The famed Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue came out this week with its latest installment — its 50th edition, and the first to feature photo shoots of the models on each of the seven continents (including the first-ever fashion shoot on Antarctica, where this year’s cover model Kate Upton was photographed). It was a huge undertaking, according to SI Swimsuit 2013 editor MJ Day, who says that in addition to 230 hours and over 90,000 air miles, the production incorporated crews of anywhere between 12 and 15 people per shoot, along with 400 to 800 bathing suits at any given time. “It’s not a typical fashion crew,” said Day. “You know, these are hardcore adventurers.”
Travel Channel has already announced a one-hour special chronicling the making of SI Swimsuit 2013 – called Sports Illustrated: The Making of Swimsuit ’13 — 7 Continents, 17 Wonders – premiering this Sunday, Feb. 17, at 8pm ET/PT. The special will show where these crews of adventurous photographers, and equally brave models, went, to create SI Swimsuit 2013.
On Thursday of this week, a conference call was held for journalists with SI Swimsuit 2013 models Kate Upton and Genevieve Morton, along with editor MJ Day, to discuss the issue, and the special. Here is some of what they had to say.
What was the thought process on choosing to photograph the models of SI Swimsuit 2013 on all seven continents?
MJ Day: It was really important to us with our seven locations this year to highlight places that would not only, you know, awe and inspire, but also would come to life across all of our various digital platforms that we are on. … You know, between the personalities of the girls, to the far corners of the world, to the cultures that exist there that we’ve made a great effort to incorporate into our photography and our videography and everything that we’ve done.
Did Kate Upton and Genevieve Morton find that working on this issue accentuated the challenges of being a model, and how difficult were their shoots?
Kate Upton: Well, you know, I think that modeling is not as easy as it seems. It takes a certain person to be able to feel comfortable in front of a camera, especially being in a vulnerable state like freezing in Antarctica. You know, it’s quite difficult terrain. You know, I was there — we were the first fashion magazine to ever shoot down near the South Pole. And we went to places like an active volcano where penguins kind of have like their summers there. It was amazing places. But, things we never expected, and it takes a certain type of person to be able to change and be able to feel comfortable in a place where obviously you wouldn’t unless you were in three layers of clothing.
Genevieve Morton: But I think the great thing about working with Sports Illustrated is they really take care of their girls. So as much as it’s difficult to do what we do, you know, they always make sure that we’re safe, we have everything that we need. You know, they always pre-plan ahead so there’s always the local authorities helping us with certain things.
Did Kate Upton realize that her shoot was the first fashion shoot in Antarctica?
Kate Upton: I definitely knew that it was the first, which put more pressure on the situation because we didn’t know if we were going to go down there and it was going to be blizzards the entire time. If we were going to be able to get one photo? The first day, it was such a — one moment it was sun, and when we finally got to land, it was a full-blown blizzard and we weren’t able to get a shot that day. So you know, the weather’s unpredictable and the pressure was on, but we came out with a cover shot.
… It really was one of the most difficult shoots I’ve ever been on. It’s very difficult for a Floridian to, you know, go in a bikini whenever it’s below 70. So whenever it’s freezing out, it was extremely hard, but mind over matter. I was thinking warm thoughts and the whole team was there to help me and support me by bringing me blankets, and heaters, and hot tea, so it ended up working out.
On some of the critiques over SI Swimsuit 2013’s use of locals in the photographs —
MJ Day: So, you know, obviously we’re there shooting our models, but we’re also in places because the beauty is in the people and the beauty is in the places, and we want to just immerse you as, you know, a viewer, a reader, or whatever you want to call it, in these situations so you can experience what we experience, and that’s the bottom line. And, there’s nothing more to it than that.
What did Kate Upton and Genevieve Morton think of working with the locals on their shoots?
Kate Upton: Well, I think, Genevieve, you should take this, because my only locals were penguins. [laughs]
Genevieve Morton: You know, they really enjoyed having us there, and I think that they always feel like quite willing to help us with everything that we want to do, and to be part of it, and proud to be part of it, and to be showing off their country and what they have to offer the rest of the world.
How do Kate Upton and Genevieve Morton stay in shape for their work?
Kate Upton: I have a personal trainer, David Kirsch, and I try and stay healthy and work out as much as possible. You know, I feel like I’m constantly shooting, so there’s no downtime. It’s very important for me to have a healthy lifestyle. … My curves are natural. They’re not going away no matter how hard I try.
Genevieve Morton: … [W]e are all about being healthy and sexy, and that kind of body and figure, and maybe if you’re doing a different type of work, you might have a different diet.
Kate Upton: We try to be good inspiration to other women by looking healthy and eating, and having a healthy lifestyle by being confident with our bodies.
Does Kate Upton have any advice for travelers wanting to visit Antarctica as tourists?
Kate Upton: I would say keep your clothes on. [laughs] But definitely go there. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. The mountains turn pink. The water is glassy. I mean, it’s indescribable. Honestly, I could go on and on. You really have to watch the Travel Channel [special]. And one thing I do want to say though is when we first got on the boat, the expedition leader said, “Make sure you spend as much time as possible outside because no matter how many videos or pictures you see of this place, it is nothing like it is in person.” It’s more magnificent.
How did the process of picking Kate Upton’s photo for the cover of SI Swimsuit 2013 work?
MJ Day: Well, you know, obviously the cover is a very special photograph, and how we look at it now, you know in the 21st century is that it’s more than a photograph. You know, it’s a story, and that photograph encompasses everything that you want. It’s a story first of all. You know, there’s something behind it. It’s a perfect picture with perfect light with a perfect smile and a perfect face, and incredible backdrops. And you know — I mean, there’s so much more to it than just a pretty girl on a beach.
And Kate Upton’s reaction upon hearing — via Twitter — that she had been chosen for the cover of SI Swimsuit 2013?
Kate Upton: You know, I wasn’t really sure if it was the real one. It was like a surreal moment. I was like, “Is it true? Is it not?” And I was just so happy to see a photo from Antarctica because it was such an amazing shoot. I just wanted to see the final outcome, and that it was on the cover was even more amazing.
This is Kate Upton’s second year in a row as SI Swimsuit cover model. Where does that place her in the legacy of SI Swimsuit supermodels?
MJ Day: Kate’s definitely not a rookie. This is just her year in the issue, but you know she is kind of fulfilling a — you know, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit legacy. I mean, this is what we are as a magazine. You know, we’re creating beautiful pictures. We’re creating supermodels. And you know, we’re bringing all of it to you. And you know, she just — she fulfills that and carries it on, you know. And she’s in the league with Kathy [Ireland], and Elle [Macpherson], and Christie [Brinkley], and Tyra [Banks], you know. It continues.
Sports Illustrated: The Making of Swimsuit ’13 — 7 Continents, 17 Wonders premieres on Travel Channel Feb. 17 at 8pm ET/PT.
Kate Upton: Derek Kettella/Sports Illustrated
Genevieve Morton: James Macari/Sports Illustrated