The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue’s TwinsFebruary 14, 2017
Long before Elle, Tyra or Heidi, a pair of Swedish models made Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue history.
In 1976, 20-year-olds Yvette and Yvonne Sylvander graced the cover of SI’s annual issue, marking the first time the magazine had featured more than one model on the cover. The Sylvanders still are the only twins to appear on the special issue’s cover, and it took until 1994 before SI again featured a multi-model cover (Elle Macpherson, Kathy Ireland and Rachel Hunter) – in all, the magazine has had six such covers.
The Sylvanders also were the first Swedes to appear on the cover. Lena Kansbod followed the year after, and Vendela Kirsebom followed in 1993. (Sports Illustrated featured the twins in a 1989 piece by Bruce Newman, saying at the time that their cover was among the most popular ever).
We caught up with Yvette Sylvander to relive her memories of becoming a Sports Illustrated cover girl, her tight relationship with her sister and what keeps her busy these days.
Tell us where you are today and what keeps you busy.
I now live in beautiful Seattle with my husband and our precious German Shepard. I help my husband in the winter with our ski and snowboard business. I also work as a massage practitioner inside Sea-Tac Airport. We have two houses in Idaho that keep us busy in the summer, and I love to ski, hike and scuba dive. My sister Yvonne still lives in Miami, is divorced and has five children. She worked for a periodontist for several years, and when she became pregnant, she never went back to work. She enjoyed being a mother.
It’s been 41 years since you appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. How often do you get asked about it today, and what’s your reaction?
When people find out that we were in Sports Illustrated, they are thrilled, and it is still a thrill for us.
You had very little experience as models before appearing in Sports Illustrated. How did the magazine find you?
Yvonne and I modeled for a bikini company in Miami, and the ad we did for them appeared in Women’s Wear Daily and Jule Campbell, the editor of the bathing suit issue, called us and flew to Miami to meet us.
What do you remember about the shoot in Mexico?
I have to say that the cover shot was the most fun. The waves were massive and would rush up along the beach. I remember Jule telling Yvonne and I not to get our hair wet, but we were laughing so hard and falling in the waves that it was impossible to keep our hair dry.
Today, there is a huge amount of celebration about the unveiling of the cover. How did you find out you were going to be on the cover?
After we had finished our shoot in Baja, we flew back to Miami and Jule had called us later to tell us that it had been decided that we were going to appear on the cover.
After the cover, each of you did some modeling, but you didn’t make modeling a career. What went into your decisions and what career pursuits did you follow?
Modeling was fun and we had some really fun assignments. I believe Yvonne and I were too shy back then. I’m very happy with my life in Seattle. Yvonne wanted to become a mother and loves her beautiful children so much, they make her so happy. Unfortunately, my sister had a nasty divorce compounded by the family law system in Broward County (Fla.).
Even though you live on different coasts, you have remained close – even talking on the phone several times a day. Describe your relationship with each other over the years.
Yvonne and I have always been very close. Now that I live in Seattle I am very happy with cell phones especially since we talk continuously throughout the day. Our relationship remains the same even though we live apart.
Living in the United States, how often do you go back to Sweden, and what do you miss about not living there?
We have flown to Sweden with my parents and seen the cities where they come from. Our father came from Uppsala, and our mother from Östersund.
Complete the sentence… Appearing on the SI Swimsuit Issue cover was ______________.
Exciting and still is as we are the only twins [to appear] on the cover.