February 11, 2014 08:20 PM

Courtesy Sports Illustrated

There are many legendary swimsuit models in the Sports Illustrated pantheon: Heidi Klum. Tyra Banks. Christie Brinkley. And now, for the magazine’s 50th anniversary issue, they’re being joined by a 55-year-old model who looks as good as the day as she was born and still has all her original parts (though to be fair, they are plastic): Barbie.

The iconic doll “posed” for the magazine’s “Legends” section in the upcoming issue (on stands Feb. 18) as part of her new “#unapologetic” campaign, in which she’s responding to critics by celebrating her 150+ careers, $3 billion worth and the fact that women can be beautiful as well as brainy (just see any of those legendary names above). Wearing the black-and-white chevron suit that first made her famous, Barbie tells us she was thrilled to be featured in the issue, “as it’s the 50th anniversary of an iconic brand and the celebration of legendary women who, like me, launched their career in a swimsuit but went on to establish empires.” Check out the rest of her exclusive interview below.

PHOTOS: See (and vote on!) the outfits your favorite stars are wearing on the red carpet!

Tell us about your photoshoot! Did you get to go to any exotic locations?
This year’s shoot was in Malibu. I was thrilled to host the SI Swimsuit team in my hometown, however, next year we are thinking Tahiti!

How many swimsuits did you try on for the shoot? How many do you own at home?
I knew that I wanted to wear my classic chevron black and white bathing suit, after, all it is my legendary look! Over the last 55 years, I’ve compiled quite the collection of swimsuits in every color and style, each of which is a reflection of the fashion trends from that era. One of my favorites is the aqua blue suit I wore in 1971 — it always brings me right back home to the beaches of Malibu!

Were you nervous to do a swimwear photoshoot, or is it just another day on the job for you?
In 1959, I was launched as a teenage fashion model in a bathing suit, so modeling swimwear brings me right back to my roots. I love new adventures and as a seasoned career gal, this was a great day on the job! I was a little nervous to work with a legend like [photographer] Walter Iooss, but he was such a doll! We had a blast.

Who are some SI swimsuit models you admire and why?
I could never choose a favorite! I am honored to stand in such great company alongside amazing women who are so much more than just a pretty face. These women exemplify that you can be both capable and captivating.

What are your best modeling tips?
First, strike a pose and hold it as if you can — I know, easy for me to say, I have a doll stand! Of course, you should always smile — remember, what you are doing is fun! Finally, have great support on set — I have a fantastic team that keeps me looking great!

What do you think of Barbie’s message in the SI swimsuit issue? Who do you think nabbed the cover this year?

–Alex Apatoff

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