Sports Illustrated has produced 26 different cover models for their swimsuit edition since 1980. Those models have gone on to become supermodels, actresses, producers, authors, designers, and in the case of Kathy Ireland, business moguls. The list below represents the 10 most successful in that time period with a net worth of more than a half billion dollars.
Photo credit: YouTube/SI Swimsuit
10 Marisa Miller
SI cover: 2008
Estimated net worth: $10 million
Bio: In a Forbes interview, Miller said that “supermodels have to become brands to be successful.” She’s done just that and more in the five years since her SI appearance. She was the first spokesperson for the Harley Davidson company and represents rum manufacturer, Captain Morgan. For the 2010-2011 NFL season, Miller made the rounds hosting NFL games and modeling jerseys. Something that had never been done for the league.
9 Cheryl Tiegs
SI Cover: 1970, 1975, 1983
Estimated net worth: $14 million
Bio: Tiegs is widely considered the first “supermodel”, parlaying her success with Sports Illustrated into a career as a designer and businesswoman. In the 1980s, her Sears clothing line sold over $1 billion dollars of merchandise. Today, at 65, Tiegs spends her days promoting health and fitness for various manufacturers.
8 Bar Refaeli
SI Cover: 2009
Estimated net worth: $20 million
Bio: Until recently, Bar was known as an international model linked to Hollywood megastar Leonardo DiCaprio. Now? Well now Bar makes out with nerds on Go Daddy commercials. Quite a career arc eh?
7 Rebecca Romijn
SI cover: 1999, 2006
Estimated net worth: $24 million
Bio: Rebecca Romijn parlayed her success as a model into an impressive career in film and TV. She played Raven/Mystique in the very popular X-Men series and has appeared in 11 other movies. She was a regular on the show Ugly Betty for three seasons and was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance.
6 Elle Macpherson
SI cover: 1986-1988, 1994, 2006
Estimated net worth: $45-60 million
Bio: No model has appeared on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover more than three times, except for Elle Macpherson who did it on five separate occasions. The 49-year old model is considered the queen of the SI swimsuit edition but it’s her business savvy that has catapulted her into one of the most successful Australian women in the world. She was part of the initial wave of 90s supermodels and was the first to create her own brand, Elle Macpherson Inc–a company that handles her financial endeavors. Macpherson also co-hosts Fashion Star, a NBC reality show for designers.
5 Rachel Hunter
SI cover: 1994
Estimated net worth: $60 million
Bio: Hunter has settled in nicely as a reality TV star. She’s appeared on Dancing with the Stars, Make Me A Supermodel and Style Me With Rachel Hunter. In 2012, she began work as a judge for New Zealand’s Got Talent. Her health problems following a breakup with hockey player Jarrett Stoll seem to be behind her.
4 Heidi Klum
SI cover: 1998
Net worth: $70 million
Bio: Heidi Klum is a mega star in the fashion world and has been the host of the extremely popular show, Project Runway–a reality series that rewards contestants for their fashion designs. She’s also hosted the Victoria Secret’s fashion show on four separate occasions (more than any other model). In 2008, she was #1 on Forbes’ list of the World’s Top-Earning Models, though, she’s fallen behind considerably in that respect the last few years. Beyond that, Klum has a hand in several different business partnerships–among them New Balance, Amazon.com, HKNB, and a variety of her own design companies.
3 Christie Brinkley
SI cover: 1979-1981
Net worth: $80 million
Bio: As a model, there aren’t many more successful than Christie Brinkley. She’s appeared on over 500 magazine covers in her 40-year career and is worth approximately $80 million dollars at 59-years old. Moreover, Brinkley is an accomplished artist, a clothes designer, an author, an entrepreneur and yes, she also appears in a running ad for Total Home Gym with the man himself, Chuck Norris.
2 Tyra Banks
SI cover: 1996-1997
Net worth: $90 million
Bio: In 1996, Tyra Banks became the first African-American woman to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. A significant feat both for her and for minority women everywhere. Banks received a degree from Harvard’s Executive Education Training Program in February 2012. Something she was able to pull off because of her success in the business world (including a majority share in her own production company, Bankable). Tyra’s talk show is now in syndication after 5 seasons and 810 episodes.
1 Kathy Ireland
SI cover: 1989, 1992, 1994
Net worth: $350 million
Bio: There’s supermodels and then there’s Kathy Ireland, perhaps the most successful model turned businesswoman in the world. Ireland has appeared on several magazine covers, including Sports Illustrated three times, but last year, Ireland graced the front of Forbes magazine. Yes, the same Kathy Ireland who appeared as a kicker in Unnecessary Roughness is now one of the biggest names in brand product marketing. Her company, Kathy Ireland Worldwide, has moved over $2 billion dollars in merchandise in less than a decade. She has been dubbed as the “prototype for model-turned-mogul.” In the last year alone, she reportedly made $200 million.
(*Note: We purposely excluded Beyonce from the list as she’s not considered a model and already had wide success prior to her appearance in 2007)