Sports Illustrated Swimsuit revealed on Monday it chose Kim Kardashian as one of its four cover stars for the 2022 issue, and already the magazine is getting flak. MJ Day, the publication's editor-in-chief, however, stands by the decision.
In a conversation with Yahoo Life ahead of the magazine's launch, Day explains why she felt that the SKIMS mogul and reality star was a fit for one of the issue's covers. For her, Kardashian's story is one of persistence that she believes is a positive example for women.
"There's so many points in her life where she could have just crawled under a rock and let the world pass her by and just live a comfortable life. But she continues to evolve herself and push on and prove everybody wrong who doesn't want to allow her that permission to be more and do more, and inevitably, she's doing more for all of us by doing that in ways. I applaud that with every ounce of my fiber," Day says.
From the fame Kardashian garnered through reality television, to the empire that she built with businesses like KKW Beauty, KKW Fragrance and SKIMS as well as her latest endeavor to become a lawyer to help criminal justice reform, Day wants to reframe the narrative surrounding Kardashian by allowing her to be celebrated for these accomplishments.
"She failed a bunch of times. She could have quit, but she didn't. And it was very public, her failure," Day says. "When you're that famous, there's gonna be a lot of people that say a lot of things about you, but her persistence and her unwillingness to limit herself in all these other ways that doesn't necessarily get as much attention as like what she wears to the Met Gala, unfortunately. She just continues to do it, even in light of any type of negativity. I just really stand for that, like, I really applaud that."
According to the comments on SI Swimsuit's social media post announcing the cover stars, most are disappointed in the inclusion of a woman who has been blamed for perpetuating impossible beauty standards and who, very recently, boasted about unhealthy dieting.
"Incredibly disappointed. In all that SI has done the past couple of years for women, empowerment, and body positivity I am disappointed to see Kim K on the cover especially after her recent controversy over the Marilyn dress and how she boasted about starving herself and dieting to try to fit the dress," one person commented. "She doesn't mirror body positivity and acceptance in the way SI has been over the past couple of years and it makes all of the efforts SI has taken and sets you back."
Another wrote, "I've never been so disappointed seeing Kim Kardashian on the cover. There are so many women out there you could have [given] this opportunity. I thought you guys were different but this just shows money and plastic surgery is what is important."
One commenter even claimed, "She's the reason so many young women have body issues [because] she's surgically enhanced everything."
Day hopes that readers consider giving the pop culture icon, aspiring lawyer and mother of four the chance to change her legacy.
"I mean, she's evolving, right? Like the rest of us, she is constantly evolving," Day says. "So whatever you think about Kim, wherever your opinions are on her, just realize that she herself as an individual has felt these same limitations."
The editor-in-chief doubled down on her defense by posting each of the covers on her Instagram and sharing a note about her mission with the 2022 issue and how each woman fit into it.
"Kim Kardashian, no stranger to the world's judgment, continues to live proudly, authentically and unapologetically through the noise," she wrote. "We all deserve the chance to evolve. So in this issue I encourage you to see these models as we see them: multi-faceted, multitalented—and sexy, while they're at it. The world may label them one way, but we want to focus our lens on the many, many ways they are who they are and own it."
Not all reactions to Kardashian's inclusion were negative, as others recognized the impact that she's made in popularizing curvy figures and even creating an underwear and shapewear brand that champions inclusivity.
"There are many ladies on earth who have Kim K's body naturally, and [she] has made them feel very comfortable with themselves. Kim has changed the beauty standards [drastically] and helped many ladies feel very secure with themselves," one person wrote.
"Be the change you wanna see," another commented. "Giving me motivational vibes to take myself more seriously."
And while Kardashian has certainly been photographed in a bikini before, Day says the 41-year-old's feature in SI Swimsuit is about more than her body and image. "Kim has penned a piece speaking to her younger self about what she's accomplished, and what she'll continue to do to reframe things for people on how they see others and encourage them to embrace the evolution," Day says.
Excerpts from Kardashian's note even address the criticism that she's faced.
"It's easy to say to just ignore the criticism, but another thing you'll learn is that at some point it will click in your head that it's not about you anymore. It's about family. It's about helping other people. For years you’ll be putting yourself out there… But you're going to become a more private person and you're going to come to realize that the way to get your story out there — the actual narrative, the truth — isn't by engaging but by doing," Kardashian wrote.
In an interview clip with the publication, Kardashian builds onto this sentiment by speaking about her newfound focus on service and using her platform to help others.
"When you get to a certain place, you're like, what can I do to help other people? I'm good and I've gotten done what I wanted to get done and now it's like how can I serve and what can I do?" she said. "That is what fulfills me."
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