Hannah Davis on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2015 Cover. Photo: Ben Watts/Sports Illustrated
Who knew wearing a bikini on a farm could skyrocket a person to international fame? Hannah Davis sure didn’t. “I was riding horses and fly-fishing, doing all of these outdoorsy activities so I never thought that I could get a cover being that I was not on a beach,” says Sports Illustrated’s 2015 cover star. When the magazine broke earlier this month, Davis went from being Derek Jeter’s pretty, “girl next door” girlfriend to a pretty big name—and not just because of her piercing blue eyes or bombshell body.
Davis’s now infamous cover, in which the model’s tugging on her swimsuit bottoms, has caused quite the social media sound off. It’s been called vulgar, provocative, and even “pornographic.” Davis, however, calls it empowering. “This is a swimsuit issue. They have beautiful, strong, healthy women of the covers every year,” she tells Yahoo Style. “And it was just an honor and I’m proud of it.”
We caught up with the swimsuit star about skinny shaming, how she handles Internet trolls, her pre-photo shoot diet, and what to expect next. (Hint: She’s hoping to “do something totally weird.” But what could be weirder than being a bikini-clad barn girl?)
Yahoo Style: You handled the controversy surrounding your cover very gracefully. Why do you think it’s actually step for the forward for women?
Hannah Davis: I mean I don’t think it’s by any means a pornographic picture. I think it’s a strong picture; it shows a woman who’s in shape, is eating right, is healthy, and who’s showing off her body in a positive way. That’s the way I look at it.
YS: Are you surprised that it’s a hot topic?
HD: I think it’s funny that there’s controversy but I guess it comes as a surprise to me because I don’t think that the picture is an any way vulgar. Everyone is talking about something that they can’t see. It’s a bikini issue, so I think they’re taking it a little bit too seriously.
YS: There’s been so much talk in the media and in fashion about plus size models versus “normal” models. And now skinny shaming seems like the term du jour. Do you think it’s a real thing?
HD: It’s so funny, today’s the first time I’ve heard of skinny shaming. I think social media allows people to hide behind their computers and fat shame and skinny shame. It’s like, what’s the ideal body type? I think to shame anyone for the body is ridiculous and disgusting.
YS: On the heels of a social media, it’s obvious that the platform has allowed for people to have these reactions. Bar Rafaeli’s 2009 cover was similar, but it wasn’t met with such criticism. Why do you think?
HD: Social media allows for constant conversation whereas before you didn’t really know what people were thinking. Now, if anyone has any sort of thought, they have more of a voice and a place to make it heard.
YS: Does that bother you?
HD: I see comments that bother me, but I never let them stick with me. I try to forget about the negative because there’s always going to be haters.
YS: Has it made you second-guess being a model or being in the public eye?
HD: I’m not someone who tries to sift through all of my comments and read everything. Some days it’s tough because I feel like, “Why can just anyone have an opinion on me when they don’t even know me or they’re just judging me based on one image?” But I really try to stay off.
YS: So did the photographer ask you to put on your bottoms or did you just do it randomly?
HD: We had been shooting all day long and people forget that you aren’t propped up in a position pulling your pants down. Your putting your hands through your hair, you have the music on, your constantly moving. So it was just a moment, a revealing moment. [Laughs] But it was just a moment!
YS: In your dreams, what would you do next?
HD: I’m taking everything day by day at this point because I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. [Laughs] I’ve always been interested in fashion and in having my own line—whether it’s a bikini or skin care one. I definitely won’t always be in front of the camera. I’d like to be doing things behind the scenes a little bit more.
YS: Like what?
HD: I just want to be more creative and I think that S.I. is supportive and will help me do what I want. Just look at past cover models like Tyra, Heidi Klum, or Kathy Ireland and you can see that the sky is the limit.
Derek Jeter and Hannah Davis. Getty Images
YS: What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you since you’ve become the cover girl?
HD: You mean since last week? [Laughs] I went to the SNL 40th Anniversary event I was surprised that people knew who I was because I felt like the only non-celebrity in the room. I was literally the only person in the crowd who didn’t have an Emmy or a Grammy! People would be like, “Congratulations!” and I was like, “How do you know me? This is awesome!”
YS: Would you rather walk the Givenchy runway or be a Victoria’s Secret Angel?
HD: I’d rather walk Givenchy. I think it’s a little unexpected and I’m very much the girl next-door. It would be awesome to have bleached eyebrows or do something totally weird. People expect sexy from me, so to do something high fashion would just be fun, kind of like playing dress-up.
YS: And what would you do if you weren’t a model?
HD: I would love to be a special-education teacher like my sister. She’s coaching special-education basketball and I’d love to be her assistant coach. I always loved kids and I think working with kids it’s so rewarding.
YS: Would you consider getting back into high fashion and walking in shows?
HD: I haven’t walked in any shows since I was 17, but I would love to. It would shock people little bit.
YS: What’s your exercise routine like?
HD: It’s nonexistent right now. [Laughs] It’s called the “stress and coffee diet” and eating late-night pizza at three in the morning.
YS: And that’s how you prepare for a Sports Illustrated shoot?
HD: No. I try to stop eating poorly the month before so my skin looks good, and to feel good. I also try to get enough sleep and cut out alcohol and greasy foods. But right now I’m running on coffee.
YS: How do you exercise with such a big bust?
HD: I just wear a sports bra. I’ve never had a problem. [Laughs] I don’t jog either. I do the elliptical and I lift weights so I’m not like, bouncing around. [Laughs ]
YS: You clearly are into fashion. What’s your day-to-day style like?
HD: I pretty much live in ripped jeans or skinny jeans and t-shirts. I’m more about having a great jacket, a great pair of shoes, and an awesome bag.
YS: How has your life changed since your cover was unveiled on Jimmy Fallon? Are people always camped out at your door?
HD: No they aren’t actually. I feel like in New York I have such a normal life. But yes, it was very strange because there were paparazzi outside of my house. And I went to get a coffee and I was literally in my pajama pants and was like, “No! This is not sexy and this is not who they think they’re seeing!”
YS: So do you get all dolled-up before you leave the house now?
HD: No I don’t. I still don’t care. I have to have some type of normalcy in my life. Just take it for what it is!
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