Bakula vehicle Necessary Roughness.
So, gritty, reality-based entertainment was not really attractive to Ireland, but boy, oh, boy was she popular in the corridors of my high school at the time, as teenage boys would happily compare photos from different years with the idea of formulating the perfect Kathy Ireland photo. If this woman came along today, she would break the Internet. As in, snap it in half.
2. Rebecca Romjin (1999)
One of the most recognizable faces on this list, Rebecca Romijn Stamos, as she is legally known, despite being divorced from the former Full House star. Besides, she doesn’t need his name anymore anyway, because she is by far the more accomplished of the pair. Having conquered the world of modelling (as is evidenced by her appearance on the cover of the 1999 SI Swimsuit Edition), Romijn moved on to start taking over the world of feature films.
She is best known for her turn as Mystique, the shape-shifting villain in the first three X-Men films, but has also starred in the Ugly Betty TV series, as well as co-starring in the 2004 feature-film version of The Punisher, and the more recent TV remake of the Witches of Eastwick, called simply Eastwick. In her personal life, Romijn is married to Jerry O’Connell and the couple have twin daughters, born in 2008.
1. Kate Upton (2013)
The blonde bombshell, who graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in consecutive years in 2012 and 2013, is by far the hottest woman ever to make the cover of the annual edition. Upton, who was linked romantically to Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander until January of this year (so you’re saying there’s a chance?), managed to make Antarctica look sexy in the latter of the two covers in 2013. Funny story about that shoot: it was so cold when Upton took to the deck of a boat in the shadow of a glacier without any top on that she started to experience hearing and vision loss from the extreme cold. The native of Michigan is quite possibly the most accurate living embodiment of the All-American blonde bombshell look, and lives up to that expectation in nearly every photo she is in.
So there you have it; the 10 hottest women ever to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, in all their bikinied glory.