Olivia Culpo Named Sports Illustrated's Newest Swimsuit Rookie

Photo: Taylor Ballantyne/Sports Illustrated.
For its latest Rookie squad, the swimsuit offset of Sports Illustrated is revving up the diversity engine. Via its most diverse lineup of models and influencers yet — Olivia Culpo, Hunter McGrady, Ebonee Davis, Alexis Ren, and more — the magazine is proving once and for all that it's eager to represent a realistic spectrum of beauty. Launching around Valentine's Day, the 54th issue is set to continue the path set out by those of recent, which saw model Ashley Graham on its cover, in addition to the featuring of mature models. And what's more, especially during trying times for the industry's most renowned photographers: The shoot was executed by an all-female cast and crew. Now that's Girl Power.
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What it means to be a Rookie, by the way, is no small task. In addition to sizable social media followings, and therefore influence, a Rookie needs to embody change — especially in this day and age. At their best, Rookies are breakout stars-in-waiting who have helped reshape the cultural conversation around beauty, proving there is no one way to be beautiful. It's a mantra we've seen many a mainstream brand tackle in recent years, but for Sports Illustrated, a once narrow-minded monolith of beauty, it's a cultural move long overdue.
The feat isn't lost on star Olivia Culpo, either, whose Rookie status was revealed today, along with Davis and McGrady. We spoke to Culpo on everything from what it took to get here — that is, from Miss Universe, to an acting career, and quite the stylish Instagram presence — how her role as a new Swimsuit Issue face adds to the female empowerment and body positive industry shifts, and what went down at the epic shoot.
What's it like to be on such a platform that's refocused their commitment to empowering women?
Olivia Culpo: "For me, Sports Illustrated has always represented such an iconic brand. It really is an environment of women who support one another. Even at the shoot, we had an all-female production, including the photographer. It was so comfortable and it really felt like we had each other's best interests. Sailor Brinkley Cook was doing behind-the-scenes video, too! You could really feel the community behind Sports Illustrated that helped us empower one another."
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What have you learned from being Miss Universe to now that makes you a good Rookie?
OC: "I can't tell you why they chose me, but I can say I'm excited about it. This represents so many women before me who've been a Rookie and are still Sports Illustrated stars today who have such great, inspiring careers. They're so much more than just pretty faces: they're business moguls, fashion designers, etc. Heidi Klum, Tyra banks, Kathy Ireland — they're all women who've gone on to do so much more with their platforms. And because of that, it's been a huge goal for me."
How important is diversity in fashion, in your opinion?
OC: "I'm so excited about the movement that's going on in the fashion industry. Beauty is every single shape and size. It's everything. It's no longer defined by one thing. It's a movement that needed to happen and I think it's something we can still expand on. There's still so much more to be done and so much more beauty for us to celebrate."
What's next as a Rookie?
OC: "I hope this inspires people to never give up on their goals and continue pushing for what they want. To be honest, SI is something I've always dreamt of, so to see that vision come to reality is really rewarding. There were times when I didn't feel like I could be in it because I didn't think I fit in with the other girls. I didn't think it'd ever happen. But I was persistent, so I hope, if anything, people can take away the ability to go after your dreams and not give up. I've learned to work hard and visualize what I want."
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