Sports Illustrated is going into the modeling business.
It is part of the launch of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Enterprises, a branding and licensing venture announced this week by the Time Inc. title, which hopes to turn the popular swimsuit issue that hits in mid-February into a year-round enterprise to offset declines in SI’s print ad business.
As part of the move into modeling, SI, after a casting call in Miami, inked deals with 15 undiscovered women, it said.
They will work to promote the swimsuit issue year round.
SI had already revealed it was going into its own high-end swimwear line — a licensing partnership with Raj Swim that will be officially unveiled early next year.
“Ashley Graham was nothing until she appeared on the cover of swimsuit [in 2016],” noted one industry source. “Then she became an overnight sensation with her own swimsuit line.”
Graham was the first size 16 model to ever grace the cover of the SI swimsuit issue. Her biggest claim to fame before SI was as a relatively unknown Lane Bryant lingerie model.
Kate Upton’s career began to take off with her first sizzling-hot appearance in SI’s 2011 issue. She catapulted to superstar status with back-to-back covers in 2012 and 2013 and a return appearance in 2017.
And it sure did not hurt the career of the former Hannah Davis, who had made several appearances inside the SI issue as she began dating Yankee superstar Derek Jeter in 2012. Davis landed the cover in 2015 and married Jeter on July 9, 2016.
SI’s move to sign its own models is seen as a way to capitalize on the buzz that its swimsuit edition helps create.