Did Martha Stewart’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover break down barriers?

Martha Stewart is breaking boundaries and once again commanding social media stardom, this time with an 81-year-old appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue.

The TV personality and doyenne of home decor is the oldest woman to cover the magazine’s famous issue, beating the register of then 74-year-old Maye Musk – mother of the CEO of Elon, Twitter and Tesla – when she appeared in 2022.

“So excited to be on the cover,” Stewart wrote on Instagram, sharing a photo of herself wearing a deep-plunging white one-piece suit.

“My motto has always been: ‘When you’re done changing, you’re done’, so I thought, why not take this unique opportunity? I hope this cover inspires you to challenge yourself to try new things, no matter what stage of life you are in,” she added.

Her appearance has sparked praise as well as conversations about the subtle messages the cover photo sends about aging.

“Do-it-yourself, gardening, cooking, modeling, restaurant… What can’t Martha do? Unstoppable,” one fan wrote on Instagram.

“An icon,” said another.

Other celebrities also shared their admiration, from actress Jennifer Garner – “You are amazing!” — to Ellen Pompeo of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame. “Congratulations Queen,” Pompeo wrote. “You continue to teach us all what it means…and what it takes to be extraordinary.”

But there were also calls for high-profile women like Stewart to “age honestly.”

“Audiences and readers are well aware that the women featured will already have had access to all the benefits of privileged lifestyles, as well as the best photographers and stylists,” said Deborah Jermyn, author and scholar specializing in feminism and media at the University of Roehampton. In England.

“At the very least, these kinds of moments spark new conversations and awareness about beauty standards, ageism, and our enduring cultural investment in youth,” she said Tuesday. “But of course that translates into invaluable publicity for brands.”

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Shani Orgad, professor of media and communication at the London School of Economics and Political Science, agreed that it was “time” for older women to gain more positive visibility in the media, but such portrayal can be problematic. .

Portrayals such as Stewart’s “defy decades of invisibility, stereotyping, debasement, and caricature of older women as old-fashioned and irrelevant,” Orgad told The Washington Post. “But this kind of visibility is also extremely uneven; we rarely see older women across the criteria of race, class, disability and beauty.

Stewart told the “Today” show on Monday that she eliminated bread and pasta from her diet and took Pilates classes every other day in preparation for her January photo shoot. It happened in the Dominican Republic, where she tried on nine different swimsuits and was photographed by photographer Ruven Afanador.

“Being on the cover at my age was a challenge, but I think I rose to the challenge,” she said, adding, “It was kind of fun.”

“To me, it’s a testament to living well, and I think we should all be thinking about living well. … The whole aging thing is so boring.

Stewart became a prominent presence in the 1980s for her advice on home hospitality, party planning and her cookbooks. She quickly built a media empire, hosting TV shows and podcasts.

She served time in prison in 2004 for obstructing a federal securities investigation — a five-month sentence in a minimum-security facility she served while teaching yoga and crochet. In recent years, she’s become a social media personality who often pops up in memes, forming a friendship with rapper Snoop Dogg and bringing an unusual story arc to the public eye.

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All this won over her new fans of a much younger generation.

“Never in her life has she let her circumstances dictate her outcome,” Sports Illustrated swimwear editor MJ Day said in a statement on set. “She changed with the times – always one step ahead, it seems – to build a massive business empire.”

The magazine, which for years has been buzzing for covers with some of the skinniest bikinis and bustiest models, has taken a different approach lately.

In 2019, Muslim model Halima Aden made history as the magazine’s first model to be photographed wearing a hijab and burkini, while Leyna Bloom became the first transgender model on the cover of its swimsuit issue. 2021. Last year’s issue featured Katrina Scott as the first visibly pregnant swimsuit model.

Martha Stewart’s issue goes on sale Thursday. Her other famous models include actress Megan Fox and musician Kim Petras.

Stewart hailed the good genes she inherited from her mother and encouraged other women to be “fearless”, citing her modeling career and TV commercial appearances as a youth for boosting her confidence.

“Don’t be afraid of anything,” she said.

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