To celebrate the 50th anniversary edition of the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the magazine has created a unique campaign focused on a surprising choice of cover model: Barbie. The key theme of this new promotional campaign in which Barbie and Sports Illustrated join forces is “Unapologetic,” which is meant to tell critics of the magazine and/or Barbie that both brands are “unapologetic” about what they represent. The 50th anniversary swimsuit issue cover features Barbie clad in a more modern version of the original black-and-white swimsuit she first wore when introduced in 1959. In a statement from Mattel, Barbie’s creator, the company said, “As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in the issue gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic.” According to The New York Times, The Mattel + Sports Illustrated partnership will include a four-page advertising feature in the magazine, video clips, a cover wrap, not to mention an actual limited-edition Sports Illustrated Barbie, to be sold exclusively on Target.com.
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Unsurprisingly, this new campaign has sparked a slew of online debates with some applauding Barbie’s take charge attitude and focusing on the fact that many swimsuit alumna like Christie Brinkley, Kathy Ireland and Heidi Klum are not simply models but women who have managed multiple accomplishments as entrepreneurs and career women. On the other side, critics are saying the campaign is demeaning to women and sets a terrible example for young girls causing problems such as eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem. You can check out Barbie by the Pool, and in Newsstands Near You to read both sides of this debate. Love Barbie or hate her, the cover is happening and at 55, Barbie at least has the unique distinction of being the oldest model ever to land the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover. To make her look good, she was photographed by legendary photographer Walter Iooss Jr., who has shot the magazine’s human models for the last four decades (as shown in the video above). What do you think of this new campaign? Great idea or feminist nightmare? Vote in our poll and sound off in the comments below.