Swimsuit Competition

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Even though it’s the shortest month of the year, February sure is packed with pleasure.  We’ve barely passed the half-way mark and we’ve already enjoyed the Super Bowl, the Grammy Awards, Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Now we’re heading into President’s Day Weekend and we still have the Oscars to look forward to next Sunday.  February just gives, gives and then gives some more.

And as if those major events and holidays aren’t enough to warm our souls during this wee winter month, the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue came out on Tuesday.  I know it’s steeped in controversy (what do scantily clad women have to do with a sports magazine?) and it sets the feminist movement back by decades (where have you gone, Gloria Steinem?), but I’ve always been fascinated by the SI Swimsuit Issue’s role in popular culture.  So sue me.

Curiously, the first Swimsuit Issue was published the year I was born, so it’s easy for me to remember what anniversary they’re celebrating.

Many years ago, during my first year as a media buyer/planner at Leo Burnett, I received a “save-the-date” card for the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue luncheon.  I’m not sure if they still do it, but back then the magazine would invite advertisers to partake in a fancy meal and meet the swimsuit models. As you might imagine, this was a highly coveted invitation.  (The other great invites at the time were for Parade magazine’s Halloween Party, the “Surfin’ U.S. News” bash, and  the Sunset magazine luncheon where they served crab legs, sourdough bread and Napa Valley wines.)  But when all my colleagues got their actual invitations to the Swimsuit Issue luncheon that year, my in-box remained empty.  I was devastated.  Thankfully, my SI sales rep took pity on me and ultimately got me on the list.

elle mcpher

The cover model that year (for the third consecutive time) was Elle MacPherson.  I’d never seen anyone more beautiful in my life.  In heels she was my height (I’m 6’2″) and she couldn’t have been more gracious as she stood for hours posing for photos with overly enthusiastic media supervisors from Dewar’s Scotch and lecherous brand managers from Turtle Wax.  I still have the photo I had taken with her.  I intended to send it out as my Christmas card one year with the pun caption, “Know Elle” but I never made that happen.
The following year was the 25th anniversary of the Swimsuit Issue franchise and Kathy Ireland graced the cover.  I was once again invited to the luncheon and Kathy signed my copy of the magazine and wrote, “you melt my heart” and drew a little heart on the yellow bikini top she wore in the photograph.  I thought I was extra special until I learned that she wrote that same message on everyone’s magazine that year.  That said, I still have the issue.

For the past several years, David Letterman has revealed the cover of the Swimsuit Issue on his show the night before it went on sale.  My Peoples Choice
That night, Dave revealed that Kate Upton adorns the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for the second year in a row (although that news broke online before Letterman announced it.)  Inside the magazine, Kate poses on the continental ice sheets of Antarctica, in one case wearing nothing but a pair of Bogner snow boots and a strategically placed crocheted scarf. Awards office window overlooks the stage door of the Ed Sullivan Theater where Dave tapes The Late Show.  Paparazzi gather outside the door each day to photograph the comings and goings of Letterman’s guests, so  I’ve been trained to crane my neck and check out who the hubbub is all about when I hear the screams and shouts from the street.  This past Monday I watched a bevy of supermodels in tight dresses make their way through flashing lights and into the black door.

Congratulations, Kate.  You melt my heart.

Today’s Poll:  What’s your favorite thing about February?

Grammy Awards


Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

Super Bowl

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