Martha Stewart makes the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition at age 81

"This was a rather large challenge. I had to make sure I was ready to pose in a bathing suit. It took a bit of vanity but also a bit of confidence. I thought, “If I’m feeling good enough physically and mentally to do such a thing, I’m up for it.”
Martha Stewart, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Girl. “When the offer came, I thought, ‘I can do this. I don’t have to give in to convention.’”Credit...(Ruven Afanador/Sports Illustrated) Photos used with permission of the publisher.

Martha Stewart, the homestyle expert, former jailbird and more is also the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover model for 2023 at age 81, sporting a swimsuit with an abundant cleavage and an appropriate “come hither” look that comes easy for a sexy grandmother-aged former model.

I shot a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition photo more than 50 years ago in Hawaii, a one column shot of a model wearing just a bikini bottom with her breasts covered by her arms. That photo paid me more than six months of photojournalism work in the Middle East and other war zones.

Sports Illustrated has erased many taboos that used to define swimsuit and semi-nude photography, including a shot of supermodel Kathy Ireland pregnant and heavyset models in swimsuits and various stages of undress.

“When the offer came, I thought, ‘I can do this. I don’t have to give in to convention.’”Credit…(Ruven Afanador/Sports Illustrated)

Race-car driver Danica Patrick has also appeared in the SI swimsuit edition.

ESPN used to print a “body issue” of its magazine, which featured a lot more nudity (male and female) than the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, but the sports internet service discontinued iit in 2019.

The sports media giant said many of its users already consume its print journalism online. The “Body” issue and others might be released “in special, differentiated print formats” in the future, ESPN said. “Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, and this requires ESPN to evolve as well,” it said.

–ESPN in its last “Body Issue.”
Surfer Lakey Peterson in the 2019 Body Issue of ESPN.

Stewart is the oldest woman to over grace SI’s swimsuit edition but she looks good doing so, so why not? I remember the ludicrous uproar over members of the Floyd County Humane Society posing, for fun, showing a little, but not too much skin, for a fundraising calendar. That calendar upset a former Indian Valley Supervisor who demanded the county stop contributing to the human society. Fortunately, other members of the board did not agree.

At a meeting of the board, he asked me: “Have you seen that calendar?”

“Yes,” I said, adding, “I have one.”

“Are you disgusted by it?”

“Not at all,” I said. “My only complaint is that they didn’t show enough skin.” The calendar featured female members from young to middle aged and older.

As someone who made a living taking photos for a living, I have shot photos of young women in the nude, as long as they were at least 18 years old. While working for The Telegraph in Alton, IL in the 1970s, I shot portfolios for women for submission to Playboy magazine. The magazine paid a decent finders fee if they were featured in the pages, even more if they became a Playmate, which one did.

I’ve never asked a woman to pose nude but have had requests, even in Floyd County. Some nude photos of local adult women were displayed in shots at The Floyd Center for the Arts back when it was called The Jacksonville Center and I had a studio there. For any woman who has asked for photos, either for personal use or as something to give to a husband or boyfriend or for submission to a publication, my rules state that my former access and model wife must be present and she can help with makeup and any clothing she might want or not want to wear. The photos could not be graphic or pornographic. Amy’s presence is protection for the model and me. Some women asked for “intimate portfolios” for their husband or boyfriend. One husband attended one such shooting session.

I also had a chance to take Playmate of the Year Patti McGuire to dinner in St. Louis for an interview. She is a delightful woman who later married tennis star Jimmy Conners, who my wife knew in her hometown of Belleville, IL.

Sorry I never got a chance to meet and photograph Martha Stewart. I’ve always liked older women.

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