Fug the Cover: SI’s 2013 Swimsuit Edition

Last year, Kate Upton rose to fame by wearing red labia floss on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue. I thought I’d written about it on this site but I can’t find it. In a nutshell, she has creepy drunkface and looks so retouched that she’s like one of those movie posters where from afar you can’t tell if it’s a photograph or a drawing. I hated it. And not even for the nudity issue, although that was weird too, just practically speaking. I can’t think of many things that look as uncomfortable as that bikini bottom. So much hot wax was harmed in the making of that cover.

And now Upton — who looked LOVELY on Today yesterday morning — is on the SI cover again, the first time that’s happened since Tyra Banks did it in the ’90s. And it’s… still not great.

It’s definitely better, to me, but it’s also awkward. She’s gone from drunkface to dead eyes. Her face is saying to me, “HOLY CRAP IT’S COLD… ten more seconds… try not to die…” I am going to guess that they picked it because they went with this ALL SEVEN CONTINENTS theme, and really, of all seven continents, Antarctica is the only one about which you’d be even remotely curious about the art direction. It’s probably the only one that would make people intrigued enough to buy the issue, or pick it up, if they weren’t otherwise going to bother. We can all imagine what a lady looks like frolicking in a bikini in Australia, or Africa, or Europe, or North America. But Antarctica is all kinds of drama, so Kate Upton gets the cover, even if maybe Kate Upton’s photos were not that tremendous, because Kate Upton is who they brought. I read an article about this and basically the guy said they needed someone with curves that wouldn’t get lost under a parka, or — GASP — a one-piece. Which is actually really smart of him, because he’s probably right, and I LOVE that they put someone on the cover who is not Gisele-sized — she’s still beautiful without being exactly the same as every other model out there. But the picture itself is totally mediocre, and while I know that’s beside the point in the swimsuit issue (I am not dumb; I know I am not the subscriber they are targeting here) I do feel like the magazine is actually known, deservedly, for great photography, and some of their swimsuit pictures are fabulous. This one isn’t, particularly, to me. It’s checked-out and pained. Not that I blame her. In her place, I would be checked-out and ragey. And flabby. Which is why I’m not in her place.

Also: Brent Musberger is the best thing that’s ever happened to Katherine Webb. She should give him a ten percent cut.

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Comments (49):

  1. Billie

    I bet three quarters of the SI audience won’t even realize where this was shot, because if all I see is ‘BOOBS’, then will they really see anything else? Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, however I agree that they have done some really amazing swimsuit spreads, and I don’t feel this is creative at all.

    That being said, I really want that jacket.

  2. Karen

    Meh, I’m just eager to be able to check basketball scores without feeling like I”m at a porn site. And my husband agrees, he feels awkward checking the site at work these days! Come on, SI. Tone it down a bit. The boob-obsessed will be willing to click a link to get there.

  3. Stefanie

    I love Kate. She’s beautiful and curvy and all just all around seems cool. But the shell-shocked frozen look isnt good on anyone. That coat though…I like it. (And could use it right now. 19 degrees and blizzarding here. ack.)

    • Annie E

      I love her too. (So does Vogue, amazingly enough.) She seems sweet and I like that she has a non-Hollywood body type and people still think she’s hot.

  4. Sandy

    Take away the massive cleavage and it’s just another picture. I think she is cute and has a great bod, but these teeny tiny bottoms just make her look weird, like she is all abdomen and no lady parts. And to me, this doesn’t even look like it was shot on location, it looks like they photoshopped her onto a calendar picture. Kind of a shame that they shlepped her to Antarctica and apparently almost froze her to death for this. But then again, I too am not the target audience.

    • Emily

      She really is in Antarctica? I guess I just assumed it was Photoshop.

      • LT1

        Yeah, so much photoshopping that you don’t feel her actually being there. She looks slapped in front of a backdrop. Maybe the photos inside are more natural and say Antarctica more?

      • Claire

        Right!! It looks so much like photoshop that the poor girl shouldn’t have had to shoot in the cold! Agree, maybe on the inside it’s different, but on the cover… not great natural photography, so they could have stayed on-site?

  5. SugarMagnolia

    Does anyone else think her chest looks…odd…in this picture? I mean, she and her curves are usually lovely and I’m definitely not the target market for this cover, but the way they’re all scrunchy and inflated up there makes them seem like they’ve been photoshopped into one giant uni-boob.

    • Ladyblahblah

      I was wondering if this is actually a shot of her laying down and pushing her boobs together with her forearms that they Photoshopped to look like she was standing.

  6. Amy

    Um…can’t they Photoshop stuff like backgrounds and glaciers? They Photoshopped the heck out of her, so why not the scenery. And so really why even have a model at all? And yes, she looked really cute on the Today show.

  7. SugarMagnolia

    And the itty bitty bottoms are doing her abdomen no favors.

    • Cucina49

      It’s unfortunate, but that’s what I was thinking too. The poor girl is out there in a parka, no top and bikini bottoms that are giving the illusion of a slight muffin top where there almost certainly isn’t one.

  8. Monica

    Okay, but did you hear that she almost DIED while on this shoot? Gawker article about it: http://gawker.com/5983779/kate-upton-almost-died-in-antarctica-so-that-millions-of-people-could-masturbate-to-her. I mean, this is one situation where a green screen wouldn’t have been a cop-out move. Just a smart, non-death-defying one.

  9. Miranda

    I don’t remember her boobs being this big…and also I’m pretty sure she’s as smooth as Barbie down below. If I can figure that out, your bikini is too small!

    • Eli

      I know, right? I mean, the girl has always been well endowed but in this picture her boobs look enormous, especially in relation to her body.

  10. Sandra

    The swimsuit issue is the one thing I don’t like about SI. 52 issues a year they have insightful commentary, brilliant writing, and sublime photography. 1 issue a year, I get a soft-core skin mag in my mailbox. I get that it’s their biggest selling issue, they sell megabucks advertising, and I’m not their target demographic either. I just find it massively hypocritical that their editorial stance is usually firmly favor in athletic opportunities for women and viewing women in the light of their work and their accomplishment and then they turn around and objectify the hell of of these women. Yeah, yeah, they chose to accept the assignment, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it undercuts the efforts of other women to be taken seriously and on their own terms. I’m also tired of the lame justification that it was a woman who thought up the idea back in the ’50′s when there was nothing on the sporting calendar this time of year and they needed something to sell the magazine in February. That was 60 years ago. I had hoped we had progressed a little bit in that time Also, the models in those years wore actual swimsuits that a real person might wear to the beach or the pool. These women are essentially naked and the poses are not merely sexy, but sexual. And there’s plenty of stuff going happening in the sports universe upon which they could focus. It’s a lame idea whose time is long past for a publication that prides itself on exploring issues of justice and equity through the lens of sports.

    As for what she’s wearing, the fact that bikinis and parkas should not co-exist in the same outfit should be as axiomatic as “tights are not pants”.

    • Sarah

      Agree!! So many women are committed and passionate sports fans. SI is such a fabulous magazine most of the year. There are articles that have stuck with me years after I have read them and some of their images are iconic. The Swimsuit edition just feels cheap and I feel like it marginalizes real women sports fans like me. Maybe one year the magazine will make waves by featuring a super hunky male sports star on the cover (in recognition of the fact that it’s what much of their readership would prefer).

      • Sarah

        That said, Kate Upton is incredibly beautiful and has a great figure and this picture/suit does nothing for that.

      • Sandra

        They have done that, using athletes from the four major North American professional sports leagues. All the photos included the guy’s wife or girlfriend wearing a whole lot less than he had on. This is the photoshoot for which Debbie Clemens allegedly used steroids obtains through her husband Roger’s alleged suppliers.

        FWIW, Clemens was a big a juicer as Lance Armstrong ever was. Certainly in the Toronto and New York years, possibly in the Boston years. Which is why we all cheered so hard when Pedro schooled him in his first Fenway game wearing pinstripes.

        • Sarah

          I remember that – I still have the Vincent Lecavalier picture somewhere. I don’t think it was ever the cover though…

    • McLisa

      Well said! I hope you will proof this and send it on to SI! Be heard!

    • witjunkie

      Yup, they lost me when I couldn’t see any actual swimsuits anymore. When they are wearing a 3 inch scrap of lycra and a necklace, I don’t feel it qualifies as a “swimsuit” anymore.

      I used to love it. I used to buy it for my husband. I haven’t done that in…9 years? Maybe longer. A long time.

  11. TonyG

    I like sexy barely clothed photos of guys so I will not complain about the sexiness issue, though I do get all of the hullabaloo.

    Aesthetically, both her face and boobs look unnaturally lighted. If you are going to go to Antartcica, use what I presume to be their uniqueness of the light that nature provides.

  12. gryt

    As a photograph it’s incredibly weak. To drag a photography crew (and art director, makeup/hair people and whatnot) all the way to Antarctica – and THAT’s the shot? Please. Couldn’t they have used ANYTHING of the incredible environment? So stupid.

    Also, sleezy much? What is this, Maxxim? They really *could* keep it classier… A beautiful girl in a bikini is still going to be sexy for Christ’s sakes.

  13. Vandalfan

    I missed last year’s labia floss, which is good because I might have suffered apoplexy for days after. Yet this is worse. Topless, panty-clad, opening her parka in front of a railing near icebergs? For the cost of this snapshot, they could have rented a cheap back drop and given hundreds of kindergarteners dental checkups.

    This pose is also ridiculous, since most gals with any size can unzip their top and squash down the ladypillows with their forearms to get the butt-cleavage look, if that’s what the SI readership really wants (and it seems like many here do not want, for example, the female readership).

  14. hillary l.

    I would say “boob pancake” but I fear that would be an insult to pancakes.

    Also: I find the miniature Hannah Davis lounging on the mast head to be weirdly cracked out.

  15. Tiffany

    I think this cover does what it is supposed to. My bf was speechless when he saw it and just mumbled something about “OMG…those are some boobs”. I don’t think they were going for anything more than a jaw dropping photo of lady bits, as the cover has been since I was a kid.

    I think Kate has a really cute face (i love the dark brows on a natural blonde thing), and I think her body is great as well. Yes, she has a high waist which makes her hips/stomach look wider, but her belly is really flat. I think her curves of going out at the top, in under the boobs, out again at the hips gives her a very feminine shape.

    • Kate

      Honestly though, are those boobs shot to look that great? I think she is a beautiful woman, but that shot makes her boobs look kinda saggy… Large, yes, but the fact that she can smoosh them that flat makes them look way less attractive than they usually look (yes, I’ve done some comparison googling).

      As a female though, as much as a try, I have yet to completely decipher what guys find attractive. My husband often eye rolls me when I try to reason it out with him: “babe, you don’t understand, and you will never understand.” Soooo, take me with a grain of salt on this, haha.

  16. Chasmosaur

    *sigh* You know, the SI Swimsuit issue is a bit icky, I know.

    But if you drooled over the GFY “Olympian Abs” post, you aren’t in a strong position to get preachy. Just sayin’.

    • Vi

      The ‘Olympian Abs’ post was drool worthy, yes, and also NOT out of context. Those men were athletes in their environment, not a model at the South Pole in a pair of panties and a Parka!!!

    • Sandra

      I disagree. The difference is intentionality. The SI models are being paid to pose provocatively in clothes or body paint that nobody would wear. There is no other reason to take these shots than to present a bunch of mostly-naked women for the delectation of a largely male readership.

      In contrast, the Olympian abs shots were all of athletes in competition going about their business wearing what they usually wear to do so. These photos were purchased from standard news sources. Several of the photos focus on the men’s faces rather than their physiques at all. Ian Thorpe and the Aussie relay team are fully clothed.

      • Sandra

        Obviously, my comments were in response to Chamosaur’s post, not Vi’s. And high-five for making the same point in a lot fewer words!

      • Chasmosaur

        I see.

        It’s okay for women (and I’m one) to ogle and drool over young men’s abs – several of whom make very large sums of money from advertising contracts down the line – when they’re in the Olympic pool. Makes it noble, I guess – gives it a patina of respectability.

        It’s degrading for models, though, to consent to have their pictures taken while wearing few clothes so men can ogle and drool over them. That is horrid and objectifying, not at all respectable.

        Got it.

        • Michelle


          The swimsuit issue exists for one reason only: it guarantees men will renew their subscriptions.

          But the difference between how men and women are showcased is fascinating, isn’t it? I think Sports Illustrated should even out the arena by having a swim TRUNKS issue with hot dudes – just erase that patina of respectability altogether and see how it sells.

        • Vi

          Chasmosaur, I was only making a point about the comparison between the two groups of photos.
          The Olympic athlete pics were taken in (and around) a swimming pool. You would, therefore, expect to see the amount of skin that was shown.
          I would not expect to see the amount of skin that was shown in the SI photo because of where it was shot. The South Pole does not lend itself well to bikinis, parka or no parka.
          Objectification or respectability aside, the choice of location and wardrobe for the SI shoot was strange to me, that’s all.

        • Sandra

          I’m referring more to editorial intent and context of the two sets of photographs. The Olympians were competing and celebrating the results. They would have been there doing that with or without the photographers and all are shown engaged in moments of mastery of their pursuit. They are amazing physical specimens, but the pictures are not sexual in nature. Some of those men may be meathead but they are not meat in those photographs. There is a clear difference in action versus passivity vis a vis the SI photos.

          The SI “swimsuit” modelsare not athletes and are not engaged in sports activities. Their sole function is as objects of desire. The photographs aren’t even advertisements for what they are wearing because few of the readers or their families and friends would buy any of it and most of it isn’t functional anyway. Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin don’t train or compete in those garments.

          Some of the male readership might be pleased to see photos of their significant others published in the general media, but I’d bet real money that for many of them it would be more along the lines of “eat your hearts out guys, she’s MINE”; an object to be possessed rather than an independent agent.. I’d bet more money that they’d be flat-out appalled to see pictures of their daughters looking like this.

          Sports Illustrated examines and chronicles the interweaving of sports and society and typically does an excellent job of it. If they published pictures of athletes training or competing sans clothes but focused on their sport, it wouldn’t disturb me. If male or female athletes choose to pose for publications whose primary editorial voice is the objectification of the human form rather than the celebration of what it can accomplish, that’s their business. This issue of Sports Illustratedis offensive to me because it is in direct opposition to its usual stance.

  17. Helen


  18. Veronica Vela

    I think she is adorable. But I look at those pictures – the ones on the SI site and I think that if I put on a bathing suit top and it looked like that Id tell myself “well, that one doesn’t fit!” Some of them are totally ridiculous

    • Other Emily

      Hah — I lectured my husband about exactly this point when the edition came to our house. Most of the swimsuits just plain don’t fit. If a real woman wore a suit that fit like that to the beach, she’d look ridiculous. I’m not offended by the objectification of the models — they are getting paid and supposedly consider it quite an honor to be included, so whatever. I’m not offended by Playboy (super good articles!),so this doesn’t bother me, either.

  19. Bec

    Why is her head smaller than her boobs? That can’t be right.

  20. MKKS

    I know we’re discussing the picture but 5 seconds on Katherine Webb … I really feel like she’s going to be the next Bachelorette, and I think I would watch, especially if they did a “sports personalities!” theme, with a MUSBERGER twist. I want royalties for this idea.

  21. Pam

    I’ve been reading SI for decades and and yeah, this is probably the worst swimsuit issue ever. The photos are just not that good. The suits are nothing special. I think they spread themselves too thin by traveling to all seven continents with just a couple models on each trip. When they got home, they just didn’t have enough to choose from.