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Gayle King is on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit at 69. Why the magazine continues to include older women — and why it matters.

Gayle King has landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit at age 69. On Tuesday the Emmy-winning journalist and CBS Mornings host was revealed as one of the cover stars of the famed publication’s 2024 issue, joining models including Chrissy Teigen, Hunter McGrady and Kate Upton.

“Gayle is a Black professional woman in her 60s who is loving this moment in time for herself, is loving herself and is confident and successful, and continuing to evolve and push forward and do what she wants to do with her life, regardless of what antiquated societal norms may say,” MJ Day, editor in chief of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, tells Yahoo Life about choosing to feature King for the latest issue. “She’s this extremely successful, elite academic journalist and she has really leaned into this opportunity without really any hesitance.”

King is the latest mature celebrity to pose for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit in recent years. Last year, Martha Stewart became, at 81, the oldest woman to grace the magazine’s cover. Stewart, now 82, is also featured in the 2024 issue marking the magazine’s 60th anniversary, joining “legends” including Christie Brinkley, 70, and Maye Musk, 76, as well as models Tyra Banks, Molly Sims, Roshumba Williams and Paulina Porizkova, all of whom are in their 50s.

“We just want to keep making sure that we do everything we can to remind people that we as women are many different things,” says Day. “We look different, we are different ages, we are different weights, we are different heights, we’re from different walks of life, we have different careers, we have different trajectories and paths. You associate beauty or success with a certain type of person, but women in general are thriving in all of these different capacities and these different facets of their life.”

Rachel Goldberg, a licensed therapist who did research on body image at the University of California, Los Angeles, tells Yahoo Life that it’s a necessary reminder to have.

“Prominently featuring older women on magazine covers and within its pages sends a resounding message that aging is a natural progression in life, devoid of shame,” she says. “Such a portrayal not only demonstrates that older women can radiate confidence and allure but also challenges the notion that sexiness is solely synonymous with youthfulness.”

This is important for both mental and physical health, says Emily Van Eck, a registered dietitian who specializes in body image and eating disorders. “Research supports the notion that when we see mostly images of flawless, young, ‘ideal’ bodies in the media, our body image plummets,” she tells Yahoo Life. “The more we are held to unrealistic standards for appearance, the more we fixate on our perceived imperfections and may try unsustainable or even dangerous strategies to look closer to the unrealistic standard.”

Providing representation of women of different ages, races, ethnicities and body size helps to combat that. It’s also what drove Stewart to participate in last year’s issue. “Usually I’m motivated by pay. But this time I was motivated by showing people that a woman my age could still look good, feel good, be good,” the cookbook author and TV personality said in conversation with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. “I thought that this is kind of historic.”

“I think we’re starting to reprogram society and ourselves to not feel hindered by the number or the age or the stretch marks or the clothing size or the bank account,” Day says. “It’s very refreshing to see how easy it was to ask these returning alumni back. And it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m so old.’ Life doesn’t end at whatever number somebody once said it did. We’re limitless. And that’s what these women, collectively and individually, represent.”

And what does King herself have to say? “I cannot get over it,” she said on CBS Mornings after the cover was revealed to her. “I just never saw myself this way, still don’t see myself this way. But when I look at that, I go, ‘That look damn good.'”

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