Thanks to their athletic successes, many female athletes have gained strong fan bases that have allowed them to appear on the covers of big publications, like Sports Illustrated, Vogue, and even Glamour. But, it wasn’t just looks that got them there.
Our first athlete has spent a lot of time on the Indy 500 race track and on sports magazine covers, like ESPN: The Magazine.
Making history as the only woman to win the American open-wheel racing race, Danica Patrick is one of today’s most iconic professional race car drivers. She has set multiple records in the male-dominated sport, including clinching a Cup Series pole position by setting the fastest qualifying lap for the 2013 Daytona 500. In print, she modeled for FHM, Sports Illustrated, TV Guide, and ESPN: The Magazine.
One of the most accomplished contemporary professional tennis players, Maria Sharapova has impressive records under her belt, including a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Aside from making a name for herself in the sports world, Maria also worked with multiple magazines including the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Known as a seven-time Olympic medalist, Amanda Beard is a professional swimmer with a previous world record on 200-meter breaststroke (long course). These outstanding achievements have earned her the American Swimmer of the Year Award twice. Meanwhile, in the modeling and fashion world, Beard graced the covers of FHM, Sports Illustrated, and most controversially, Playboy, in which she posed nude.
Formerly a professional tennis player, Anna Kournikova reached the peak of success when she played doubles with partner Martina Hingis and won multiple WTA Championships and Grand Slam titles. After retiring in 2003 due to several health reasons, she made a name in the modeling industry. She posed for several prints, including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, FHM, and Maxim. On the small screen, she became The Biggest Loser Season 12 trainer, replacing Jillian Michaels.
Jennie Finch is a former professional softball player. During her final playing year at the University of California, she was awarded the Pitcher of The Year title for breaking the season strikeouts record. Her outstanding pitching helped the team win a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics and a silver medal in 2008. Outside the sporting world, Finch modeled swimwear for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. She also had offers to appear in Playboy and Maxim magazines, but she turned them down.
Olympian Kerri Walsh is one of the most successful beach volleyball players of all time, winning gold medals at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Summer Olympics together with teammate Misty May-Treanor. Unsurprisingly, Walsh’s athletic success has led to a prosperous career in television and modeling. She appeared in numerous programs and posed for the ESPN: The Magazine Body Issue.
Gabrielle Reece is also a former professional volleyball player, sports announcer, and fashion model. For several years, she competed in professional volleyball tours while pursuing a career in fashion and modelling. She appeared in several Elle layouts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Additionally, she posed for the covers of Outside, Shape, Women’s Sports & Fitness, and Life.
Considered as one of the best figure skaters of all time, Katarina Witt impressed the world by clinching 10 gold medals from 11 major international tournaments. Two of those awards came from the Olympics back in 1984 and 1988. After retiring from professional sports, she ventured into mainstream print and television. In Playboy’s December 1988 issue, Witt surprised the world by posing nude on its cover.
Another retired professional tennis player, Ana Ivanović made a name for herself when she ranked first in the world at the 2008 French Open. Unfortunately, keeping her high standings proved to be difficult, so she decided to retire in 2016. Then, she began her modelling career and posed for multiple magazines, including FHM, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vanity Fair, among many others.
In the sporting world of surfing, Alana Blanchard is one of the most accomplished and famous professionals who took part in the World Surf League tournaments. She placed first in shortboard at the 2005 T&C Women’s Pipeline Championships, which then opened doors for brand endorsements. In particular, Rip Curl swimwear let her design and model a line of wetsuits specifically made for surfing.
Another powerhouse tennis player, Danish player, Caroline Wozniacki ranked first in singles for 71 weeks from 2010 to 2011. This legendary feat made her the first woman from a Scandinavian country to hold the top-ranking position. Consequently, she earned several endorsements, including Adidas, Rolex, and Turkish Airlines and modeled for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
Courtney Force, a professional drag racer, competed in the prestigious National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) tour in 2009 and won Top Alcohol Dragster. During her career, she was sponsored by big brands like Sanyo and Ford. Force also worked in television work including a feature with her family on A&E’s reality show Driving Force. She has modeled for ESPN: The Magazine Body Issue in 2013.
Another retired tennis player, Daniela Hantuchová made her breakthrough in 2002 when she won her first WTA tournament. After retiring in 2017, she became a tennis commentator for Amazon Prime and Fox Sports, covering big tournament events such as the US Open and Wimbledon. She also modeled for various magazines, including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and ESPN: The Magazine’s The Body Issue.
One of the most accomplished professional swimmers of all time, Natalie Coughlin is the first U.S. female athlete in modern Olympic history to win six medals in one Olympiad. She is also the first woman to win a 100-meter backstroke gold medal in two consecutive Olympics. Aside from her sports career, Coughlin also had gigs in television and print. She has appeared as a judge on Iron Chef America and competed in season 9 of Dancing with the Stars. In addition, she endorses C20 Coconut Water and has modeled for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Former World Cup alpine ski racer for the U.S. Ski Team, Lindsey Vonn has won a total of 82 World Cup awards and titles, including 3 Olympic medals. Vonn also appeared in the 2010 and 2016 issues of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, as well as Maxim.
Four-time Grand Slam singles champion, Naomi Osaka made history as the first Asian to hold the highest rank in tennis singles. With such remarkable achievements, it’s no wonder she is also one of today’s most bankable athletes. Her endorsements include big brands like Nike, Tag Heuer, and most recently, Louis Vuitton. Back in Japan, she also advertised for Nissan, Nissin Foods, Shiseido, and All Nippon Airways (ANA).
Before debuting on the big screen, Gina Carano was a professional mixed martial artist. She competed in EliteXC and Strikeforce from 2006 to 2009 and was named the face of women’s MMA. After retiring, she acted in Haywire (2011), followed by Fast & Furious 6 (2013) and Deadpool (2016). In prints, she was featured in Maxim and ESPN: The Magazine. Most recently, she portrayed Cara Dune in the Disney+ television series, The Mandalorian.
Born Patricia Anne Stratigeas, Trish Stratus is a professional wrestler. Initially a fitness model, she was discovered by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) where she began her professional wrestling career. During this time, she also appeared on a number of magazine covers and hosted a couple of television shows like The Second City’s Next Comedy Legend and Stratusphere.
Volleyball star Kim Glass competed for her first major international tournament with team U.S.at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she helped her team win a silver medal. Apart from her sports career, Glass also expressed interest in modeling when she auditioned for America’s Next Top Model when she was in college. She didn’t make the show, but she did appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2011.
Blair O’Neal started her sports career when she played collegiate golf at Arizona State University (ASU) and moved to the professional division right after graduating. During those 10 years of playing professional golf, she also built her modeling career. She walked several runways and modeled for magazines such as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Maxim, Golf Digest, and Men’s Health.
Laila Ali followed in her father’s footsteps that she also became a professional boxer herself. She competed from 1999 to 2007, earning WBC, WIBA, IWBF and IBA female super middleweight titles. She also appeared in numerous magazines, such as Sports Illustrated, People, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan.
Another athlete turned model on our list is Lolo Jones, an American hurdler and bobsledder. She won gold medals at the 2008 and 2010 World Indoor Championship events, and consistently held national titles from 2007 to 2009. In bobsled, she clinched the first spot in the 2021 IBSF World Championships, but competitions were not the only things that kept her busy. Jones also modeled for magazines, including ESPN: The Magazine’s The Body Issue and Outside. She also made appearances on Dancing With the Stars and Celebrity Big Brother.
Hope Solo is best known for her time on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. During her soccer career, she was a World Cup champion, and she earned two Olympic gold medals. She also received the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper, as well as the Bronze Ball award after her achievements at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Her worldwide soccer success drove her to pose for several publications, including ESPN: The Magazine’s The Body Issue.
After becoming the first American woman to earn a medal in judo during the 2008 Summer Olympics, Ronda Rousey pursued mixed martial arts (MMA). She signed a contract with WWE in 2018 and won the Raw Women’s Champion, her first professional wrestling title. Apart from her athletic career, she also enjoyed the spotlight in fashion and film. Rousey posed nude on the 2012 cover of ESPN: The Magazine’s The Body Issue and Maxim. She also appeared in the major motion pictures The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage.
Skylar Diggins is a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury. When she’s not on the court, Diggins advertises for Nike, Bodyarmor, and Superdrink. She has also posed for magazines, including Sports Illustrated and Vogue.
Hilary Knight currently plays for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and the U.S. Women’s National Ice Hockey Team. Together with the national team, Knight won seven gold medals at the IIHF World Women’s Championships and the gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Aside from her sports career, Knight also models and advocates for a number of social campaigns.
Gabby Douglas is a gold medalist in gymnastics, and she competed for team U.S.A. in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Her remarkable athletic success launched her television and media career, where she graced the covers of Sports Illustrated Olympic Preview and Time magazines.
Another accomplished gymnast, Simone Biles has a total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals under her belt. Dubbed as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles currently holds the record for gymnast with the most World medals (25) and most World gold medals (19). She’s appeared in numerous magazine, including Vogue, Glamour, and People.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, Mariel Margaret “Mia” Hamm is an icon in the world of soccer. During her active playing years, Hamm signed endorsement deals with big brands, including Gatorade, Nike, Dreyer’s Ice Cream, Pepsi, and Nabisco, among many others. She also posed for magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Time, and People.
Specializing in sprint freestyle, professional swimmer Simone Manuel made a name for herself at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She took home two gold medals for 100-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter medley, and two silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. She has shot for Swimming World Magazine.
Claressa Shields is an American professional boxer and mixed martial artist with multiple world championships. She earned gold medals in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. She has modeled for ESPN.
Retired gymnast and two-time Olympian, Aly Raisman is the captain of both the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Women Olympic Gymnastics Teams. With six Olympic medals under her belt, she comes second to Shannon Miller as the most decorated Olympic gymnast in American history. Elsewhere, she appeared in the 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and competed on season 16 of Dancing With the Stars. She has also modeled for and collaborated with Aerie.
Professional tennis player, Sloane Stephens was the 2017 U.S. Open champion and has six WTA singles titles. She rose to fame during the 2013 Australia Open, where she defeated high-ranking player Serena Williams. Currently represented by TLA Worldwide, Sloane endorses several big brands including Nike, Under Armour, Mercedes-Benz, and American Express. She has modeled for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, People, and Women’s Health.
Alex Morgan is a professional soccer player for the U.S. Women National Soccer Team, where she also served as the co-captain from 2018-2020. Together with the team, she helped the U.S. win championship titles at the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cups. Aside from her accomplishments on the field, Morgan also found success in modeling for magazines, including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Vogue, Elle, and Time, among others.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, Serena Williams holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined. Off the court, Williams has modeled for many magazines, including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Time, Allure, Self, People, Teen Vogue, Glamour, and Marie Claire.