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Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Kathy Jacobs, 56, details surprising fan mail from men: ‘It’s super sweet’

EXCLUSIVE: At age 56, Kathy Jacobs is a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model.

The Calabasas, Calif., pinup, who proudly stands at 5-foot-3 inches, is included in the 2020 issue available on newsstands. The cover features a trio of models — Olivia Culpo, Jasmine Sanders and Kate Bock, who each have individual covers.

But that’s not the only reason Jacobs is celebrating these days. She was also named a winner of the third annual SI Swim Search open casting call alongside Tanaye White. Both women will make their official rookie debuts in the 2021 issue.

The original swimsuit issue, which was first published in 1964, has been a launching pad for models, such as Kathy Ireland, Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Kate Upton and Ashley Graham.

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Jacobs spoke to Fox News about being an inspiration to other women, what her fan mail from men is looking like, how her husband feels about the sizzling snaps, as well as what kept her going over the years after facing failure.

Fox News: You’re officially a rookie for 2021. How does it feel?
Kathy Jacobs: It’s like a dream. It literally feels like I’m dreaming… It’s a feeling that’s better than Christmas!

Fox News: What does being an SI rookie at age 56 mean to you?
Jacobs: Oh, it means so much. Not just for me. It means a lot for the other ladies over 50 out there. And in my case, the ladies over 55. It means that we have been acknowledged… We’re being given a voice in the modeling industry and the world. 

Fox News: How important has it been for you to show that a woman can rock a bikini, no matter her age?
Jacobs: I think it’s super important. There are so many women my age who don’t rock a bikini because they feel that they don’t have the perfect bikini body to do it… Everybody should be able to feel sexy and own their sexiness, no matter what age they are.

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Fox News: How does it feel to know that so many young women admire you?
Jacobs: I couldn’t be happier that all those young girls love me. I just couldn’t be freaking more thrilled if I tried. I’m filled to the brim with happiness… Most importantly, I get girls telling me, “Oh my gosh, you’ve inspired my mom.” The young girls reach out to me just to say I’ve inspired their mom. And then they all say, “I want to be like you at 50.” And I’m like, “Honey, you’re going to be better than me. Trust me. You’re going to be great.

… You know, none of that would have been possible if Sports Illustrated hadn’t had been so forward-thinking. They’re the ones that gave me a chance. And I just think it hit a nerve with people because they’re ready to see a change in the world. They want to be part of the change in the world. And I think it just showed the world that we need to open the doors to more types of beauty because, they, there’s not one type of beauty.

Fox News: What about the guys? What’s that fan mail looking like?
Jacobs: *Laughs* We’re not going to talk about the messages I get from the guys. *laughs* But in all seriousness, I do get a lot of men who are over 50 thanking me. A lot of men say to me, “Thank you for doing this because my wife is beautiful and she’s your age. I’ve always known that. And this is validating that women at your age are beautiful, including my wife.” I get that a lot actually, which I think is super sweet.

Fox News: You began modeling in the ‘80s. What kept you going over the years?
Jacobs: I just always felt there was something out there I needed to pursue. It felt like it was inside of me. I know that sounds weird to say, but I did feel that I [would] get knocked down and sometimes I stayed down a lot longer than I want to admit. But the important thing is I always get back up. I’m just one of those people that I get back up eventually and keep going again. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now.

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 I mean, my own family told me to forget all these crazy dreams and go get a regular job. If I would have listened to my own family, I wouldn’t be here. And that’s not because they don’t love me. They care about me. Honestly, one time, my husband sat me down. He said, “Kathy, I just can’t watch you fail anymore.” You know what? I did it again. I failed again. And I [fell] my way to the top. 

Fox News: Because of your persistence, your husband can now say he’s married to a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model.
Jacobs: *Laughs* Nobody gloats more than my husband. It’s like, borderline embarrassing. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. He is just in hog heaven. He’s gloating 24/7. He’s very impressed. He should just be my publicist at this point *laughs*.

Fox News: Looking back, what compelled you to hop on a plane to Miami and try out for SI?
Jacobs: I actually hopped on a plane twice and tried out for SI Swimsuit. The first year I made a video and I did not make it past the round. And then the second year I didn’t give up. I did it again. I made a video with my daughter and then I flew out to Miami. 

What was going through my mind when I auditioned for Sports Illustrated? I wanted to show the world what women over 50 can do. I wanted to show the world what we’re capable of. And I certainly don’t feel less than because of my age. And I want to show that to the world. I just had this burning desire to do that. Even if I got kicked to the curb, it didn’t matter to me. The point was that I was doing it. And so, here I am now.

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It goes to show you, you cannot give up on yourself even if other people around you have given up on you. Even if you think the world’s given up on you, you’ve gotta believe in yourself and you got put on your big girl pants or, in my case, a bikini, and just keep going, you know?

Fox News: It sounds like you weren’t worried about possibly being the oldest woman in the room. 
Jacobs: Oh no, I’m not worried about that at all. I’m not competing with a 20-year-old. I have a daughter who’s 24. She’s my best friend. I was just there to say, “This is me. I’m over 50. This is the best version of me that I possibly have today. And this is how I’m showing up.” That’s how I went through the whole thing.  And all the girls loved me. I was like their mom. And we’ve developed such close bonds that I really do feel like their mom *laughs*.

Fox News: What was it like shooting this year’s issue in Turks and Caicos?
Jacobs: Turks and Caicos is really like paradise. I got up super early, like four o’clock, and I had to be there at 5 a.m. I was pretty relaxed in the beginning, but then I started to get nervous… I remember I was so nervous about the very first shot. Honestly, my teeth were chattering. I remember [SI Swimsuit editor] MJ [Day] pulled me aside and said, “You need to just relax. You’ve got this.” Once I was able to relax, I got into the zone. And when it just went better from there.

Fox News: What went through your mind when you first saw those photos?
Jacobs: Wow, they made me look so good! *laughs*. Being out there as a woman over 50 was really one of the best moments of my life.

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Fox News: It’s been said the secret behind your enviable figure is belly dancing.
Jacobs: Bellydancing is my form of exercise. But more importantly, it’s a sisterhood. It’s a non-judgmental place. And I’m not great at all. I’m the one that stands in the back and follows my friends who are better than me. And these ladies are also in their fifties. 

It just gives you this excuse to put on a sexy outfit and dance around. If you want to feel sexy over 50 I really recommend it because I think it forces you to that. It forces you to put on a bra, dance around with your friends and be free. It’s a great feeling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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