Carol Alt graced the cover of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue in 1982

By Hanna Flanagan and Brittany Talarico
June 01, 2020 06:11 PM
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Credit: Carol Alt/Instagram; Sports Illustrated

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit family is coming together from inside their own homes amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

On May 20th, the franchise challenged fans to recreate their favorite SI Swimsuit moments from home using the hashtag #SwimsuitIconChallenge on Instagram. In the weeks since, over 500 social media users have submitted their version of memorable photoshoots with past and present supermodels — even 1982 SI Swimsuit cover girl Carol Alt joined in!

The 59-year-old model channeled Marisa Miller’s 2008 cover, shot on the beach in the US Virgin Islands, where the blonde beauty famously draped turquoise beads around her neck in lieu of a bikini top. Miller accessorized the style with blue swimsuit bottoms, windswept hair and nude lip-gloss, making for a sexy beachside photo that’s still quintessential SI Swimsuit material.

On Wednesday, Alt — who has appeared in the magazine a total of six times — posted her stunning recreation on Instagram, writing, "I loved the Marisa Miller cover. So this is my copy of her cover!!"

In her photo (snapped on an iPhone 11 Pro Max), the star leaves little to the imagination by covering herself with just a few beaded necklaces and low-rise black bikini bottoms. She's striking the same pose as Miller and seemingly photoshopped herself onto an ocean sunset background to mimic the background of the 2008 cover.

Alt tells PEOPLE exclusively she also recreated a Kate Upton cover but ultimately decided to submit her version of Miller's shoot: "I’ve always loved both covers they are beautiful, sexy and fresh," the model says, adding that she was "really excited" about getting creative and using her resources for the at-home Instagram challenge.

"Wow 💃🏼💃🏼💃🏼" Real Housewives of New York star Ramona Singer commented. A second social media user made a pun, writing, "This is life-ALTering for me."

A few days later, Alt shared a second post in honor of the social media challenge — this time, a video compilation of fans who chose to recreate two of her famous SI Swimsuit moments. In the first photo, a social media user poses next to a Taco Bell sign wearing a pastel purple one-piece. While in the second, an Alt look-alike wears a lace-up black one-piece with her arms crossed over her body.

"I copied Marisa BUT cannot tell you how flattered I am that I have been not only copied but copied so well and so creatively! I was caught totally by surprise!❤️" the SI Swimsuit alum captioned the post. 

Alt continued: "I almost fell off my chair when I saw the Taco Bell in picture 2! And Hanna –I had to look twice because I thought it was me but you had put an effect on the suit. Pretty amazing how good you both are. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the love. I’m sending the love right back to you, both! ❤️❤️❌❌⭕️⭕️"

Reflecting on her time as a swimsuit model, Alt tells PEOPLE that, in the beginning, she and her fellow models were mostly focused on landing an SI cover. But as the years went by, "the issue started to stand for so much more," she says, adding, "It became more about empowering women, celebrating body diversity, women of different ages, ethnicities and most importantly shining a light on successful women whether they were entrepreneurs, athletes or more."

Carol Alt's 1982 Sports Illustrated cover
| Credit: John G. Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated

"I always felt it was such a symbiotic relationship between the models and the magazine that made both of us better afterwards," Alt says.

The body positive movement gained steamed while Alt was modeling full-time and has since taken off — with SI Swimsuit being among the first in the fashion industry to prove their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

"I love what SI Swimsuit has done with the issue over the years," Alt says. "The covers are empowering, sexy and beautiful. They’ve diversified the portfolio of women that they feature in the issue, which is just incredible."

As for the industry as a whole, the SI Swimsuit alum knows from experience that it's come a "very long way."

"When I first started you had to have blonde hair to be on any cover and you had no freedom in terms of styling. Our pictures were so controlled and so tame. I remember shooting a catalogue with Christie Brinkley in our early years and they wouldn’t even let us touch each other because it was too controversial," she reveals. "Then in the 90’s girls started to experiment with different hair colors and cuts and were more vocal about how they wanted to look."

Alt continued, "The industry has just continued to change, grow and be more accepting."