The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has become an iconic annual publication since the first cover in 1964 featuring Babette March. Each year's issue always contains the usual bikini-optional women in exotic locations — looking confident, sexy, and sometimes even sporty.
But this year, something new, exciting, and historic happened: SI released three different covers, each representing a different kind of body type, with each model as giddy to become a part of the long legacy of more than 50 SI cover stars. (That list includes Christie Brinkley, Beyoncé, Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, and Chrissy Teigen, to name a few.)
Ashley Graham, who technically made an appearance in the issue last year (albeit, in a swimwear ad), is now on the cover as the first curvy girl to grace the glossy front of the magazine. Not since Banks' appearance on the cover in 1997 has SI made such a big, and long-awaited, change. Ronda Rousey, in her barely there body paint, is on another cover this year, and 20-year-old Hailey Clauson, who was Rookie of the Year in 2015, is on the third version.
The three cover stars represent a new age in modeling — one that includes plus-size runway shows, trans models walking for major labels, and supermodels like Gigi Hadid, who have refused suggestions to become stick-thin. Times are changing, and so are the shapes and sizes of the women who appear in SI's Swimsuit Issue.
At a VIP event in New York City at the Time, Inc. building, the next generation of models stopped to talk to Refinery29 about what being a part of this historic cover means to them.