ESPN’s new body issue is out and that means naked athletes. Last year, Kelly Slater ran au naturale for the cameras; this year, Steph Gilmore represented the surf world. The photos are more artistic and beautiful and less gratuitous than in past issues (for the most part), and it really is cool to look at how these bodies have been shaped by their sports. Stripped of logos and completely unadorned (aside from some skin ink), they return to a fundamentally timeless humanness — some look like Greek gods, and without Red Bull plastered everywhere it’s easy to imagine them competing in the early Olympic games, the real Olympic games.
Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, left, joins Gilmore and Louie Vito as three action sports athletes in the lineup, and she looks simply stunning — ultra lean and very ripped (as does Blake Griffin — dang, talk about proportioned). No doubt there will be rumblings of disapproval, but it’s enlightening to hear the perspective of someone who’s not just in it, but on the cover:
ESPN: How did your family react when you told them you were on the cover?
Gretchen Bleiler: When I was first asked, [my husband] Chris was the one who said I should do it. But I just put it out of my mind. This year, I talked about it with Chris and my mom and weighed the pros and cons. It was a group decision and I took it so seriously. It’s such a vulnerable thing to do as an athlete, to shoot naked and have it be open for everyone’s opinion and feedback. But if you do it for the right reasons and are confident in your decision, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
I wrote an email to send out to my extended family, my aunts and uncles, to give them a heads up that I may be appearing naked on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. That is the most nerve wracking, telling all of my family. But I haven’t sent the e-mail yet. I need to do that today. It’s weird that I’ll be out of the country when it comes out. I swear I didn’t plan that.
You’d sworn off naked photo shoots. What made you decide to do the Body Issue?
Over the years, the Body Issue has become this well-respected and well-received magazine in the athletes’ eyes. Knowing the best of the best have been in it and wanted to be in it helped me. In the past few years, I wasn’t ready to do it, which is why I turned it down. I didn’t want to do it. But being grouped with the best athletes in the world is amazing. And I love the way ESPN is celebrating athletes in every shape and size and showing them being strong and powerful. I love that it’s not about being sexy.
For more, go here.
Surfer Stephanie Gilmore
Los Angeles Clippers center Blake Griffin
Snowboarder Louie Vito