Why We’re Still Talking About That Martha Stewart Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover

Martha Stewart Cover Star of the Year: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

by Eddie Roche

Global icon Martha Stewart made Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue history earlier this year when, at 81 years old, she was revealed as the oldest cover model in the publication’s existence. The image made international news and inspired generations of women. Stewart and MJ Day, EIC,  Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, tell THE DAILY how it all came together. 

Swimsuit 2023: Dominican Republic
Martha Stewart
Casa de Campo
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Credit: Ruven Afanador

Martha, what was your reaction when you got the invite to appear in the SI Swimsuit issue?
I was a little surprised, and also a little flattered. It’s a request I’ve never had before! 

What made you want to do it?
I’m always up for a challenge. This was a rather large challenge! But my motto is, “When you’re through changing, you’re through,” so I decided to go for it.

Did anything about posing in a swimsuit make you nervous?
I was a model at the beginning of my career, and I’ve done so many shoots for my magazine and others over the years, so I felt prepared in that regard. I had about two months to get ready for the shoot. I did  Pilates three to four times a week, did not have any alcohol, got regular facials, and ate very well. I also got a spray tan, which I don’t usually do, but it’s helpful for this kind of thing. 

What did you think of the end result?
I was very pleased with the photos. Ruvén Afanador is such a talented photographer, and the team at Sports Illustrated Swimsuit are so good at what they do. 

The shoot was inspiring to all generations. What has the reaction been like?
The response has been just phenomenal. It’s been so nice to hear the positive responses from so many. The comments from women my age and older who felt it liberated them was most impressive to me. 

MJ Day, EIC, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 

What made you want to put Martha Stewart on the cover?
I have always admired Martha, and have been an avid fan of hers for many years. Her sense of style and eye for beauty were something that always resonated with me from a young age. But the longer I knew the Martha Stewart brand, the more I was fascinated and in awe of Martha Stewart, the woman. Her tenacity, passion, talent, intelligence, confidence, and drive underscore so many of the things that I look at and want for myself, not to mention want for other women. It’s Martha, the full package, that I wanted people to see and celebrate. She’s a woman who has continued to evolve, succeed, and dominate at each and every chapter of her life and career and has never once shied away from a challenge. I wanted people to see a confident woman thriving, and I knew Martha Stewart as a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model would resonate with women of every age and stage of their lives. 

Was it easy to convince her to do it? 

It was easier to convince her to do it than it was to work up the courage to ask her. We’re talking about someone who is a serious idol of mine. She runs a legitimate empire. That’s not lost on me—quite frankly, it should not be lost
on anyone. The beauty of Martha, and I would venture to say the secret to  her success, is her confidence. Her confidence in herself, her team that supports her, her decisions, and the brands and people she aligns with. Martha even entertaining the idea of shooting with me will go down as one of the proudest moments in my career. We also share a mutual friend, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, whose vote of confidence in me and my intentions, went a long way. 

What was the conversation like about the actual shoot? 

I was stressed! We had a Zoom and Martha appeared, looking casual chic in a stunning room in her home, and she matter of factly gets to the point. She asks, “What does this shoot look like? Who is shooting it?” And my favorite part of the convo, very confidently and with a giggle she says, “I want to look hot and make Chelsea Handler jealous.” We talked a bit about her days as a model and what the jobs and rates were like then. She was a pleasure from the start, and I was thrilled to see how excited and into the opportunity she was. 

The images really celebrate living your best life at any age. Why is that an important message for SI to put out there?
There are so many ways society passes judgment on women, one of them being ageism, which is something that will at some point impact every single one of us. The thought of an expiration date on someone based on age is just as oppressive and offensive as the repression women have experienced based on their size or race or any visual difference that operates outside of society’s prescribed “norms.” The world is too quick  to pass judgment on women, and by sharing these images with the world, we’re denying people that narrative. All it takes is someone like Martha on the cover of something like Sports Illustrated Swimsuit to ignite a spark in the minds of  people to not let anyone or anything limit what they can do and be. 

Were you surprised at the major reaction to Martha’s cover?
Yes and no. The numbers are astounding. More people were talking about Martha Stewart globally the day the cover was released than any other news topic around the world. That’s pretty incredible. In the media, you dream of moments like this, but 99.9 percent of the time that’s all you’re doing is dreaming. I know the world was seeing Martha in a way they never expected. She is an icon, a legend, and someone most people would never expect to be on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover, but that’s why I love it. Because they didn’t expect it, but Martha did. Why shouldn’t she be? To me that says everything. She shattered all sorts of expectations and stereotypical thinking by doing this. She blew minds, made people think, made them talk, made them look at life differently. That is life well lived and a message well received. 

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