How to Become a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model

Danielle Herrington attends the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Launch Celebration

Gilbert Carasquillo / Getty Images

Every year, 25 lucky ladies land in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. It’s one of the most—if not the most—anticipated magazine issues in the world and has launched the careers of dozens of supermodels.

So what does it take to become a Sports Illustrated model? Here are a few key things you should know.

What Kind of Models Are Sports Illustrated Models?

Sports Illustrated models are classified as swimsuit models. And even though the magazine occasionally forgets to include the swimsuit part, bare body parts are always strategically covered. The photos are always classy, and the models are encouraged to be themselves, have fun, and pose naturally. They always look sexy without being overtly sexual. As Swimsuit Editor Diane Smith has said, it’s all about the “perfect combination of beauty, athleticism, and personality.” 

Does Sports Illustrated Hold Casting Calls?

Yes, but not in the traditional sense. Every year, Sports Illustrated invites swimsuit hopefuls to Swimsuit HQ for their annual casting call—the key word here being “invite.”

Aspiring Sports Illustrated hopefuls can’t just fill out an online application and hope for the best. Most are invited from major modeling agencies around the world. So if you have your eyes set on the Sports Illustrated prize, your best bet is to work hard at your modeling career and get scouted by a top model agency in a major market like New York, which is where Sports Illustrated is headquartered. Make sure your agency is on board with your swimsuit plans and that they’re doing everything possible to promote you and help you achieve your dreams!


Do I Need to Sign With a Special Swimsuit Modeling Agency?

No, you don’t. In smaller markets, you might find modeling agencies that specialize in swimsuit models. But the major agencies in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and Milan who represent Sports Illustrated models don’t have swimsuit divisions. Instead, their swimsuit models are represented within the agency’s high-fashion, editorial and/or commercial divisions.

Do I Need to Be an Experienced Model?

No, but it sure helps. Most models work as high-fashion, editorial or fitness models for a while before booking a job with Sports Illustrated. Your best chance of getting noticed by Sports Illustrated is to be signed to a major modeling agency in a big market.

Do I Need to Be Athletic?

The Swimsuit Edition always features a few pro athletes, but the vast majority of the models aren’t Olympic stars or famous tennis players. They’re just beautiful women with very healthy, and sometimes curvy, figures. While it's not necessary to be super athletic you must be fit and a bit curvier than the typical super slim, waif-types who normally do runway modeling. 

Are Plus-size Models Accepted?

Yes, however, it is rare. The first plus-size model to officially land a spot in the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition was Robyn Lawley in 2015. At 6’2’’ and a US size 11, she was also the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Australian Vogue magazine and the first plus-size face of Ralph Lauren.

American model Ashley Graham, who is a size 16, also garnered a lot of buzz when she appeared in the magazine in 2015. But, she was a model in a paid advertisement, not featured in the issue itself. However, it just goes to show that Sports Illustrated is becoming more and more open to bodies of all shapes and sizes!

What if I Don’t Make It?

First, remember that only 25 models make it into the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition each year, and only a few of those are rookies. It’s incredibly competitive, and it takes a very special model to land one of the spots.

Luckily, there are plenty of other lucrative opportunities for swimsuit models, such as lingerie modeling, glamor modeling, petite modeling, showroom and fit modeling, and even parts modeling (hands, feet, etc.).