People Are Claiming Martha Stewart's Sports Illustrated Cover Was Aided By Money & Airbrushing — But It's Still Something To Celebrate

The 81-year-old might not represent the average older woman, but her cover model status deserves recognition and acceptance.

Martha Stewart Ruven Afanador / Sports Illustrated, lev radin / Shutterstock & Amrtrkz via CanvaPro

At 81 years old, Martha Stewart became Sports Illustrated’s oldest Swimsuit Edition model, gracing the cover of the magazine in a plunging one-piece, complete with big hair and an obvious glow. 

“I don’t think about age very much, but I thought that this is kind of historic and that I better look really good,” Stewart said in an interview about her role as a cover model. 

Stewart isn't the first celebrity someone thinks of as a swimsuit model, proving that her appearance on the cover is emblematic of a much-needed societal shift, one that creates space for women to be visible, no matter how old we are.


Stewart explained, 'I was motivated by showing people that a woman my age could still look good, feel good, be good.'

It’s no real secret that as women age, we’re viewed as disposable by a patriarchal society that emphasizes youth and beauty as cultural capital. Rather than valuing the years of life experience older women have amassed, society essentially tells them that they don’t matter, that they’re invisible. For Stewart to proudly claim her age and show her body on the cover of a magazine that usually features a much more rigid definition of who’s beautiful, feels like a win for women everywhere.


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But not everyone sees Stewart’s cover-model status as the inclusive step forward it was intended to be.

A major part of the public discourse surrounding Stewart’s placement on the Swimsuit Edition cover holds her in a negative light for daring to be old while publicly taking up space. Scroll through social media, and you’ll find numerous hateful comments about Stewart’s undeniably historic cover. Dig a little deeper and you’d discover that many of the comments are coming from women of a certain age, themselves.


'We could all look that good with her money,' came one comment, a scathing yet not entirely untrue opinion about Martha Stewart's Sports Illustrated Cover.

We can’t talk honestly about Stewart’s appearance without also acknowledging that her level of wealth gives her access to resources that aren’t readily available to people outside of that realm. She has access to cosmetic procedures, organic food, and personal trainers. She can buy high-quality skin care products and designer clothes. While she built a veritable empire to her name, her fame, and status allow her to hire people to complete labor for her, a fact that certainly decreases the level of daily tension she carries through life.



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“This would be more meaningful if she had aged naturally,” another commenter claimed, highlighting just how precarious of a position women are in regarding cosmetic surgery.


Women are dragged if we let their skin wrinkle; we’re dragged if we go through procedures to keep ourselves looking young. The debate around aging naturally comes down to the fact that no one has any right to police anyone else’s body. To do so is to engage in the same harmful narrative keeping us trapped in the echo chamber of patriarchy and internalized misogyny. 

Another person commented that “This obsession with looking young is ridiculous. Women still are being told in their 60s, 70s, that the ideal is youth. I’ve seen many older women who are truly beautiful simply being themselves. Their life shines in their eyes regardless of wrinkles. Their laughter lines are lovely. Martha looks good but beneath it all is surgery and fillers plus filters.”

The only one who gets to decide how she wants to age in her own body is Martha Stewart herself. 

Stewart told Sports Illustrated that she decided to go through with being a cover model because “I want other women— especially women— to feel that they could also be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.”

Is her statement vaguely out-of-touch with what most women in the world experience? Yes. But underneath that is the idea that all women— and all people— deserve the autonomy to feel beautiful, to feel cared for and recognized, to be allowed space on this Earth to exist, just as they are, without any form of judgment. 


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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers celebrity gossip, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.