When Sports Illustrated unveils the cover of their special swimsuit edition each year, it typically creates a stir.

But this year may have topped the cake in terms of controversy when the 55-year-old cover model was revealed. The lucky lady? Barbie.

Featuring the plastic doll on the cover, who is manufactured by Mattel, for the 50th anniversary issue has more than a few people up in arms, though it’s not due to any scantily-clad photos.

In fact, Barbie is wearing a tasteful black and white one piece for her cover, the same one from her 1959 debut, a notable departure from the mag’s usual barely-there bikinis.

Also new this year: a campaign entitled “unapologetic,” where stars like Barbie, Christie Brinkley and Brooklyn Decker promote being proud of your body, no matter what your measurements are.

“As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are,” said Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s senior vice president of marketing.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day also added that Barbie fits perfectly with the issue’s “message of empowerment” for women.


But the controversy stems from two distinct areas: the doll’s often criticized “unattainable” features and her appearance in a magazine meant for young men when she’s promoted as a toy for little girls.

Barbie may now be unapologetic for her tiny waist and endless legs, but various organizations have argued that putting this unachievable figure on a pedestal sends a bad message to girls.

Critics are also questioning the decision to put a child’s toy into a magazine for grown men.

“The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is one step away from Playboy magazine,” branding expert Allen Adamson told FOX Sports. “It is potentially sending the wrong message to girls.”

Despite the criticism, Mattel is going all out for Barbie’s new role as cover model. A special collector Sports Illustrated Barbie doll will be sold for a limited time and various events are being held in her honor.


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