The Story Behind the Famous Images of Erin Heatherton and Her Zanzibar Monkey

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In 2016 the SI Swimsuit model competed for the perfect shot with a curious creature.

Erin Heatherton and a friend in Zanzibar.<p>Ruven Afanador/Sports Illustrated</p>
Erin Heatherton and a friend in Zanzibar.

Ruven Afanador/Sports Illustrated

When Erin Heatherton traveled to Zanzibar with the SI Swimsuit team in 2016, she had no idea she would be sharing the spotlight on photographer Ruven Afanador’s shoot. Heatherton was asked to pose with an adorable animal that wasn’t necessarily the greatest team player.

“She doesn’t do doubles,” said Heatherton about her partner, a monkey, who climbed all over her during the shoot. “She’s not into it…and I’m not into it, either, so I just had to throw her on my back, you know?” It soon became apparent that this was not just a curious George—this was a diva monkey.

“I found when I was not paying attention or caring about the monkey and was competing with her, I was very primal about it,” Heatherton said. “I was like, ‘Nuh uh, Monkey. You wanna be in front? Fine. You’re beautiful. But, who’s the most beautiful?’” Speaking on the ridiculousness of the monkey’s antics, Heatherton said, “That was honestly one of the funniest things that ever happened to me.”

Erin Heatherton was photographed by Ruven Afanador in Zanzibar.
Erin Heatherton was photographed by Ruven Afanador in Zanzibar.

Heatherton has had an eventful few years since her run-in with the primate. On top of co-founding the Resistance Chicago Lagree, a group fitness studio, the model got engaged to  Karol Kocemba in March.

See a few more of our favorite images of Heatherton in Zanzibar below.