Sports Illustrated has stirred up the conversation, bringing diversity to its annual Swim issue for another year running. The four covers of 2023 spotlight entrepreneur Martha Stewart, 81; model and SI-devotee Brooks Nader, 27; actress Megan Fox, 36; and pop star Kim Petras, 30. Stewart, in particular, made headlines, sporting a series of plunging one-pieces from the likes of Monday Swimwear, Norma Kamali, Body Glove, Isa Boulder, and Zimmermann, all of which she teamed with statement jewellery that screamed high octane glamour in contrast to plenty of sportier elements mixed in seamlessly.
"Martha has a fabulous décolletage, and as a former print model, she knows how to wear clothes — not the other way around."
That sartorial dichotomy was pulled off by stylist and costume designer Paolo Nieddu, who works with Stewart regularly to construct looks for her appearances and talked to POPSUGAR about the SI experience on set. "When I work with Martha, it's never with swim, so the SI fashion team, led by Margo Zamet, had a lot of amazing pieces that they introduced me to. I loved the ruched suit by Isa Boulder," he said, confirming that it was also Stewart's first time trying swim labels Zimmermann and Saint Laurent. "Martha has a fabulous décolletage, and as a former print model, she knows how to wear clothes — not the other way around."
Where you may expect an elegantly-secured sarong, Nieddu employed a bright orange balloon-like cocoon jacket from Torso Creations that nearly parallels the look of a puffer. Rather than typical cat-eye shades, Stewart slipped on oversize bug-eye sunglasses by Gucci to accessorise her zipper-front neoprene maillot. And instead of an elaborately-coiffed blonde bob, DJ Quintero gave Stewart bedhead hair with "shattered" layers. Together with makeup artist Nicole Daisy Toye, who provided a natural glow, Stewart's team constructed looks that were nothing short of groundbreaking.
Lensed by photographer Ruven Afanador in the Dominican Republic, Stewart completely made the aesthetic her own, reflecting SI Swimsuit editor-in-chief MJ Day's intention in adding her to this year's roster. "Martha Stewart is a legend. The definition of a great female entrepreneur who built a dynasty against insurmountable odds," Day stated in a 15 May press release. "These women, alongside our other models, refuse to allow themselves to be limited by existing societal norms and are incredible examples on how to harness talent, passion, persistence, perseverance, fortitude, curiosity and unabashed desire to evolve," she said.
Stewart joins fellow cover models Fox in a gold string Skims bikini and barely-there Celia Kritharioti beaded dress; Nader in a bright-red high-leg Matthew Bruch one-piece; and Petras in a delicate Natalia Fedner bikini top woven with tonal beads that appear to be dripping off her body. Of course, each woman has her own gallery of additional shots — as will many of the other models in the magazine, such as Leyna Bloom, Jasmine Sanders, Padma Lakshmi, and Louisiana State University's basketball champion Angel Reese, who makes her official SI debut. All of the talent champion body confidence and challenge traditional norms of beauty in their own way — a continual goal that Day and her editorial staff remain dedicated to.
Ahead, see the four newly-released covers, which will be on newsstands from 18 May, along with behind-the-scenes shots Nieddu shared with POPSUGAR — plus some intel about how the cover was chosen. Then, read the stories behind the shoots and get to know the full lineup of models at swimsuit.si.com.