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The 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was criticized by one site for featuring natives in the background as props for the scantily clad models. Kate Upton, the magazine’s cover girl, and MJ Day, the senior editor, responded to the charges, noting that they wanted to show the beauty of the locations where the models were photographed.
In a post on Jezebel, titled “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Goes to 7 Continents, Finds Exotic People to Use as Props,” Dodai Stewart complained that natives of the location are used as nothing more than props in the photos. She looks at specific images with Anne V and Jessica Gomes, but pays particular attention to photos of Emily DiDonato in Namibia.
“A half-naked native makes the shot seem more exotic — even though Namibia is a country with a capital city where there are shopping malls and people, you know, who wear Western clothes,” Stewart wrote.
Upton, Day and model Genevieve Morton held a press call Thursday, to talk about Sports Illustrated: The Making of Swimsuit '13 – 7 Continents, 17 Wonders, a special airing on the Travel Channel Sunday, reported USA Today. Day addressed Stewart’s criticisms, though.
"I look at it like this,” she began, “We pick these locations very specifically. That is because we can show people the world. How much of the population can access areas of the world we can access? We feel beauty exists on all levels as well. The beauty is in the people and the places. We want to immerse you as a viewer in these situations.”
Day added about the controversy, “There's nothing to it.”
The Travel Channel’s Andy Singer added, "In the magazine you get one snapshot. In the special you see how the models and crew interact with the locals in a positive way. They really are part of the process.”
The most recent issue, which hit newsstands this week, features models on all seven continents. Upton was taken to Antarctica. Her advice for visitors of the South Pole: “I would say keep your clothes on. But definitely go there! It's the most beautiful place I've ever been.”