‘Sports Illustrated’ Facing Backlash for Putting Trans Pop Star on the Cover of Swimsuit Issue

The annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition hit newsstands this week, and the magazine’s choice of cover stars is causing a stir. Across its four different covers, SI featured actress Megan Fox, model Brooks Nader, 81-year-old Martha Stewart, and trans pop star Kim Petras. Born Tim Petras, the German singer started hormone therapy at age 12 and surgically transitioned at age 16.

On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by Carrie Prejean Boller and Britt Mayer, founders of The Battle Cry, to discuss the controversial cover and the intention behind it.

The 2023 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Controversy

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit covers of late have been designed to get people talking. In 2022, Elon Musk’s then-74-year-old mother, Maye Musk, appeared in the magazine for the first time and simultaneously landed on the cover. She was the oldest cover star in SI history until Stewart took over the title in 2023.

While the Stewart, Fox, and Nader covers have gotten their fair share of attention, it is Petras who is garnering controversy. The pop star is not the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit – that honor belongs model and actor Leyna Bloom who posed in 2021. But it does feel like Petras’ cover has gotten more attention than Bloom’s did given the current social climate.

Taking a Spot Away from a Woman

Petras’ cover raises several concerns, one of them being the fact that it takes an opportunity away from a biological woman. “It is a situation with… a man coming in and taking over a spot that previously would have been given to a woman once again,” Megyn said.

Both Prejean Boller and Mayer are former Miss California winners who went on to compete at Miss USA, and they see the SI cover as a coveted honor. “To be on the cover of Sports Illustrated is like winning Miss America or Miss USA or winning another prestigious title as a woman,” Prejean Boller said. Now women who aspire to be in the magazine find themselves up against a woke agenda. “I couldn’t help when I saw this but think about the thousands of women who would have killed to have been on that cover,” she added.

The Bait and Switch

Respecting women’s jobs and spaces isn’t the only issue at play here. Much like Bud Light’s ill-fated partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, Megyn questioned whether SI understands its audience. “My understanding of the cover of the Sports Illustrated magazine is it has one main purpose and that’s for 15-year-old boys to spend some alone time with it in the bathroom,” she noted. “I’m thinking this isn’t the way to get that done. I think it’s once again not knowing the function of your product or who your audience is.”

But Petras’ cover goes further than that. Mayer admitted that, when she first saw the cover, she didn’t initially realize Petras was born male. “I saw Kim-Tim, and with all the photoshop… I thought he looked like a beautiful woman on that cover,” she explained. “And that is so, so dangerous because men are going to see that and a lot aren’t going to know that it’s a dude, are going to get bait and switched with it, and now they’re attracted or did something in the bathroom to a man.”

Megyn, Mayer, and Prejean Boller wondered what that does to the male psyche. “It’s a bait and switch, and I think the intention is to confuse young men,” Mayer said. “It’s to completely confuse and destroy male sexuality and female sexuality. I think that’s what the big picture is here.”

The End Game

Mayer has a theory for why there is a desire to upend male and female sexuality, and she likened it to what Hugh Hefner and Playboy did in the 1960s by perpetuating a bachelor lifestyle. “[Hefner] talked about how what he offered through the ‘Playboy philosophy’ was a way for men to not feel bad if they hadn’t taken a wife by age 20,” she explained. “Prior to Playboy America, you had young men seeking the virtue of husbandry and they took wives and they had children and they were fathers and they were husbands and that was… the gold standard in America.” 

In Mayer’s view, that ‘Playboy philosophy’ was “driven in men as an attempt to sabotage the family unit, the family structure, and the foundation of America,” and she sees that playing out again today. “It confuses young men on who they are, their sexuality, what they’re supposed to be,” she concluded. “It ultimately destroys and upends the family unit and that destroys the fabric of America.”

You can check out the full interview with Prejean Boller and Mayer by tuning in to episode 553 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.