Tips For Becoming a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model

Danielle Herrington attends the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Launch Celebration

Gilbert Carasquillo / Getty Images

Every year, 25 lucky ladies land in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. It’s one of the most—if not the most—anticipated magazine issues in the world and has launched the careers of dozens of supermodels.

So what does it take to become a Sports Illustrated model? Here are a few pivotal principles you should know.

What Kind of Models Are Sports Illustrated Models?

Sports Illustrated models are classified as swimsuit models. And even though the magazine occasionally forgets to include the swimsuit part, bare body parts are always strategically covered.

The photos are always classy, and the models are encouraged to be themselves, have fun, and pose naturally. They always look sexy without being overtly sexual. As Swimsuit Editor Diane Smith has said, it’s all about the “perfect combination of beauty, athleticism, and personality.” 

Does Sports Illustrated Hold Casting Calls?

Not in the traditional sense. Every year, Sports Illustrated invites swimsuit hopefuls to Swimsuit HQ for their annual casting call—the key concept here is that it is by invitation.

Aspiring Sports Illustrated hopefuls can’t just fill out an online application and hope for the best. Most are invited from major modeling agencies around the world. So if you have your eyes set on the Sports Illustrated prize, your best bet is to work hard in your modeling career.

You'll need to be scouted by a top model agency in a major market like New York, which is where Sports Illustrated is headquartered. Make sure your agency is on board with your swimsuit plans and that they’re doing everything possible to promote you.

Do I Need to Sign With a Special Swimsuit Modeling Agency?

In smaller markets, you might find modeling agencies that specialize in swimsuit models. But the major agencies in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and Milan who represent Sports Illustrated models don’t have swimsuit divisions. Instead, their swimsuit models are represented within the agency’s high-fashion, editorial or commercial divisions.

Do I Need to Be an Experienced Model?

It does help to have experience. Most models work as high-fashion, editorial or fitness models for a while before booking a job with Sports Illustrated.

Do I Need to Be Athletic?

The Swimsuit Edition always features a few pro athletes, but the vast majority of the models aren’t Olympic stars or famous tennis players. They’re just beautiful women with very healthy, and sometimes curvy, figures. While it's not necessary to be super athletic you must be fit and a bit curvier than the typical super slim, waif-types who normally do runway modeling. 

Are Plus-size Models Accepted?

The first plus-size model to officially land a spot in the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition was Robyn Lawley in 2015. At 6’2’’ and a US size 11, she was also the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Australian Vogue magazine and the first plus-size face of Ralph Lauren.

American model Ashley Graham, at a size 16, garnered a lot of buzz when she appeared in the magazine in 2015. She was featured in the 2018 issue. This demonstrates that Sports Illustrated is becoming more open to women of all shapes and sizes.

What if I Don’t Make It?

First, remember that only 25 models make it into the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition each year, and only a few of those are rookies. It’s incredibly competitive, and it takes a very special model to land one of the spots.

Luckily, there are plenty of other opportunities for swimsuit models, such as lingerie modeling, glamor modeling, petite modeling, showroom and fit modeling. You could even land a gig modeling body parts (hands, feet, etc.).