How Martha Stewart Went From Chanel Model to Oldest Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue Cover Star at 81

Video martha stewart modeling

Long before she had her own television show, Martha Stewart modeled for brands including Chanel and Clairol.

Now, at 81, she’s the oldest model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Issue. “I don’t think about age very much,” Stewart told the publication. “But I thought that this is kind of historic.”

Early Modeling Career

Stewart began modeling in her teens and had a contract with Ford Models. It was then that she began appearing in television commercials and magazine advertisements. Her clients included Unilever and Tareyton cigarettes.

In the early ’60s, Stewart put herself through university at Barnard College in New York City. Modeling gigs helped her pay her tuition.

“I got enough modeling jobs at $50 an hour — which was a lot of money at that time,” Stewart said in “Makers,” a 2013 PBS documentary.

Stewart even posed for one of the biggest names in fashion: Chanel. She later told André Leon Talley on an episode of “The Martha Stewart Show” that she still owns the Chanel garments she modeled decades earlier.

Building a Lifestyle Empire

Modeling gave way to Stewart’s future career as a homemaking expert. While working as a model in Europe, Stewart studied Italian, German and French cuisine.

Cooking quickly became one of Stewart’s biggest passions, and in 1976, she opened a catering company with a friend from her modeling days, Norma Collier. The recipes Stewart honed as a caterer became the basis for her first cookbook, 1982’s “Entertaining.”

Return to Modeling

For decades, Stewart has mastered the DIY domain, launching television shows, home product lines and podcasts.

  Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.

“Age is not the determining factor in terms of friendship or in terms of success, but what people do, how people think, how people act, that’s what’s important and not your age,” Stewart told Sports Illustrated.

For Stewart’s Sports Illustrated shoot, Stewart traveled to the beaches of the Dominican Republic to model 10 different swimwear looks. She joins Megan Fox, Kim Petras and Brooks Nader as this year’s Swimsuit Issue cover stars.

Sports Illustrated isn’t Stewart’s only modeling gig this year. In March, she launched a collection with Skechers and modeled the collaboration in an ad campaign for the sneakers.