As much as we hate the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue—for all those highly photoshopped pictures of women wearing next to nothing on all fours in the sand—we do have to give the magazine a round of applause. The editors have done a nice little trick this year: moved the conversation away from exploiting the female body by getting Martha Stewart, the domestic goddess, to give up her apron (and other pieces of clothing) to pose in a bathing suit for the cover. She has made history as the oldest swimsuit model in history.
Our minds did two things at once as we inspected the photos: marveled at her smooth lines and trim curves and looked for signs of photo retouching.
Could an 81-year-old look this good without digital help? Maybe that’s not fair to ask, but we live in a world where it’s harder and harder to believe your eyes. However, a viewing of the video shot of Stewart’s photo session makes it seem that she showed up looking this good.
Read More: 7 Reasons to Applaud Martha Stewart’s Life and Career
Martha Stewart: The OG Influencer
In the past, NextTribe founder Jeannie Ralston flip-flopped on whether the inclusion of a 56-year-old in the Swimsuit Issue was progress or not. We’re not as torn as she was. We think it’s simply stunning that an 81-year-old can feel this confident about her body. If only every woman could take a sip of that same elixir.
‘I don’t have to give in to convention.’
We also think her photos will go a long way in helping to change the stereotypes and expectations around aging, and this is something we’ve worked toward for years at NextTribe. Sports Illustrated calls Stewart the “OG influencer,” and with that power, it’s clear that this one series of photos, taken in the Dominican Republic by Ruven Afanador, can do more than 100 anti-ageism conferences.
“When the offer came, I thought, ‘I can do this. I don’t have to give in to convention,'” Stewart told the New York Times. “How else would I, as an 81-year-old, have talked myself into feeling good about getting into a bathing suit?”
Stewart has had many identities through the years: caterer, publisher, white collar criminal who served her time, Snoop Dogg’s good pal. This transformation into a swimsuit model promises to be more helpful to the public than any advice on setting aspic or arranging tulips.
Especially when she accompanies the photos with this important and meaningful quote: “One of my mottos for many years has been, when you’re through changing, you’re through.” Brava.
Read More: The 100 Most Powerful Women: Almost All Are Over 45 and Busy Changing the World
Photos by Ruven Afanador for Sports Illustrated