Meet Irina Shayk, the 2011 ‘Sports Illustrated’ Swimsuit Cover Girl

A sun-kissed Irina Shayk in a tiny pink-and-yellow halter bikini has been unveiled as the cover model for the 2011 annual edition of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Cristiano Ronaldo's girlfriend Irina Shayk has been unveiled as the cover model for the 2011 annual edition of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Photo: Sports Illustrated

Christie Brinkley, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Beyonce Knowles, Bar Rafaeli and Brooklyn Decker — each of these bikini-clad beauties has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.

It’s one of the highest profile gigs in the modeling world, and a coveted honor that can make a little-known model into a household name. On Tuesday, 25-year-old Russian knockout Irina Shayk joined this elite club, appearing on the 48th annual SI swimsuit cover.

A sun-kissed Irina Shayk in a tiny pink-and-yellow halter bikini has landed her first cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Check the full gallery here.

The Russian-born, 25-year-old learned Monday at a taping of David Letterman’s show that she won the coveted spot based on a photo shoot months ago in Hawaii. She’s been in the wildly popular issue five times before.

“There were 10 models there to do the Top 10 List, and nobody knows until the last minute who the cover will be,” Shayk said. “And then I saw it, and I couldn’t believe it.”

"There were 10 models there to do the Top 10 List, and nobody knows until the last minute who the cover will be," Shayk said. "And then I saw it, and I couldn't believe it." Photo: Sports Illustrated

“We Russians know all the secrets but I didn’t know I would land the cover!” she told Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on NBC’s Today Show this morning. “It was a total surprise for me and I was in shock. I was crying!” She added: “It’s a dream come true.”

In keeping with tradition, the cover of the special issue is kept secret until the magazine is ready to hit newsstands.

The nine other swimsuit models who appeared on the show were Anne Vyalitsyna, Julie Henderson, Kate Upton, Alyssa Miller, Chrissy Teigen, Hilary Rhoda, Genevieve Morton, Damaris Lewis and Izabel Goulart.

Irina Shayk, the girlfriend of soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, said if she were going to choose one of her photos as her favorite, the cover selection likely would be the one.

She liked the push-up bra style of the suit, in a design of pink diamonds on the front of the top with yellow around the neck and sides. “I never get to see the photos when we take them, but I remembered the swimsuit,” Shayk said.

"I do work out five times a week, but I'm never dieting," Shayk said. "I try to be healthy because to be happy and healthy on the inside shows on the outside." Photo: Sports Illustrated

Her other photo shoot for this year’s issue was in the Philippines’. She has a wardrobe of hundreds of bathing suits thanks to her Sports Illustrated work. “When I’m going to vacation on my own – I get the swimsuits after the shoots – I have so many choices!”

Her regimen to get ready for the skimpy work doesn’t really change from her normal beauty routine. “I do work out five times a week, but I’m never dieting,” Shayk said. “I try to be healthy because to be happy and healthy on the inside shows on the outside.”

The Swimsuit Issue is a cash cow for Sports Illustrated, and its advertising pages increased this year by 30 percent from 2010. The magazine does not permit full-on nudity, but it makes good use of diaphanous, nipple-revealing swimsuits and exposed backsides.

“We love the caboose,” said MJ Day, the issue’s senior associate editor. Interestingly, despite the magazine’s often explicit areas of emphasis, a third of its readers are female. [Sports Illustrated via Daily Mail (UK)]

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