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Photos: Sports Illustrated plans Las Vegas return in June to debut summer swimsuit issue


Al Powers/

2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue models Natasha Barnard and Jessica Gomes at Marquee in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.

2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models (explicit language)

2013 S.I. Swimsuit Issue: 1OAK at The Mirage

2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model Alana Blanchard at 1OAK in The Mirage on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Launch slideshow »

2013 S.I. Swimsuit Issue: Marquee

2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl Kate Upton arrives at Marquee in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Was that a collective sigh of sadness as the beautiful and knockout 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue models flew back to New York over the weekend? Don’t be too disappointed because they promise to be back in a few months with a new summer swimsuit edition.

It’s one of the expansion plans the Time Life subsidiary has in store with Sports Illustrated celebrating its 50th anniversary. Their last appearance here on a three-day jet-set whirl was early Friday at The Bank in Bellagio after the models, the rookies and the featured athletes celebrated earlier at 1OAK in The Mirage with Pitbull as entertainment.

Two-time cover model Kate Upton was with 2012 Miss Alabama USA Katherine Webb, Chrissy Teigen (John Legend’s fiancee), Anne V (Adam Levine’s ex), Hannah Davis, Genevieve Morton and Carl’s Jr. commercial starlet Nina Agdal as contributing videographer Richard Corey captured them on video.

Swimsuit Edition Editor M.J. Day told me in an exclusive interview: “This year’s issue was 100 percent our most ambitious -- 17 girls on seven continents. We have never done anything at this level with so many risks. No other magazine has done it, either. So it’s definitely a historic issue in many ways and not only with Kate being our back-to-back solo cover.

“There are so many great things about Kate. She is a really intelligent woman and very hard working. She is an incredible model with a really healthy physique. Her healthy, curvy body can support a coat for the cover. She rocked the coat and still made it look sexy. There aren’t many people who can do that!

“She is only 20, yet has a really good sense of herself. She’s not going to do anything she doesn’t want to do. With Kate in a revealing snow parka, it was definitely the first time we incorporated outerwear onto the cover.

“We’ve had covers in the past that had something other than a bikini top, though. Brooklyn Decker was topless. Marisa Miller had a big necklace to cover her. Daniela Pestova also had a big necklace. We pulled it all off in seven months -- truly an outstanding achievement by the entire team.”

M.J. told me the team was surprised that Kate’s cover leaked out three days ahead of their planned reveal on CBS’ “Late Night With David Letterman.: “It got picked up by so many media outlets immediately, we wanted to own what was ours. We had to confirm it.

“There was a passenger on our flight home from Antarctica who tipped off the first leak. It is like looking for your gifts on Christmas; you want to know, but it’s much better when the surprise is there Christmas morning.

“It was upsetting to us because we worked so hard to not only deliver a fantastic issue, but also an event. This franchise is so many levels of entertainment. It hurts when somebody leaks it. It’s upsetting we didn’t reveal it, but maybe we may have gotten more out of it. The reaction of Kate being on the cover for a second time is better than I have ever seen.”

Now they’re going to try and top this issue and Las Vegas visit. Said M.J.: “We have been preparing for this moment. We knew this was going to be our 50th issue, and next year is our actual 50th anniversary, so we have been thinking in 2’s about this. We have a plan, and since we love Las Vegas, we’ll be back here soon. The girls love coming here. I hope we continue to keep coming back.

“First of all, we are launching Swim Daily. It gives our readers the opportunity to learn the behind-the-scenes secrets, the lifestyles, the health and diet secrets. It’s not just swimsuit. They have a fan base and deep following, so we wanted to deliver what they’re all up to for our readers -- 365 swimsuit beauties for each day of the year with unique content. Shopping with Alyssa, favorite restaurants with Chrissy.

“Next up is the swimsuit summer celebration issue this year. It’s a custom summer swimsuit issue in early June. It’s going to be substantial, nice and thick and not slimmed down. We’re working on the actual premise right now. We’ll reveal that secret back in Las Vegas on June 7. We’ll be back here for three more days of celebration.

“It will be a big event. So now you know how we’re celebrating 50 years. A twice-annual swimsuit issue, plus, 365 beauties on the Internet all year around.”

I also chatted with rookie model Emily DiDonato, who was photographed in the desert dunes of Namibia. She’d traveled halfway around the world to model but had never been to Las Vegas before.

“Can you believe that? I’ve never been to Las Vegas,” said Emily. “I’d never heard of Namibia, and yet I went there. Normally, I would have been booked in Las Vegas for a photo shoot, but this was my first time.

“It was 3 a.m., and I’m looking at The Strip through the limo window. It was just like I pictured it from the movies -- all the lights, all the people still out running around.”

I asked her if she had her sights set on being the Swimsuit Edition cover girl.

“People always told me I should model. I didn’t believe it. I was far more interested in sports at school. A friend pushed me to an agency in New York. I met with them, and that first day I went on castings and began working right away. I was only 17.

“Now I’m a rookie -- I’m excited. I would love to be part of the magazine for as long as I can. It is incredible to be here, and I look forward to coming back and spending a lot longer here next time.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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