In 1996, Tyra Banks posed alongside Valeria Mazza making her the first black model on a Sports Illustrated cover. A year later, Tyra Banks became the first black model to receive a solo cover. Her polka dot bikini was one of the highest selling covers ever, but it only snagged the award for third-best all-time cover on NBC’s “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful” special Monday night. Kathy Ireland’s cover received the award for number one cover.
Banks was still honored and expressed her gratitude for Sports Illustrated for being daring by putting a black woman on the cover. During her acceptance speech she said:
A lot of the women here say it was their dream. But it wasn’t my dream, because I didn’t think it was possible. And I didn’t think it was possible because of the color of my skin….I want to thank Sports Illustrated…for thinking different, and I say ‘different’ without an ‘ly,’ for being daring and for making every little black girl that year that saw that issue go ‘oh my God, mama, I think I’m pretty because a black girl’s on the cover just like me.’ I stand here representing everybody with a dream, to know that if you have a dream and you have tunnel vision, it can come true. But remember to dream bigger. Because if you do, those things can be reached, too.
The most recent black woman to grace a SI cover was Beyonce in 2007.