I recently came across this great article covering the history of the SI swimsuit models, that is worth checking out!

It is a widely known fact that a model lucky enough to be honored with the Cover of an issue would be launched into super model status. This phenomenon also carried over to the designers “Swimwear Companies” of many of the suits worn in the photo shoots as well. Going from unknown obscurity to the must have swimsuit of the season. This is also true with the accessories worn by the models like jewelry, hats, sunglasses and so on….. all pretty amazing.

The hottest Sports Illustrated models reads like a who’s who of the top models of the past 40 or so years. In some cases an SI shoot or cover launched a somewhat unknown onto a bigger career while in others SI has grabbed a name brand and gone for broke. While everyone has a different opinion as to what or who is hot – or the hottest in this case, there will be no order in the ranking. Instead, the hottest models will be based on reader survey polls, amount of times appearing in the SI Swimsuit Edition/Number of covers, and a little biased opinion – nobody said this would be totally impartial.

As Casey Kasem would say, “On with the countdown.”

Cheryl Tiegs isn’t a name a new generation of SI Swimsuit fans are likely to be too familiar with, but in her day she was the BOMB. Yes, the bomb in all caps to stress how over the top she was. In the 1970’s the only model that was arguably as well known as Tiegs was Farrah Fawcett. Something Tiegs had that Farrah didn’t however was three SI Swimsuit covers: 1975, 1979, and 1983. That is staying power.

Raica Olivera is the Brazilian body you know all too well even if you don’t know her name. Raica was a known commodity before she appeared in the SI Swimsuit Edition for several years. She had already modeled swimsuits for Victoria’s Secret as well as appeared in Vanity Fair and Vogue. Actually she had worked for almost everyone by the time she hit SI including Dolce & Gabanna, Lancome, YSL, and La Perla.

Heidi “Frankie” Rayder has appeared in the SI Swimsuit Edition twice so far and may find herself there again. She cut her teeth modeling on the runway in 1997 modeling Chanel which jumped her runway price to over $25,000 an appearance in only one year. By 1999 she was the face of Givenchy, working on a D&G campaign, and working as many as 5 shows per day during peak seasons. In 2003 Chanel brought her back as their face of the corporation. Her signature SI spread was the 40th anniversary edition.

Noemie Lenoir
is as famous for her SI Swimsuit Edition spread as her penchant for stormy relationships. Fashionistas know Lenoir from her cover girl ads which she began shooting at only 16, while most people recall her from Rush Hour 3 or Usher’s video for Hey Daddy. She is much bigger in Europe than the U.S., but that doesn’t change the fact she steamed it up for SI and is an easy pick as one of the hottest women to appear in the SI Swimsuit Edition.

Isabeli Fontana was the model that broke all the rules. It all began when she was 13 and went to the finals of the Elite Model competition. By 16, she had it going on to the point that Victoria’s Secret broke their longstanding rule that all models in their campaigns must be 21 years old or over. In 1999 she made her SI Swimsuit debut, but she didn’t stop there. She snagged prime deals from Marie Claire, Elle, Vogue, Armani, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger, and pretty much everyone in the industry. In 2007 she earned over $3 million dollars modeling and is now the face of the fragrance Flower Bomb from Viktor & Rolf.

It’s impossible to talk about the hottest SI Swimsuit models without talking about Cindy Crawford.  Over the course of her career she has done it all.  She may have been known as “Baby Gia” when she broke in, but she stands on her on now.  She may have only one cover, but there is no way that young Cindy – or current Cindy for that fact – could not be considered a hottest ever SI swimsuit model.

Rachel Hunter has snagged two SI Swimsuit covers. Her first came in 1989, and she later appeared on the 1994 “Dream Team” cover which featured multiple models which is becoming a bigger collectible every year.

Who could forget Stephanie Seymour? In the 80’s and 90’s she was a staple model for the SI Swimsuit Edition and one of the earliest models for the Victoria’s Secret catalog. She still appeared on lists of the hottest women in the world even when a new century was rung in.  She’s not just a pretty face though, she is a published author and is widely regarded as a savvy business woman. Although her modeling days are mostly over she still appears on television now and then like Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

Dniela Pestova was“The Body” before Giselle Bundchen was ever heard of. Pestova is a three time cover model for the SI Swimsuit Edition taking the honors in 1995, 2000, and 2006. Currently the Czech model has just ended a ten year run as a Victoria’s Secret Angel, but is still appearing on magazines as she hasn’t lost the look even though she‘s pushing 40 – which is geriatric in model years for all but the absolute best.

In the 1980’s Kathy Ireland was the SI Swimsuit Edition. Before she made her 12th and final appearance in 1996 it was a shock to open up an SI Swimsuit Edition and not see Ireland in it. She had the face, the body to fill out anything, and photographers loved her. She went on from SI to appear in movies and on television as well as do a line of exercise videos and a clothing line.

The “Wonder from down under” Elle Macpherson made six SI Swimsuit edition appearances that spanned three decades (80’s through 2000’s) and has regularly been voted as a favorite all time SI Swimsuit Edition model. Her career has taken her everywhere including TV and the movies.

Czech model Petra Nemcova snagged one SI Swimsuit Edition cover, 2003, and appeared another four times in 2001 and 2004-2006.  Nemcova famously survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami by reportedly clinging to a palm tree for upward of eight hours. Her husband, photographer Simon Atlee, was not as fortunate and died during the event. Nemcova went on to create the Happy Hearts Fund.

Beyonce Knowles appeared on the 2007 Cover of the SI Swimsuit edition and made a little history in the process. Beyonce was the first woman to garner the distinction that was neither a model nor an athlete. So far the trend hasn’t quite caught on, but it’s tough to follow Beyonce.

Anna Kournikova was not only the hottest woman on clay in her heyday, she was one of the hottest women to ever appear in an SI Swimsuit Edition.  While Kournikova was an excellent tennis player, she achieved far more acclaim as a model which many feel derailed her game to some degree.

Rebecca Romijin
has done it all. She had the celebrity marriage to John Stamos, television credits for days, and she was Mystique in X-Men. Does it get any hotter? Romijin is a classic timeless beauty that may have another SI Swimsuit edition left in her.

Naomi Campbell may be a little nuts now – and she likely was back in her SI days as well – but there is no denying she is one of the hottest of the hot women to grace the pages of an SI Swimsuit Edition. She may not be getting too much work now, but that doesn’t change what she has already accomplished.

Marisa Miller is to a degree the new face of the SI Swimsuit edition having appeared in each one to hit the stands since 2002.

Before she was the face of Covergirl or causing Chevy Chase to lose control of himself and the family roadster, Christie Brinkley was not just a model, she was THE model. She appeared on three SI Swimsuit Edition covers in the late 70’s and early 80’s. went on to marry and divorce Billy Joel, and looked phenomenal the entire time.

Heidi Klum has it all. She has the body, the face, multiple SI Swimsuit edition appearances, Project Runway, and she can pull down more money walking the runway in one day than most people make in a year. According to SI circulation statistics, when Klum appears on their pages sales go way beyond normal for the Swimsuit Edition.

Although Bar Raefaeli has only appeared on one SI Swimsuit Edition cover, 2009, she is widely regarded as the hottest model and one of the hottest women on the planet right now. When someone gets buzz like that there is no way to not be included.

Last and nowhere near least is Tyra Banks. She was the first African-American to snag an SI Swimsuit Edition cover, she graces the most iconic cover in SI swimsuit history, and there is no denying she is one of the hottest women to ever appear in any issue of SI even if you count the models in paid advertisements. Banks has gone on to do it all since SI – A Victoria’s Secret Angel, movie roles, her own television shows, and one of the fastest growing empires among any woman in the entertainment industry.  Can anyone argue that?

Learn more about this author, Amanda Fox.  Article courtesy of Amanda Fox and Heilum.com,  Images courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

Who is your pic for the Hottest Swimsuit model in history? Be sure to let me know   xxxooo


Chelsea · October 13, 2010 at 11:58 am

I think Bar Raefaeli is the most beautiful in recent history but Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, and Cheryl Tiegs were at the top back in the day. They were also more curvy back then which I think is more real and attractive than some of the models these days, too skinny….

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Julia · December 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm

These swimsuit models are unbelievably gorgeous and I like most of the swimsuits too. But not the second photo on the right. Not my style. Great post!

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