The iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is legendary, to say the least. The release of this year’s edition was celebrated right here in Miami, and photographer Yu Tsai sat down with us to talk about making history.
He captured breathtaking images for the two covers of the first transgender model to grace the cover, Leyna Bloom, and the first Black Female athlete, tennis star Naomi Osaka. He says he’s honored to help make history.
“I'm incredibly honored and overwhelmed by these two covers we got to create together”, he says. “We're starting a new conversation where you look at this magazine That is crossed overall culture and crosses over skin tones, and diversity and age...now we’re talking about completely erasing the line of what the perspective is of what people think a men’s magazine should be.”
Even though he’s been working with the magazine for over a decade, Tsai never knows who’s going to land the cover. Osaka was on his list of people he wanted to photograph. The cover was shot last year in the middle of the pandemic, recently she has come forward to speak about mental health, bringing her to the forefront of another important conversation.
Tsai has been watching Leyna Bloom and following her career. As a gay, Asain photographer, he says watching her struggle made him want to become an accomplice, rather than just an ally.
“I thought it was important to show up, literally show up, and celebrate that as a gay photographer shooting for a publication worldly known as a men’s magazine for a very long time, putting someone like her in the magazine, it’s not only a conversation starter...it’s a period.”