The 50th Anniversary Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has finally been released, drumming up a little more press and controversy than usual. In addition to the standard lineup of gorgeous swimsuit-clad women in exotic locations (as if that weren’t enough), to commemorate the 50-year milestone, SI included a slew of extra features, extra beautiful women than—and for those of us with the digital edition, behind-the-scenes videos—adding up to a beefy 260-page issue, the largest since its 25th anniversary in 1989. What’s more: an appearance from the epitome of impossibly perfect physiques, Barbie, whose involvement with issue swelled the annual debate about female body image and unrealistic media standards.
But first, the babes. (Sorry, this is just a teaser. Open up the app for the full-frontal experience.)
Featured on the ad wrap for the printed magazine, and pictured alongside her 1959 self, Barbie flaunts the classic black-and-white striped bathing suit that started it all. While it may seem natural for the two to come together—they both, for better or worse, changed the standards of swimsuits and beauty—Barbie’s participation in something often criticized for objectifying women, and is counterintuitive to her position as a role model for young girls.
But Sports Illustrated’s Creative Director Christopher Hercik and photography legend Walter Iooss, who snapped Barbie’s photos, certainly aren’t complaining. “She’s, in some ways, the perfect model,” Hercik said. “She doesn’t blink, she doesn’t move, she takes direction.”
In conjunction with the release of the issue, Mattel launched an “#Unapologetic” campaign, hoping to boost Barbie’s image and drive sales, which have been falling the last several quarters. Barbie herself spoke up, saying she is proud to pose with these women, models who are often dismissed as “playthings” by virtue of their job descriptions, but who “have broken barriers, established empires, built brands, branched out into careers as varied as authors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.”
Beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive virtues, Barbie goes on to say “Ask yourself, isn’t it time we teach girls to celebrate who they are? Isn’t there room for capable and captivating? It’s time to stop boxing in potential. Be free to launch a career in a swimsuit, lead a company while gorgeous, or wear pink to an interview at MIT. The reality of today is that girls can go anywhere and be anything. They should celebrate who they are and never have to apologize for it.”
And now, a few words from Twitter.
See Barbie, the rest of the beauties, all the photos, videos, bathing suits, ads and more in the app. More coverage on the SI Swimsuit website.