Sports Illustrated Editor MJ Day on the Making of the 2013 Swimsuit Issue!

If anyone knows how to get a jaw-dropping image out a photo shoot it’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor, M.J. Day!  For her first SI Swim cover as lead editor, Day was tasked with conceiving the perfect cover image for this year’s special 50th anniversary issue, surely a daunting task for any professional in the industry.  But, leave it to Day to raise the stakes even higher by choosing to venture out to Antarctica with her bikini-clad cover girl, Kate Upton , to shoot what is now sure to be a historic cover in the franchise’s history.  And while the editor makes it look all too easy with her gaggle of beauties, we couldn’t help but to wonder just what goes into the making of a memorable SI Swimsuit issue.  Ahead of this week’s official launch, we met up with the editor to discuss just that.  Touching upon her vision for SI and why she chose Kate as her cover girl for the second year in a row, we got the inside look at the stuff you don’t see in between all of those sexy swim photos.  Check out our interview with the woman behind one of the world’s sexiest publications in our exclusive interview with the editor below!

Take us through the process of creating an SI Swimsuit issue.  When do you start casting?  When do you start shooting?  And when do you pick the cover?

Well, this year we started shooting in May, so we actually had to push everything up.  Typically April, May and June are our big casting months, so last year was definitely pushed up a bit.  We started shooting end of May and finished at the end of January and then we went to print this week, so here we are! It is a long process and it does really take forever.  It’s essential a year long process of non-stop planning and executing.

When was the cover actually picked?

We actually didn’t settle on a cover until February, so we went right down to the wire!

How do you keep it a secret for so long?

It really is only a handful of people that know who the cover girl is and what is going on and everyone else we just threaten their lives.  It’s also such a big surprise and such a big moment for us that no one really wants to ruin that surprise.  It’s like opening presents on Christmas and you want to peek at the presents but you think, “no, I don’t peek and ruin the surprise.”

What does it take to be a SI cover girl?

The SI cover girl is really all about being fit and healthy and showing that you’re a powerful woman.  To us, health is most important and we want our models to represent that very healthy, athletic style, so it’s a ton of things really go into being a cover girl.

 How do you think the evolution of the ‘cover girl’ has changed in the last 50 years?

I think that when you’re on the cover and the world finds out who the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover girl is, time pretty much stops for like a day.  That’s what everyone is talking about and that’s what everyone is interested in and it creates this incredible platform that I think any one model could ever have at their fingertips.  In the past, it was just print, but now you’re on the tablet flipping through the magazine and you touch the page and a 30 sec. video pops up that tells about who that model is and all about their life, or what they experienced on the shoot and you’re getting to know the person on a deeper level than in the past.  I think it creates more opportunities for the cove girl because everyone is paying attention to you.  It runs the gambit.  You have the world’s attention and it’s what you do with that that is really important.  I think the model in that position realizes that fact and will continue the legacy of the SI cover model like the Kathy Irelands, the Christy Brinkleys, the Tyra Banks and the Heidi Klums of the world.  They’ve all been there and they’ve all capitalized on that and they’ve made incredible lives for themselves because they are at the top of their game and are the quintessential professionals in this industry.  They really seize these opportunities and do well with it and do well by themselves and this franchise.

Was that something you considered in making your pick for this year’s cover girl?

The ability to take this opportunity and run a mile with it.  I’ll tell you, I didn’t cast a single girl for this issue that I don’t think fulfills that.  Truth be told, every single girl that has the opportunity to shoot with us has the opportunity to get the cover.  That’s why our casting process takes so much time.  Our casting sessions could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes when we meet with each girl, because we really want to get to know these girls and talk to them and see what they’re about.  We want to see them talk for themselves in addition to their look and their health.  It doesn’t apply to the cover model specifically, but it does apply to each SI model.

Do you think there is a fine line between sexy and risque?

I definitely do.  I think we do walk a fine with what we do.  You want to keep it engaging and fresh, but you also don’t want to cross that line of this is unacceptable reading material.  We never want to print something that you would be embarrassed to be seen with.  Honestly, we consider the issue to be of power to women.  We’re looking to do just that.  We’re not looking to feature anyone in any way that would embarrass them.

Every editor has their stamp on a magazine, what is your vision for SI?

I really want to take Swimsuit to a place that it hasn’t been to before.  I’m looking to show the world the layers that exist in this franchise, not only in print, but also in the images that we capture.  Every image has so many layers to it and I would love that to be evident to readers.  I want it to be more than just a pretty girl on the beach.  Maybe that’s in there, but we’re going places and we’re pushing ourselves and we’re pushing our models to places that average person may not have ever been to and we want to show it to you in a way that resonates with you and impresses you.  We want you to feel that every time you read the magazine you got your money ‘s worth and it’s something that we have tried our absolute hardest to make it the absolute best issue.

Finally, were there any unexpected moments that came up while shooting in these exotic locations?

I feel like that happened everyday!  Where do I start?  There are so many of these things and that’s the beauty of Swimsuit, we push ourselves to such extremes that really anything could happen at any time.  That’s the beauty of the models and the crew.  Every single person is up for that and they can take whatever we throw at them.  For instance, Nina Agdal passed out while getting a spray tan application and even after that she was just like, “I’m fine guys, I’m fine!” She just went to the Medi-quick center, got a butterfly bandage on her chin and was back on set.  You know, we checked her out and made sure she was totally fine of course, but there was not whining.  It’s that sort of dedication that is privy of what we do now.  No whiners allowed!

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