It’s that time of year again. Started in 1964 as a way to fill a winter lull in sports coverage, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has become one of the most eagerly anticipated magazine issues of the year. Sports Illustrated estimates that the franchise reaches some 66 million people, including 4 in 10 adult American men. As befits such a massive enterprise, the cover is a closely guarded secret; even the model featured on it isn’t informed until the last minute. TIME caught up with this year’s cover girl, Israeli model Bar Refaeli, just an hour after she found out.
How did they tell you that you were going to be on the cover
They just invited me to the agency and told me I had an audition. My agent got me into his office, and everyone was here, and a camera crew and posters of the cover. My first thought was just like, you know, Why is this here Why are you tricking me I was speechless for a few long minutes. Which doesn’t happen often.
Did you think they were going to choose you
You know, the competition is so big and all the girls are so amazing and all the photographers are so good I’m sure each and every picture is just incredible. I knew I was probably in the running, but I had no idea. I’d heard that, but I don’t know. I don’t know yet. These Sports Illustrated people, they know how to hold a secret. Let’s wait and see.
Would you rather have the Sports Illustrated cover or be on the side of a plane
Oh, Sports Illustrated. That’s something that is there forever, you know It’s like a collector’s item. And the plane, they would take it off probably after a few days. But both are really cool.
So what are you doing next after this
I’m shooting a show for MTV; we’re starting right after all the parties for Sports Illustrated. And then I have work, work, work, work. The show is called House of Style. They used to do it before, and now they’re bringing it back. So it’s very exciting. The year hasn’t started yet and it’s already been the best I’ve ever had.
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