Martha Stewart on Sports Illustrated: What you should know about this year's swimsuit edition
PHOENIX - It's a magazine cover that has sparked lots of conversations.
On May 15, Sports Illustrated announced that Martha Stewart has been chosen as one of their 2023 swimsuit issue models.
At 81, the businesswoman and media personality is the oldest model to pose for the cover of the swimsuit edition. The previous record holder was Elon Musk's mother, Maye Musk, who posed for the special issue in 2022 at 74.
Read More: Martha Stewart, 81, makes history as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model
On her social media, Stewart said she hopes the cover will inspire people to challenge themselves to try new things.
Here's what you should know about the conversation-sparking swimsuit edition for 2023.
Who is Martha Stewart?
Martha Stewart attends the reopening of The Landmark at Tiffany & Co 5th Avenue on April 27, 2023 in New York City.
Martha Stewart founded Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in the 1990s, and became synonymous with cooking, entertaining and homemaking. She released cookbooks, cookware, magazines, towels and other items.
Stewart has hosted numerous TV shows, and in recent years, she has had a number of ventures with rapper Snoop Dogg.
In 2004, Stewart was convicted of lying to the government about a stock sale, and subsequently served five months in prison.
How many models are there on this year's swimsuit edition?
According to Sports Illustrated, Stewart is one of four cover models for this year's swimsuit issue.
Stewart, along with actress Megan Fox, German pop singer Kim Petras, and model Brooks Nader, are among the 28 women who will be featured in the magazine, according to Sports Illustrated's website.
What's the average age for this year's cover models?
The average age of the four cover models is about 43, but that is because Stewart is of a much older age than the other three cover models.
Casting aside Stewart, the average age of the other three models is about 30.
The youngest cover model this year, according to Sports Illustrated, is Nader, at 26.
What is the theme for this year's swimsuit edition?
According to Sports Illustrated, there is no theme for this year's swimsuit edition.
"There is a vision, a sentiment, a hope that women can live in a world where they feel no limitations, internally or externally," said SI Swimsuit Editor-in-Chief MJ Day, in the article.
Day said, in the article, that the four cover models share one commonality: constant evolution.
"Never in her life has she let her circumstances dictate her outcome," said Day of Stewart, in the article. "She’s changed with the times—always one step ahead, it seems—to build a wide-reaching business empire."
What are people saying about Stewart's appearance on the swimsuit edition cover?
On May 16, a day after the swimsuit edition for 2023 was announced, we went out to a retirement community in Sun City, located in the northwestern portion of the Phoenix area, for reaction from senior citizens.
Some were less than enthusiastic about Stewart's appearance on the swimsuit edition.
"Martha Stewart, I always think of, you know, classy lady," said one man on a golf course. "I don't think that belongs in Sports Illustrated. It's not Martha Stewart to me."
One woman said Stewart's photo was too revealing.
"She's a lovely-looking lady at 81, but it should've been a little higher on her chest, not showing the boobs" said the woman, referring to the cleavage shown on the photo used for Stewart's cover.
Another woman, however, disagreed that Stewart's cover photo was too revealing.
"I think if you really work hard to keep your body like that -- it's not an easy thing -- with diet and exercise. If you have cleavage, it looks nice!" said the woman.
One woman, meanwhile, appeared to question whether the photo used for Stewart's cover was enhanced.
"Makes us feel bad about that way we look today, at our age, because they can doctor her all up, and make her look like she's 21, maybe?" said a woman.
Some cheered Stewart's staying power, despite the challenge she faced in the past, as mentioned above.
"Went to prison, and showed the world that she could still continue," said Judy Cicotte.
"It's up to her," said one man. "If you're 21, 81, why not? Why not? I'm not bothered by it at all."
In a joking manner, one woman wondered how long Stewart can still post for swimsuit photos.
"I'm 84, so she's got a few more years, and then she won't be doing that anymore," said the woman.
When did the swimsuit edition start?
According to a 2005 article by Slate, the very first swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated can be traced back to 1964. At the time, however, the swimsuit models would share space with the athletes. A special issue for swimsuit models did not come until 1997.
That special edition, according to Slate, had five pages.
Has Sports Illustrated make other swimsuit model selections that grabbed attention?
Leyna Bloom, in a photo taken in 2023. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
For the 2023 edition, one of the cover models - Petras - is a transgender woman.
Petras' appearance on the swimsuit edition comes as models in the transgender community are being featured more often on the magazine.
According to United Kingdom newspaper The Guardian, Petras' appearance on the Swimsuit Edition cover comes after model Leyna Bloom, who appeared as a cover model in 2021's swimsuit edition. Bloom is noted by The Guardian to be the first transgender person of color to ever appear on Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition.
In 2020, USA Today reported that Valentina Sampaio of Brazil is the first openly transgender model to be featured on Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition. Sampaio, however, was not a cover model for 2020's swimsuit edition.
Megan Thee Stallion, in a photo taken in April 2023. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for CMT)
2021's swimsuit edition, according to the New York Post, also featured what was described as the most diverse group of women to date, including rapper Megan Thee Stallion and a number of other women described as "plus-size models."
Are there criticisms surrounding the swimsuit edition?
Yumi Nu, in a photo taken in 2022. Nu's appearance in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition prompted criticism from a controversial Canadian psychologist. The controversial psychologist later became the target of criticism himself. (Photo by Alexande
There are a number of criticisms surrounding the swimsuit edition itself, as well as the swimsuit edition of specific years.
In 2015, website Business Insider noted a degree of controversy surrounded one of the covers for that year's swimsuit edition. That specific cover featured model Hanna Davis sporting a low-slung bikini. While no private parts were shown on the cover, some believe it was too risqué.
The 2022 edition, which, as mentioned above, featured women described as "plus-size models," drew criticism. According to the United Kingdom online newspaper The Independent, a controversial Canadian psychologist criticized the decision to feature one plus-sized model - Yumi Nu - on the cover. In a tweet, the psychologist called the model "not beautiful," and that "no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that."
The controversial psychologist subsequently became the target of criticism himself, according to the article.
One source of criticism of the swimsuit edition itself comes, perhaps ironically, from one of the cover models.
According to a Sports Illustrated article in 1989, Ann Simonton, who was a swimsuit issue cover model in 1974, called on Sports Illustrated to discontinue the swimsuit issue, and replace it with a magazine devoted solely to women athletes.
"The swimsuit issue encourages violence and hatred toward women," Simonton said, in the article. "It dehumanizes women, turns them into objects."
Criticisms surrounding the swimsuit edition have been raised in years since. In 2019, an editorial article published by conservative news outlet Washington Examiner called the swimsuit edition "outmoded and gross."
"These silly claims of empowerment through the swimsuit issue cannot change the fact that pages of sexualized women marketed toward men are inherently sexist, insulting, and gross," read a portion of the editorial piece.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.