Martha Stewart Just Proved Beauty Has No Expiration Date & There's No Better Accessory Than Being Yourself

Once most famous for being an uptight snob, Martha Stewart is now the queen of what most celebs never figure out how to be—relatable.

Martha Stewart Ruven Afanador / Sports Illustrated & Ron Adar / Shutterstock

Martha Stewart's Sports Illustrated cover is a win for women everywhere due to how she's breaking the mold associated with the iconic magazine. 

SI's annual "Swimsuit Issue" has long been a place where the most conventionally attractive of young stars have been featured—the annual cover practically invented the "supermodel" back in the 80s and 90s when famous beauties like Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum graced the cover.


In recent years, "Sports Illustrated" has tried to modernize its annual swimsuit extravaganza, including actual female athletes like Ronda Rousey and Naomi Osaka, as well as plus-size models like Ashley Graham and Hunter McGrady, on its cover. This year, the magazine took that modernization several steps further—by featuring a swimsuit-clad, 81-year-old Stewart.


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At 81 years old, Martha Stewart is the cover model for this year's 'Sports Illustrated' Swimsuit Issue.



Stewart's 'Sports Illustrated' swimsuit cover is historic—she's the oldest cover model in the magazine's history. "Sports Illustrated" already courted a more mature audience with its "Swimsuit Issue" in 2022, with the inclusion of Elon Musk's mother Maye Musk, who was 74 at the time, alongside Kim Kardashian and musicians Ciara and Yumi Nu. But Stewart's cover takes things to a whole new level.

Stewart is doing her cover solo, and it has gained a lot more notice—the ripe old age of 81 is a milestone many people don't even live to reach, after all, let alone pose in a photo shoot for all the world to see. 


That's precisely what inspired Stewart to do the cover, in fact. "Usually I'm motivated by pay," she quipped to the magazine. "But this time I was motivated by showing people that a woman my age could still look good, feel good, be good." 

She went on to call the cover "kind of historic," and said the provocative move was in line with her personal ethos about always striving to constantly change and challenge yourself. "My motto is, when you're through changing, you're through." And Stewart has certainly been living out that motto in recent years.

Martha Stewart is no stranger to celebrating her own sexuality online.

She's practically become a one-woman campaign for older women's body positivity in recent years. In 2022, she famously posed in nothing but an apron to hawk Green Mountain Coffee in an Instagram ad full of sly come-ons and puns.



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But long before any of that even happened, Stewart had a social media icon for the racy thirst traps she posts on Instagram. Stewart's pouty-lipped thirst traps have become so ubiquitous she has even developed a reputation for having "DSLs"—internet slang for *ahem* "d--k-sucking lips"—after commenters repeatedly gave her the moniker.

The attention seemed to put her off at first—the original thirst trap that started the furor, a photo of Stewart pouting wantonly in a swimming pool, was quickly deleted. But she has since come to embrace the internet's prescribed role. She's even taken to TikTok to give a tutorial on how to take the perfect social media photo—using her deleted "DSL" thirst trap as a visual aid, no less.



An absolute icon. And that's only scratching the surface of the delightful content Stewart gives us on the regular.


Martha Stewart's social media presence in general is delightfully unhinged—and it makes her super relatable.

While she seems to have gotten some Instagram-posting lessons in recent months, Stewart often makes the kind of posts you'd expect of a run-of-the-mill, technology-challenged Boomer—pics of food rendered revolting by the terrible lighting of the flash she forgot to turn off, or weirdly arranged photos where she looks great but her famous friends look terrible.

Where most celebrities would have a PR team curating their Instagram feed, Stewart just lets it rip, devil may care style. Even when commenters playfully mock her bizarre posts, it never seems to faze her seemingly preternatural talent for self-acceptance—nor does it ever seem to make her actually edit her unhinged captions.

Warts and all seems to be her entire thing, and glamorous gazillionaire though she is, Stewart seems to have been able to become what many stars with only a fraction of her money, fame and power have never figured out how to be—relatable.

Martha Stewart's 'Sports Illustrated' swimsuit cover is the perfect culmination of her journey.

Throughout her career, Stewart has been a lot of things and not all of them good — and that's what makes her the perfect role model. She's a woman who has lived, changed and grown and took it all in her stride.


Then there is all that she does outside of unhinged Instagram posts and cooking tutorials. Stewart's most famous resume highlight is arguably her stint in a federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia following her 2001 ImClone insider trading scandal.

Stewart only served five months at the prison camp, from October 8, 2004 to March 4, 2005, but the experience seemed to be enough to change her immediately. During Christmas 2004, she released a statement from prison calling for prison reform—not because of her own experience, but rather those she'd heard about from her fellow inmates "who have been here for years – devoid of care, devoid of love, devoid of family."

"I beseech you all to think about these women," she wrote, "to encourage the American people to ask for reforms, both in sentencing guidelines, in length of incarceration for nonviolent first-time offenders, and for those involved in drug-taking."


The experience, harrowing as it was—she has been candid about the trauma of her prison stay—seemed to bring Stewart down to Earth and open her up for the first time, and she has not shied away from that more grounded, "just like us" persona ever since. 

Nor has she stopped advocating for others. As recently as 2022, she was still calling for not just prison reform, but prison abolition, telling Ellen DeGeneres that "there shouldn't be any prison, period" during an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

She has also featured prominent activists like Chinese artist and human rights champion Ai Weiwei on her podcast, and has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights. In 2009, her magazine "Martha Stewart Weddings" became one of the first US publications to highlight same-sex couples at a time when gay marriage was still illegal and the uproar over California's Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage was still at a fever pitch.


Quite a journey and one hell of a redemption arc for a woman who, maybe more than any other American icon, has shown the power of just being yourself, regardless of your age. That's what makes it impossible not to love her—well, that and the hilariously insane Instagram posts, of course.

John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.