Controversial and innovative, Texas-born rap superstar Megan Thee Stallion can add a new title to her impressive resume: Sports Illustrated cover model. And she can thank one venerated Austin jewelry designer for glamming up her cover model chic.
The 25-year-old artist famous for lightning rod tunes and for her body positivity, will be one of three cover stars for the upcoming Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. She joins tennis star Naomi Osaka and model Leyna Bloom on the magazine’s now-famous covers.
“It definitely was a dream for me to be on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit,” Megan told CNN. “And to be the first female rapper? Who else would they pick? I am just happy they chose the Hot Girl Coach!”
One of those strong women is surely Austin jewelry phenom Nina Berenato, who created several of the handmade rings shown in some of the swimsuit shots for Sports Illustrated and has worked with other stars in the past, including Beyoncé and Lizzo.
“Back in April, I received the call every designer lives for. I learned that Meg Thee Stallion and her stylist, Eric Archibald, wanted me to provide the jewelry for an upcoming cover shoot,” says Berenato, whose line has always been synonymous with female empowerment, community support, and creativity. “Not only was I excited to work with Megan, an artist whom I admire so much, but when I found out the details, I was even more honored. ... I am so pleased with how it turned out and I am thrilled to outfit another of Texas’ hometown queens.”
While the magazine shoot gave Megan Thee Stallion the opportunity to reinforce the themes of positive body image and female empowerment in a way not often seen in the past with the publication’s swimsuit issue, the controversial artist is likely to make waves with the images, but she’s used to that.
As CNN notes, Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” (hardly a subtle nod to female sexuality) garnered a record-breaking 93 million streams in the U.S. the week after its release last August. The single then claimed the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts for three consecutive weeks.
The FCC received more than 1,000 complaints about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s performance at the 63rd Grammy Awards, fielding calls that it was positively “pornographic” and “inappropriate for children.”
Still, the Houston native has been unapologetic about her lyrics — and her body.
“You may not think my body is perfect,” she said in a prerecorded message at the American Music Awards last November, “and it probably never will be, but when I look in the mirror? I love what I see.”
Apparently, Sports Illustrated loves what it sees, too.
This isn’t Megan’s first magazine cover; last year, she scored the cover of Time’s 100 Most Influential People 2020.