Sports Illustrated is the premier sports magazine that stands out compared to other American news media. There is no other sports publication with the history and insight that SI has. Numerous sports icons have graced the cover, including Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, LeBron James, and Muhammed Ali. Legendary sports franchises like the New York Yankees, Chicago Bulls, and Dallas Cowboys have all been featured on the cover. However, all those covers pale in comparison to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covers.
The swimsuit issue is, without a doubt, SI’s most popular and profitable issue. The first issue was published in 1964 and is credited with making the bikini popular and an acceptable piece of clothing. Of course, the swimsuit issue has also created some controversy on a few occasions. The SI Swimsuit Issue features the most beautiful and famous supermodels from around the world. Additionally, it also features up-and-coming models as well as female athletes. The SI cover is one of the most prestigious covers to be featured on for a model. It often means that the model is the hottest and most popular supermodel at the time or in the future. Not just any rookie or amateur can get on the cover. These models are driven, determined, and pros at the game. They have the guts and fortitude to wear very little clothing in the most gorgeous and exotic locations. Several of the models that were on the cover have gone on to become world famous. Here is a look at the 15 Hottest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Models.
15 Irina Shayk
Russian model Irina Shayk became a worldwide modeling sensation after appearing on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover. She first rose to fame after being featured in the ad campaigns for lingerie line Intimissimi and was later named Ambassador. In 2007, she made her first appearance in the pages of SI and has appeared in every edition since. She graced the 2011 cover and made the reveal on Late Show with David Letterman. It is the first time that a Russian model has been on the cover. She has appeared on the covers of several international magazines, such as Vogue, Glamour, and Elle. She has walked the runways for only the most elite designers, including Versace, Diane Von Fursterberg, and Miu Miu. In 2014, she made her long-anticipated film debut in Hercules opposite Dwayne Johnson. She raises money for the Russian charity “Pomogi” and helped rebuild a children’s ward at a local hospital in Russia.
14 Nina Agdal
Denmark has given the world great beer, fantastic bacon, and Lego. Denmark has truly outdone itself when giving the world its most recent gift in Nina Agdal. When Nina turned 18, she left her native Denmark to embark on a career in modeling in the United States. Her success began almost immediately and quickly became the most in demand model. Nina made her first appearance in the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and was named Rookie of the Year. In 2014, she appeared on the cover for the SI Swimsuit Issue 50th Anniversary along with Chrissy Teigen and Lily Aldridge. She’s appeared in several well-known magazines, including Elle, Vogue, and the cover of Maxim. In 2013, she famously appeared in the Carl’s Jr. Super Bowl commercial. Additionally, she had a cameo in the 2015 film Entourage. Her career has just begun, and she’ll likely grace the SI Swimsuit cover some day again.
13 Bar Refaeli
After appearing on the cover of SI Swimsuit Issue, Bar Refaeli’s career took off. She had already been a well-known model in her native Israel. She appeared in the top magazines in the world, including Vogue, GQ, and Allure. In 2007, she made her first appearance in the pages of SI. She was already on her way to becoming one of the most sought-after models in the world. In 2009, she graced the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In 2013, she was the highest paid model in Israel ahead of several top models. Currently, she is the host of the reality series X-Factor Israel. Outside of modeling, she has invested in several business ventures and opportunities. She is involved with the One Bag Less campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags in Israel. She also participates in a campaign to help inform the people of Israel about water preservation.
12 Rachel Hunter
New Zealand’s greatest exports are dairy, meat, and the gorgeous Rachel Hunter. In the late ‘80s, Hunter was quite the sensation in New Zealand but wasn’t known worldwide. That all changed in 1989, when she appeared in the pages of SI Swimsuit Edition. In 1994, she graced the cover for the first time along with Kathy Ireland and Elle Macpherson. In 2006, she was featured along with several iconic SI cover models in the All Star Cover. Hunter was featured on the covers of Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar. She appeared in several independent and made-for-TV movies, such as A Walk in the Park, Confessions of a Go-Go Girl, and Piranhaconda. In 2004, she was featured in a sizzling pictorial for Playboy magazine. In 2012, she hosted New Zealand’s Got Talent. In 2015, she began hosting her own series, Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty.
11 Rebecca Romijn
Supermodel Rebecca Romijn has been breaking records, hearts, and bones since taking the modeling world by storm. In 1999, she had every man and woman speechless when she graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Later, she appeared in ad campaigns for Victoria’s Secret, La Senza, and Got Milk? and has walked the runways for all the great designers along with iconic supermodels, such as Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford. She had audiences mesmerized with her portrayal of the butt-kicking Mystique in the first X-Men trilogy. As Mystique, she appeared completely naked painted in blue and covered in strategic places. She also starred in several memorable films, such as Femme Fatale, Rollerball, and The Punisher. She was praised for her performance as Alexis Meade on Ugly Betty. Currently, she hosts the reality competition series Skin Wars. As of 2014, she stars as Eva Baird in the fantasy adventure series The Librarians.
10 Chrissy Teigen
Currently, Chrissy Teigen is one of the most popular and well-known models in the world. However, it all began in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Early in her career, she appeared in various ad campaigns for Skull Candy, Gillette, and Nike. In 2010, she appeared in the SI Swimsuit Issue for the first time and was named Rookie of The Year. She returned in every issue from 2011 to 2014. In 2014, she graced the cover of the SI Swimsuit 50th Anniversary Edition alongside Nina Agdal and Lily Aldridge. She released two cooking specials—Chrissy Teigen’s Hungry and Cookies and Cocktails. She also made appearances in the sketch series Inside Amy Schumer and The Mindy Project. In 2015, she became the co-host of Lip Sync Battle along with LL Cool J and joined the talk show FABlife. In 2016, she released a cookbook, Cravings, which became a New York Times Best-seller.
9 Heidi Klum
For those concerned, no, you are not trapped in a time loop. Heidi Klum has just never aged a day in her life. In 1998, Heidi had her big breakthrough when she appeared on the cover of SI Swimsuit Issue. She became a Victoria’s Secret Angel and hosted several Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows. She made several appearances in popular TV series, such as Sex and the City, How I Met Your Mother, and Parks and Recreation. She was the host and judge for Germany’s Next Top Model. Recently, she became a judge on the reality competition series America’s Got Talent. In 2013, she won an Emmy Award for her role as judge and co-host on the reality competition series, Project Runway. She launched two fragrances, two maternity lines, and active women’s wear. In 2015, she released the lingerie line Heidi Klum Intimates. She has an estimated net worth of $70 million and is considered one of the richest former models.
8 Christie Brinkley
They broke the mold when they created Christie Brinkley and they likely invented that phrase to describe her. Brinkley changed the modeling game in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In 1979, she made her first appearance on the cover of SI Swimsuit Edition and would appear again in 1980 and 1981. She was the first model to grace the cover three consecutive times. She was the “it girl” of the ‘80s appearing on the cover of every magazine. She appeared in the 1983 movie National Lampoon’s Vacation and the Got Milk? ad campaign. She appeared on sitcoms Mad About You and Parks and Recreation, as well made her stage debut in Chicago. She is heavily involved with protecting the environment and animal rights. She has an estimated net worth of $80 million and made most of it as an owner of real estate. In 2005, Brinkley was included in the SI 40th Anniversary Hall of Fame Issue and the SI 50th Anniversary The Legends Edition.
7 Petra Nemcova
In 2003, Petra Nemcova had her big break when she appeared on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover. She appeared in the pages of the prestigious magazine from 2002 to 2006. She worked with all the top designers in the world, including Matthew Williamson and Lolita Lempicka. She also graced the covers of Cosmopolitan, Elle, and FHM. She appeared on the 12th season of Dancing with the Stars. In 2004, Petra was in Thailand when the Indian Ocean Earthquake and tsunami hit. Her fiancé and photographer Simon Atlee tragically drowned during the tsunami. Petra broke her pelvis and suffered several other injuries but was able to cling to a tree for eight hours until being rescued. In 2005, she founded the charity Happy Hearts Fund and has been praised for her humanitarian work. In 2012, the President of Haiti named her Ambassador at Large for Haiti due to her incredible work with the HHF.
6 Marissa Miller
In 2008, Maxim magazine declared that Marissa Miller “is the return of the American supermodel.” She appeared in every SI Swimsuit Issue from 2002 to 2008. In one memorable photo shoot, she posed naked while covered slightly by an iPod. In 2008, she graced the cover which resulted in record sales. She appeared on the covers of several other prominent magazines, including Vanity Fair, Elle, and GQ. In 2008, she became the very first spokesperson for Harley-Davidson and became the spokesperson for the NFL in 2010. She made her film debut in R.I.P.D. along with Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges. She also appeared in Entourage, How I Met Your Mother, and served as a guest judge on America’s Next Top Model. She is an ambassador for the USO and American Cancer Society and supports the Young Survival Coalition. In 2015, she posed naked while pregnant for a PETA Campaign against SeaWorld.
5 Elle Macpherson
During the ‘80s, posters of Elle Macpherson were plastered on the walls of teenage boys bedrooms all over the world. Elle isn’t just a gorgeous model, but she’s also an actress, TV host, and a successful businesswomen. In the ‘80s, her career skyrocketed after appearing on the cover of SI Swimsuit Issue. She first appeared on the cover in 1986 and would go on to appear again in 1987, 1988, 1994, and 2006. Macpherson holds the record of most appearances on the cover with five. Due to her dominance of the modeling world, she was nicknamed “The Body.” Later, she appeared in the films Sirens and Batman & Robin, as well as the beloved sitcom Friends. She also hosted Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model and Fashion Star. She is an ambassador for the Smile Foundation, RED, and UNICEF. She also launched an incredibly successful lingerie line known as Elle Macpherson Intimates.
4 Tyra Banks
In the ‘90s, the modeling landscape was drastically changed when Tyra Banks exploded onto the scene. She quickly became the most desired and sought-after model in the world. Tyra is the first African-American to appear on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue. She graced the cover the first time along with Valeria Mazza. In 1997, Tyra appeared for the second time on the cover; this time, solo. Her career continued to flourish since appearing on the cover. She had a recurring role in the fourth season of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and later appeared in the films Higher Learning and Coyote Ugly. Her greatest success has been creating, producing, and hosting the reality series America’s Next Top Model. She also hosted her own talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, which won two Daytime Emmys. She is the current host of the reality competition series America’s Got Talent. Recently, she created and hosts the talk show FABlife. Additionally, she created the Tyra Banks Scholarship.
3 Kate Upton
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes beautiful as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” In other words, Kate Upton. Kate Upton is the most dominant figure when it comes to the SI Swimsuit Issue in the past few years. In 2011, she made her first appearance in the pages of SI. She was named Rookie of the Year after that appearance. In 2012, she appeared on the cover for the first time and graced the cover again in 2013 and 2017. Her career took off, and she appeared on the covers of Vanity Fair, GQ, and Esquire. Additionally, Internet videos of Upton doing the Dougie hip hop dance and the Cat Daddy dance both went viral. She branched into a film career appearing in Tower Heist and The Other Woman. She will star in the upcoming films The Layover and The Disaster Artist.
2 Kathy Ireland
Forbes magazine once proclaimed the world famous Kathy Ireland as a “model turned mogul.” She first graced the SI cover on the 1989 25th Anniversary Issue. The 1989 edition had the best sales in the magazine’s history. For the 50th anniversary, SI dubbed her ‘89 cover “The Greatest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover of All Time.” Ireland appeared on the cover on two more occasions—1992 and 1994. Ireland parlayed her success into a business career. In 1993, she founded the marketing company Kathy Ireland Worldwide. She is one of the richest former models with an estimated net worth of between $360 million and $420 million. Her company brands various products such as fashion apparel, home products, and children’s toys and books. She’s written six books, including Real Solutions for Busy Moms: Your Guide to Success and Sanity. She’s involved with several charities including Toys for Tots. Additionally, she appeared in Melrose Place, The Larry Sanders Show, and Dancing with the Stars.
1 Cheryl Tiegs
Cheryl Tiegs is widely regarded as the first true American supermodel. She is best known for her iconic “pink bikini” poster in 1978. However, her career took off after appearing on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. In 1970, she made her first appearance on the cover and followed up with a second cover in 1975. She was the first model to appear twice on the cover. She is best remembered for her controversial appearance in the 1978 issue. She didn’t appear on the cover but in the pages, wearing a revealing fish net bikini. In 1980, she was the first supermodel to launch a signature clothing and accessories line, the Cheryl Tiegs Collection. In 2012, she appeared on Celebrity Apprentice and voices herself in the animated sitcom Family Guy. She’s involved with several charities, including City of Hope, Farrah Fawcett Foundation, and is the Ambassador for the International Planned Parenthood Foundation.