The woman on that cover in the yellow bikini? That’s BanX. The lady that is Smizing her eyes out on the inside pages? Yep, that’s BanX, too. She’s not a girl, she’s a women, damnit. And I’m a lot thicker than I was on the covers years ago.
I’m honored and humbled to reprise the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover – a moment, an accomplishment, that was so pivotal and meaningful in my career as a model and as a black woman in the fashion industry. With this 2019 cover comes my super launch out of retirement, returning to modeling after 13 years.
MY PAST SI SWIMSUIT COVERS CHANGED MY LIFE AND I WAS HUNGRY TO PAY IT FORWARD.
I scoured the internet looking for up and coming black female photographers to shoot my return. I wanted a life to change just how mine did so many years ago.
I came upon three strong contenders and presented them to MJ, Editor of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Out of the short list I presented, Laretta Houston, whose Instagram page was next level fierce was MJ's choice, and my secret fave, too!
When we were shooting in the Bahamas, we didn’t tell Laretta that I found her. Shooting SI Swim was already a big deal and we didn’t want to add extra stress to her already heavy plate. I can remember halfway through shooting our first day, Laretta suddenly stepped away from her camera to shed happy tears. I think the realization of how her life was about to change had overtaken her. She doesn’t know this, but as I stood there patiently waiting for her to collect herself, I was unsuccessfully fighting back my own tears and had to dab my face as the liquid emotion escaped my eyes.
Yep, the happy tears are pouring from my eyes again. I was the first black women to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Laretta is now many firsts.
THE FIRST FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHER TO SHOOT THE COVER OF SI SWIM.
THE FIRST BLACK PHOTOGRAPHER TO SHOOT SI SWIM.
The first black female photographer to shoot SI Swim.
AND…THE FIRST MOM TO DO SO AS WELL.
Yep, the happy tears are pouring from my eyes again.
Somebody get me a tissue.