More than 20 years after she became the first black woman to grace the annual cover solo, Banks is back showing off her bikini bod for the 2019 issue.
The 45-year-old supermodel is stunning on her third SI Swimsuitcover, sporting an tiny yellow Andi Bagus bikini in Great Exuma, Bahamas. Banks also recreated one of her most iconic looks for another photo by donning a red polka dot bikini. Soccer star Alex Morgan and model search winner Camille Kostek landed the other two covers this year.
Banks, who shared her first 1996 cover with Valeria Mazza before landing the solo gig a year later, stopped by Good Morning America on Wednesday and spoke about making her return.
"I'm like, 'Damn, I'm 45, dog!'" she quipped of seeing her cover for the first time.
Banks also did a profile for the New York Times and shared why she left modeling over a decade ago. "When I was 32 years old, I retired from the business. I didn’t want to age out," she recalls. "I walked out with a three-year contract on the table, but I wanted to say goodbye before the industry said goodbye to me. Leave before they leave you. My mother used to tell me that."
SI: Swimsuit editor MJ Day was thrilled to have Banks return to the magazine, gushing that she "is the epitome of what we hope for all the women who are a part of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit."
"What she has achieved so far in her career is extraordinary," Day said in quotes shared on the SI Swimsuit website. "She has parlayed a modeling career into phenomenal success that spans multiple industries and resonates with people on a global scale. She has refused to be singularly defined and is constantly working to inspire everyone within her reach."
Though this year marks Banks' return to modeling, she was involved in last year's SI Swimsuit issue, serving as the mentor for Danielle Herrington, who became the third black cover star for the publication behind Banks and Beyonce.
"That makes my heart drop because Tyra, Beyonce, they are superstars," she told ET last year. "They are what you want to be. They are my idols and they mean so much to me because they have the best work ethic and I feel like ...sorry, I'm emotional. But that's a part of where I get my drive from."
"They set a really good example for my generation and I really want to set a good example like they did for the next generation," Herrington added.