The 18-year-old rising star opens up about posing alongside the bikini icon in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue

By Brittany Talarico and Charlotte Triggs
Updated May 30, 2017 08:49 PM

Christie Brinkley and her babes broke the Internet with their sexy Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photo shoot. The 63-year-old supermodel returned to her bikini-clad ways after a 13-year departure, this time joined by daughters Alexa Ray Joel, 31, and Sailor Brinkley Cook, 18. And while Sailor is familiar with posing for the camera, she found stripping down to a tiny two-piece next to her iconic model mom intimidating.

“I grew up looking at these photos of my mom, never thinking that I would ever be able to do that,” Sailor confesses to PEOPLE in our latest issue, on newsstands now. There’s no denying the 18-year-old blonde, blue-eyed model is definitely Brinkley’s mini-me, but her introduction into the industry wasn’t immediately positive.

Credit: Emmanuelle Hauguel/SI

Sailor, who first started modeling at the age of 15, says she fell victim to social media cyber bullying during an “awkward” phase in her early teens, and while the SI Swim shoot was “not validation” the experience “felt very empowering and liberating.”

“To be compared to my mother who has this extremely successful career under her belt when I’m just getting started? And to have people say I’m never going to have what she has or be what she is. I’m not trying to be her. But I’m fine. I don’t get hurt by this stuff,” she shares. “It was just such a surreal moment for me because I’ve looked up to all the SI models and my mom — they’ve always been my inspirations.”

Credit: Emmanuelle Hauguel/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

Brinkley’s protective mom instincts have kicked in, as she’s ready to protect her daughters and herself from Internet body-shamers.

“It bothers me just on a general level that somehow people feel empowered to say things that are hurtful.” she says. “This was unthinkable back in the day. There’s this general sense now that it’s okay to do this.”

And despite her daughters’ nerves, she was was able to give them the ultimate pep talk.

“I kept saying, ‘If you’re ever going to get your picture taken in a bathing suit, doing it with Sports Illustrated is the way to go.’ It may look like you’re all alone on this beautiful deserted beach but there are two guys standing there with reflectors, putting the light on you,” she says.

For more on Brinkley, her gorgeous daughters and their life with a supermodel mom, read this week’s issue of people, out on newsstands Wednesday.

What do you think of Sailor’s SI Swim debut? Share below!