Maye Musk Calls 'Sports Illustrated Swimsuit' Cover at 74 Something 'I Could Never Dream Up'

Musk tells PEOPLE she hopes her cover moment will "make women feel more comfortable" in their skin

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover
Photo: YuTsai/Sports Illustrated

Maye Musk is all about shattering perceptions.

The 74-year-old model, author, mother and activist continues to change the conversation around aging with her 2022 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover, joining mega influencer Kim Kardashian, singer Ciara and rising model Yumi Nu as the faces of the 2022 issue.

"My first reaction was, I could never dream up something like that because why would anyone have a 74-year-old on their cover, especially in a swimsuit," Musk joked with PEOPLE of her covergirl moment. "I do think it's going to make women feel more comfortable in their seventies when they swim, as well as women in their twenties and thirties."

"When women go to the beach, we're kind of shy about our bodies, but men will walk around, looking terrible, and they don't care," she continued. "I think we have to not care that much!"

Musk, who wears a colorful, ruffle-embellished Maygel Coronel one-piece the cover and playful palm tree earrings, told PEOPLE the SI Swimsuit shoot with photographer Yu Tsai in Belize was a "lovely atmosphere."

"Everybody was polite, kind, considerate, caring, so I felt very comfortable in my swimsuit," she said, adding that "once you've done your first shot, you're fine with all the others because they give you so much confidence about looking good in a swimsuit."

In her 2019 memoir, A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty, and Success, the fashion industry tastemaker and registered dietician-nutritionist speaks openly about aging and details how the negative energy surrounding it is not something she — or others — should tolerate.

"I went through different stages of my life where I was rejected, insulted, disappointed and it just takes away your confidence," Musk told PEOPLE. "Then you just have to get over it. So here, I'm 74, I'm the happiest I've ever been, and I don't care, and nobody's insulting me because — you don't want to insult a grandmother. The point is, people are really good to me at this stage, but why should it take so long?"

Musk said that she learned to change her surroundings and remove negative influences from her life as a way of helping her evolve.

"If we're mixing with people that are cruel to us, and do things that are mean, and we accept that, well, then you're going to suffer like I did. But instead, you need to move to people who are kind."

As part of the 2022 SI Swimsuit issue, Musk's daughter Tosca wrote an essay titled The Unstoppable Force, as a tribute to the trailblazer's impact.

"My whole life, I've seen my mom do everything. As a result I think I'll always expect her to be able to do everything," Tosca shared. "Sometimes I wonder whether it's time I start limiting those expectations, as she gets older. But then I look at her again, still unstoppable, and I think, not yet."

Tosca also highlighted just a few of her mom's accomplishments, writing: "My mom is 74 now. In her years on this planet she's earned two master's degrees in nutrition science, won awards in the dietetics field, has been in countless fashion shows and editorials, and she's even appeared in a Beyoncé video. She is an uncontainable force, and she's the most fearless woman I've ever known."

Musk is also mom to sons Elon and Kimbal. She recently attended the 2022 Met Gala with the Tesla and SpaceX CEO, an experience she told PEOPLE was "so much fun."

MJ Day, Editor in Chief of SI Swimsuit, said of Musk: "At 74, Maye continues to work every day to inspire those around her."

As for the message behind this year's issue, Day said it remains rooted in celebrating authenticity and the ability to evolve.

"We all deserve the chance to evolve. So in this issue, we encourage readers to see these models as we see them: multifaceted, multitalented—and sexy while they're at it. The world may label them one way, but we want to focus our lens on all the ways they see themselves and how they own who they are. No matter your age, whether you're a new mom, partner, sister, entertainer, athlete, entrepreneur, advocate, student, mentor, role model, leader or dreamer—or all of the above—we want to celebrate these women, their evolution and the many dimensions of who they are."

The 2022 Issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is available on newsstands May 19.

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