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Magazine
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Issue
SWIMSUIT
Photographer
LARETTA HOUSTON
Date
FEBRUARY 21-22, 2019
SHE'S BACK!
At some time, all athletes must retire. For football players, it generally comes pretty soon. For golfers, it can come well into their senior years. For models, it comes quicker than most models want. WAY quicker. I’ve seen it come at 27 years old, for some as early as 19, and for many, it’s over damn near as soon as they started. One NYFW season and the industry is packing your bags and saying “Bye-bye, it’s been real”.
I did NOT want that to happen to me. So I did something about it.
At 32 years old, I said goodbye to the modeling industry before it could say goodbye to me.
TYRA QUOTE DECEMBER 2005
I’m not just retiring from the runway, I’m retiring from all modeling. God, I love saying that! When I was 18, my mom said I have to have a plan. I decided I’d leave on top. I want to be like the athletes who seem stuck in time. When you see them at 50, you say they probably can still run like a champ.
SO, WHY THE HECK AM I BACK NOW?
Beauty knows no age, I needed to practice what I preach, right?
Those years in modeling retirement,  I wasn’t chillin’ on some beach sipping virgin Piña Coladas. Hell no. I was working my butt off. Working to break beauty barriers to show that fierceness comes in all sizes, colors, shapes and ages. I am all about redefining what a model is and bringing modeling to the masses. Soon, my ultimate dream, the experiential attraction that I have been working on for 10 years ModelLand, will be open to all. A place where all beauty is celebrated – a fantastical place where you can discover your own beauty or be discovered. A place where you will find your fierce and be the fantasy version of yourself.
SO IF I BELIEVE BEAUTY KNOWS NO AGE, I NEEDED TO PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH, RIGHT?
So, I dusted off my stilettos and got back on that modeling field. And I chose to come out with a winning three pointer at the buzzer. A hole in one. A one play touchdown by returning to my Sports Illustrated Swimsuit roots. The groundbreaking cover that made me a household name overnight.
Today, I feel renewed, revived and refreshed. I have experienced so much these past years. Big wins, debilitating losses, so much pleasure and yes, some deep pain. How do I encompass all of this as I come back to the modeling world?
Well, with an alter ego.
Her name is:
And I'm a lot thicker than I was on the covers years ago
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.
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Tyra Banks