FROM DESERT SAND TO NEWSSTAND
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Sorting through 10,000 swimsuits wasn’t the only challenge for Sports Illustrated swimsuit editor Diane Smith.
Battling the elements during shoots was a major drag. Floods, high winds, heavy rain and stifling temperatures were among the obstacles for Smith and her crew to overcome, while on location in Tunisia, Greece, Italy and Las Vegas. Paradise Island, the site of the final shoot in the Bahamas, was the one exception where the weather cooperated.
“It was one fight after another. Everyone pitched in and did their best,” Smith said. “But we were trotting around the globe fighting the weather.”
Take Tunisia, where the workday began at 3 a.m. to try to beat the Sahara Desert’s midday 126-degree temperatures. Hair and makeup was pretty much done under the stars, since electricity relied on a sketchy generator.
By 8 a.m., Smith and her team “couldn’t breathe” and had to retreat to air-conditioned tents until 4 p.m., when the thermostat dropped to “a nice, cool 105 degrees,” she said. On top of that, camels ran around like cats, often stepping in and out of shots while Heidi Klum, Daniela Pestova and some of the other 19 models tried to strike a pose.
But Smith said she has no regrets about going with a Mediterranean theme for the upcoming issue, which will be on newsstands Wednesday and is expected to be seen by 53 million people. After recalling how they had to withstand Italy’s rain, Santorini’s cool temperatures and high winds and Las Vegas’s two weeks of clouds, Smith admitted, “I’m responsible for all this.”
Instead of going with the standard Mediterranean route to highlight the theme, she wanted to be a little more original with her third swimsuit issue. Atlantis, the resort that was the site for the Bahamas shoot, for example, was set as a lost city in the Mediterranean.
The new issue has fewer beach scenes than any other edition.
“There are a million beautiful beaches on the planet. But how many times can you shoot a girl on a beach that we haven’t seen before?” she said. “We wanted to find interesting cultures and terrains.”
Even the shoot at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas proved to be problematic. That was the fourth of five locations during a total of more than four months of shooting.
“I thought the one thing we won’t have to worry about there is the weather,” Smith said. “It was cloudy and rainy practically the whole time.”
That didn’t stop them from shooting with lion tamers Siegfried & Roy, who levitated one of the models for one shot.
This year’s 214-page edition features 80 different swimsuit labels, mostly in bikinis. Newcomers to the book include Maurizio Spataro’s strawlike raffia suit, Onda de Mar’s orange halter bikini, Ferrara’s glitzy rhinestone two-piece suit and Ambika’s crocheted style.
Smith said about 10,000 swimsuits were considered — of which 80 percent were requests. “Lots of our favorites” like Norma Kamali, Delfina and Letarte made it back into the book this year.
A few well-known ready-to-wear and sportswear designers developed customized suits for the magazine, with Pamela Dennis, Randolph Duke and Anne Klein among them.
Terry Richardson, Stewart Shining, Patric Shaw, Robert Erdmann, Christophe Jouany and Walter Iooss shot this year’s swimsuit issue. Digital-computer photographer James Porto also worked some magic for the magazine, Smith said.
Those swimwear makers that don’t make the cut do have other outlets. Sports Illustrated’s Web site, for example, showcases exclusive images of suits not featured in the magazine and attracts millions of viewers, Smith said. Other images are used for a Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar.
For the first time, MTV has shot a video that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the swimsuit issue. It will air five times and will also be sold to consumers.