On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated’s most popular issue of the year will make waves by not featuring a bikini-clad woman on all of its covers. But the model is a real doll.
On 1,000 editions of the annual issue, the magazine will feature a Barbie doll as the cover girl.
Barbie will be featured in a 4-page supplement inside the magazine as a part of the “Unapologetic” campaign. Even if you don’t pick up an SI with Barbie on the cover, you’ll still get the shots of Barbie “posing in a classic black and white swimsuit.”
She’s getting the full Sports Illustrated treatment. Her photographer is a 10-year veteran of the swimsuit edition.
“Unapologetic” is a word that Mattel executives use internally, said Lisa McKnight, the senior vice president at Mattel. But she said this is the first time the company is “engaging in a conversation publicly.”
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day said Barbie fits in with the swimsuit issues’ “message of empowerment” for women.
“If Barbie is already out there, how many little girls are picking up the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?” asked David Boze on KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley Show. “And if dad picks it up, and then the little girls are flipping through it for the Barbie pages? The whole thing just seems a little creepy to me.”
But Tom Tangney contends Barbie can still be seen as a feminist icon, in and outside the skin-baring magazine. “Did you know she’s had over 150 careers? And the idea is, there are women who take ownership of their own sexuality and market it as such.”
Branding expert Allen Adamson said he’s not sure a feature in the swimsuit issue is the right strategy for the Mattel and the Barbie brand.
“The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is one step away from Playboy magazine,” he said. “It is potentially sending the wrong message to girls.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.