Angel Reese
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Angel Reese Makes Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Debut: 'I Embrace My Body'

Since the "Ring Finger Point Heard 'Round The World," LSU basketball star Angel Reese has caused quite the stir everywhere she goes. Now, she's made Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue.

On Monday, the magazine announced that Reese, who she refers to herself as the "Bayou Barbie," would be part of the May 18 publication, with photographs taken by Yu Tsai in Los Angeles. This comes just over a month after the LSU Tigers defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 102-85 to capture the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship, after which everything Reese said about Caitlin Clark and first lady Jill Biden became front-page news.

She's one of two history-making LSU athletes to be featured in the issue.

"Having so many people come back to me and say, 'You guys have changed the game. You guys have been a part of history,' I embraced that," Reese told Sports Illustrated. "Just being able to be a part of this has just been amazing for me this year, and it's been a blessing."

Reese, a 21-year-old native of Baltimore, Maryland, was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, and nearly 10 million people watched the showdown between her and Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark. 

"We've done so much within a year," she said. "We weren't even supposed to be in the Final Four. We had nine new players, and it was coach [Kim Mulkey]'s second year in the SEC, so we didn't know what to expect. We just went out there and had fun all the time and put in a lot of work all season."

Sports Illustrated swimsuit editor MJ Day had this to say: "While we're of course here to celebrate her incredible achievements and athleticism, it wouldn't be an SI Swimsuit moment if we weren't shining a light on Angel's achievements off the court. Angel is combating the double standard in sports, especially for women. She is making a name for herself as a fierce competitor and an equally fierce advocate for growing the game of women's basketball. Her intensity, drive and passion around being unapologetically herself and speaking up for what she believes in is helping move the needle forward for women in sports and is liberating the next generation to feel seen and heard. Our goal here is to help empower as many women as we can and we're beyond excited to do that alongside Angel Reese in the 2023 issue."

The 6-foot-3 Reese said she didn't think she'd be comfortable considering it was her first swimsuit shoot.

"I had on thong bathing suits and I didn't think I was going to be comfortable, but [everyone] made me feel really comfortable," she said. "I work out a lot. I embrace my body and who I am and every mark on my body. I probably feel the sexiest in a bathing suit."

Reese joins this issue just after fellow LSU star, gymnast and social media sensation Olivia Dunne made her debut as well. Her photos were taken in January in Puerto Rico.

Reese and Dunne, who signed NIL deals with Sports Illustrated, are the only two college athletes to ever be featured in the swimsuit issue, and they both happen to attend LSU.

Where Reese's Confidence Comes From

Angel Reese #10 of the Louisiana State Tigers drives past Taylor Soule #13 of the Virginia Tech Hokies during the semifinals of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament Final Four at American Airlines Center

Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

RELATED: Angel Reese Paved the Way for Her Brother Julian Before Leaving Maryland for LSU

Whether you've watched Reese with LSU, during her days with the Maryland Terrapins, or had never heard of her until "the incident," we can all agree that confidence is something she exudes without question.

During her interview with SI for the issue, Reese cited her mother as the source of her confidence.

Her mother is also named Angel, and she played basketball at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Reese also has a younger brother, 6-foot-9 Julian, who plays for Maryland.

"I've always stood on not getting the answer no," she said. "I've always just tried to find another way or just do it myself. Don't ever let somebody tell you that you have to be in a box and stand your ground."

While her mother played basketball, she didn't let that influence what direction she wanted Reese to go.

"She let me do whatever. I ran track; I did volleyball; I did a little bit of swimming, gymnastics and cheer," Reese said of her childhood. "She never put it on me that I had to play basketball because she did, so she let me experience and do whatever I wanted to do. I just finally decided basketball was going to be my thing. I was kind of good at it, and I was really competitive."

When she was younger, Reese often challenged her brother and her cousin, Jordan Hawkins — a member of the UConn Huskies (the 2023 men's champions) — in basketball.

Revisiting the "Ring Finger Point"

Angel Reese taunts Caitlin Clark.

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

During the NCAA women's championship game, Reese found herself in what some would consider a "controversy" after looking at Clark, the star Hawkeyes player, and pointing at her ring finger, signaling they had won. Reese said she did this after Clark did the "You Can't See Me" gesture — something popularized by WWE superstar John Cena — toward a Louisville player in the Elite Eight. Clark also waved off Raven Johnson, a player for the South Carolina Gamecocks, as she sat atop the 3-point arch, signaling she presumably didn't respect Johnson's ability to shoot from there.

This is important context because this moment for Reese elevated her further into the spotlight than she already was, and there's also a shot of her from the swimsuit issue doing this iconic gesture.

After this, many would assume Reese and Clark are on bad terms. But in an interview on "The Jennifer Hudson Show," Reese said that everything was fine and that the drama was "frustrating."

In the interview with SI, Reese said, "Caitlin and I are cool. It's just being able to force people to accept that women can talk trash. The women's side gets penalized for it or we're considered as not being ladylike and that we're not playing by the rules. We work just as hard as the men. Women can be who we are; women can be competitive."

MORE: "I Don't Fit the Narrative": LSU's Angel Reese Defends Controversial Taunting Actions Toward Caitlin Clark