Kathy Ireland reflects on her iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit covers: It was an ‘out of body’ experience

Kathy Ireland has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit three times over the course of her successful modeling career.

The 56-year-old entrepreneur and CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide posed for the coveted cover spot in 1989, 1992, and 1994 — and in the latter one, she was pregnant. But a career in front of the camera wasn’t in Ireland’s original plan.

“Modeling was not part of my plan,” Ireland admitted to Fox News. “It was offered to me and I thought it would be an opportunity to save money to either go to college or start a business.”

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“The entire time I worked as a model, I was trying and failing [different] businesses and so had one of those businesses taken off my modeling career wouldn’t have gone on as long as it did,” she added.

In fact, during Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s 50th-anniversary event in 2014, Ireland’s 1989 cover was declared “The Greatest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Of All Time.” She ended up featured in SI Swim for 13 consecutive years.

Kathy Ireland's 1989 cover

Kathy Ireland’s 1989 cover (Sports Illustrated Swimsuit )

But don’t think Ireland hangs posters of herself around her home.

“Seeing those photos was kind of [an] out-of-body [experience]. It was an incredible learning opportunity,” she explained. “Watching the power of that Sports Illustrated brand and enterprise and seeing how it was built … I think that was one of the most powerful things.”

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“You know, seeing the images of myself on covers to this day makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I don’t really enjoy looking at pictures of myself,” Ireland joked.

The “Fashion Jungle” author added that at that time in her career she understood her job description “was shut up and pose,” she now “rejects” that. “I think for all of us to find our voice, it’s critical, and I think it’s imperative that we really think well and think hard about what we want our lives and our careers to look like,” she said.

Fast forward to today’s modeling world, Ireland is happy to see all the positive changes taking place in the industry.

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“When I began in the industry, one of the things that frustrated me was that everybody looked the same,” she admitted. “It was a specific look and weight and age. Beautiful people come in every size, shape, color, and age, and I love it. That is reflected more and more, and I’m grateful for that.”

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