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Jule Campbell: Editor behind Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue dies at 96


Written by Sophie Tanno, CNN

Pioneering editor widely credited with developing Iconic – and often infamous – Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue into a cultural institution has passed away at the age of 96.

Jule Campbell died on November 19 in New Jersey. She will be remembered as a “feminist pioneer” who made significant contributions to the fashion industry, according to Sports Illustrated.

Campbell joined Sports Illustrated as an assistant and reporter in the magazine’s fashion division in the early 1960s, after a stint at Glamor.

Her career took off after the launch of SI’s Swimsuit Issue, first suggested by managing editor Andre Laguerre to fill the magazine’s often slow winter months.

Its first iteration — a six-page cover featuring the model Babette March in a white two-piece swimsuit — appeared in January 1964. Campbell’s work on the Swimsuit Problem began that year. later, quickly helping her become a powerful figure in the industry.

Campbell (right, with binoculars) on set during the Swimsuit Incident photo shoot.

Campbell (right, with binoculars) on set during the Swimsuit Incident photo shoot. Credit: Joan Truscio

Ignoring much of the “skinny chic” aesthetic praised by the fashion industry at the time, Campbell’s vision was clear. During her casting process, she told journalist Michael MacCambridge in an interview for her book “The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine” that, “I came to California because I thought we should use it. more natural types of women.”

“I want them to look like really beautiful people and I think our audience relates to that,” Sports Illustrated quoted Campbell as saying in their obituary.

The first model she chose was a fresh-faced teenager named Sue Peterson, who appeared on Campbell’s first cover in a black one-piece with side cuts and a red belt. . It set a precedent for issues with white models wearing revealing clothes for decades — and, while a far cry from what’s considered openly revealing swimwear today, outraged the public. readers for decades.

(As Sports Illustrated noted in a series of reader letters to mark the 50th anniversary of Swimsuit Issue in 2014, the first important letter to be printed from a resident of Columbia, South Carolina, and read: “I certainly don’t want pictures like that in my home for my teenage son to see, let alone myself. think of the thousands of other young people across the country your people are influencing, and don’t do this just for what might be financial gain.”)
The 1978 issue of Swimsuit Magazine is said to have broken a readership record after it posted a photo of model Cheryl Tiegs (who at the time had appeared on two covers of the magazine). Even Swimsuit) in a white mesh swimsuit that shows nipples. “We thought it was a throwaway photo,” Tiegs said of the controversial image in a 2014 interview with Florida’s Naples Daily News.

In addition to unsubscribing, the Swimsuit Issue also sparked outcry from groups, including the National Organization of Women, who accused the magazine of belittling women.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 2008 models wear swimsuits designed by Pompei Beach, in New York, April 24, 2008.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 2008 models wear swimsuits designed by Pompei Beach, in New York, April 24, 2008. Credit: Photos Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Campbell retired in 1996. Her last issue featured Tyra Banks, the first Black model to appear on the magazine’s cover (although Banks shared the cover with Argentine model Valerie Mazza). Other famous models topping the Swimsuit Issue under Campbell’s tenure include Elle Macpherson, Christie Brinkley, Kathy Ireland, Paulina Porizkova and Carol Alt, among others.

Since 1997, Swimsuit Magazine has been printed as an independent edition, separate from the regular magazine. It has since expanded into television specials and documentaries; a reality TV series and an open casting call.

In recent years, a greater commitment to diversity in the pages of the issue has seen the inclusion of plus-size models, transgender people, and people with disabilities. Many athletes – including tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Naomi Osaka, skier Lindsey Von, wrestler Ronda Rousey and race car driver Danica Patrick – have appeared in the magazine and on the cover of the magazine; Celebrities like Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Megan Thee Stallion have also landed cover spots.

“Cover photography makes me feel really empowered and happy,” Megan Thee Stallion told CNN in 2021 during her cover shoot that year. “I’m glad to know that women with bodies like mine can be celebrated. Not just the standard types we’ve seen before.”

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