Martha Stewart, at 81, Stuns as ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’ Cover Model

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 18: Martha Stewart attends the 2023 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue release party at Hard Rock Hotel New York on May 18, 2023 in New York City.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit

From Saturday Night Live‘s impression of her in the Topless Christmas skit to her media powerhouse return to her recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover, Martha Stewart continues to stun and remain one of the most publicized lifestyle moguls of our time.

Stewart — fit and spray-tanned — dons several stunning suits, plays in the water and gets her sex appeal on point in the publication’s 2023 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, which went on sale May 18. Her cover is one of four collector covers (the other covers feature Megan Fox, Kim Petras and Brooks Nader). It was another brilliant move for the bestselling author and on the editor’s part to change things up and get people talking about their annual issue.


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“It should have been 30 years ago, but at least it happened once in my lifetime,” she said. “That was kind of a request that I’ve never had before. To be on the cover at my age was a challenge. And I think I met the challenge.”

Finding the issue isn’t as easy as you would think, as the famed title has vacated much of its newsstand presence at local grocery store checkout aisles (a familiar situation with a lot of publishers thanks to escalating paper and newsstand costs). You can purchase the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue online for $15.99 plus shipping directly through SI.

Here we look back at some of SI‘s most memorable moments and milestones:

Who Was on the First Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue?

1st Swimsuit Cover Sports Illustrate, Babette

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January 1964 marked the very first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition with model Babette March on the cover. The magazine was introduced by the then-editor, Andre Laguerre, who had no significant sporting stories to cover during the winter months, so he came up with replacing sports with skin. For years the magazine always came out in February.

Greatest Swimsuit Cover of All Time?

Kathy Ireland SI Cover- Heritage Auction

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The 25th anniversary issue, released Feb. 7, 1989, with Kathy Ireland on the cover, was declared during SI’s 50th anniversary event “The Greatest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover of all time.” It is also the top-selling Swimsuit edition. Ireland has a long history with the publisher, appearing in 13 consecutive Swimsuit issues and on three covers (1989, 1992 and 1994). On the last cover, she was pregnant with her son. “Seeing those photos was kind of [an] out-of-body [experience]. It was an incredible learning opportunity,” she told FOX News. “Watching the power of that Sports Illustrated brand and enterprise and seeing how it was built … I think that was one of the most powerful things.”

Model With Most SI Covers?

Elle Mcphearson Sports Illustrated covers - HeritageAuction


Australian Elle Macpherson, 59, holds the current record for the most Sports Illustrated Swimsuit covers, gracing the esteemed issue on Feb. 10, 1986; Feb. 9, 1987; Feb. 15, 1988; Feb. 14, 1994 (also with Kathy Ireland and Rachel Hunter); and Feb. 17, 2006 (which also featured Veronica Vařeková, Rebecca Romijn, Rachel Hunter, Daniela Peštová, Elsa Benítez, Carolyn Murphy and Yamila Diaz-Rahi).

Christie Brinkley’s Daughter Holds a Record, Too?

Christie Brinkley Sports Illustrated Cover - Heritage

Christie Brinkley appeared on the SI cover three times, in 1979, 1980 and 1981. Martha Stewart actually bumped Brinkley’s honor of being the oldest to model for the issue (in 2017 she appeared in interior pages at age 63). Her daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, however, still holds the youngest model honors from when she appeared bottomless (unplanned) when she was a toddler, as she accompanied her mama on the photoshoot for the 1989 issue. Alexa grabbed Brinkley’s leg while she was posing and the photographer captured it. “Sports Illustrated also caught a lot of heat from ‘outraged’ readers who where cancelling subscriptions right and left for this ‘nudity’,” Brinkley posted on social media. “Somehow I survived, and so did we! And it’s one of my favorite photos of my career.”

What About Cheryl Tiegs’ Controversial Swimsuit?

Cheryl Tiegs Sports Illustrated cover - Heritage

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In 1978 Cheryl Tiegs sent tabloids and young boys everywhere drooling with her fishnet swimsuit (with nipples slightly showing) that made the issue. Tiegs’ photo is credited for the magazine’s future success, as it opened the floodgates of models vying to be featured and pretty much guaranteed a career booster.

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