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Written by Leah Dolan, CNN

“Hot Girl Summer” is now complete, as Megan Thee Stallion becomes the first rapper to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue.

One of three separate cover stars, the Texan musician is joined by tennis star Naomi Osaka and model Leyna Bloom who will also front the annual issue which this year focuses on community as its theme.

“It definitely was a dream for me to be on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit,” the 25-year-old told CNN over email. “And to be the first female rapper? Who else would they pick? I am just happy they chose the Hot Girl Coach!”

Her risque smash hit “WAP,” featuring Cardi B, split the internet in two in 2020, with critics calling the track “an attack on American values” — but the message of female sex-positivity struck a chord with listeners across the world.
Megan Thee Stallion on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, on sale July 22.

Megan Thee Stallion on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, on sale July 22. Credit: James Macari/Sports Illustrated

According to Nielsen Music, “WAP” accrued a record-breaking 93 million streams in the US the week after its release last August, going on to claim the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts for three consecutive weeks.

Megan Thee Stallion’s explosive popularity can at least in part be attributed to her championing of body positivity. Each track is an unapologetic love letter to curves, confidence and carnal desire. Before debuting her single “Body” at the American Music Awards in November last year, the rapper preached a motivating message of self-love:

“I love my body. Every curve, every inch, every mark, every dimple is a decoration on my temple. My body is mine. And nobody owns it but me,” she said in a prerecorded message that played as she took the stage. “And who I chose to let in is so lucky. You may not think my body is perfect, and it probably never will be, but when I look in the mirror? I love what I see.”

The Houston musician is the first rapper to be a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover star.

The Houston musician is the first rapper to be a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover star. Credit: James Macari/Sports Illustrated

Now, the global superstar has been given a new platform to spread her message.

“Shooting the cover made me feel really empowered and happy,” she told CNN. “It made me feel good to know that women who have bodies like me can be celebrated. Not just the standard types that we have seen before.”

Naomi Osaka on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, on sale July 22.

Naomi Osaka on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, on sale July 22. Credit: Yu Tsai/Sports Illustrated

In March, before her cover was known, Bloom had already made history when it was revealed she would become the first Black and Asian transgender woman to be featured in a Swimsuit Issue.

“If there’s one thing that our cover models have in common, it’s that they don’t have one thing in common.” said the title’s editor in chief MJ Day in a press release. “They look different, have different upbringings, have different passions and inspirations. But each is a reminder that beauty comes in many forms.”

Megan Thee Stallion was photographed by James Macari, while Bloom and Osaka were both shot by Yu Tsai

The new issue is out on stands July 22.

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