There are days when senior editor Jule Campbell has wondered if maybe she shouldn't be working on a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED raincoat issue. Rain has been a recurring problem during Campbell's 32 years as the driving force behind SI's annual swimsuit issue, but this year was the topper.
While shooting was under way last fall in South Africa's Kalahari Desert, which often receives barely more than a thimbleful of precipitation each year, it rained on the SI crew twice. Rain also fell throughout the two days the crew spent at its final stop—in Sun City, for goodness' sake. Says Campbell, "I'm getting to be known as the rain goddess."
"Affectionately, though," adds her assistant, Joan Truscio.
This week's issue marks the end of Campbell's rain, and reign. Having shepherded the swimsuit issue from its humble beginnings as a winter filler, when there wasn't much going on in sports, to its current status as a highly anticipated publishing event each year, Campbell from now on will let someone else worry about the weather.
She and her husband, Ron, raised a son, Bruce, but after all these years with the swimsuit issue, it's almost as if Campbell had raised a daughter, too. "I've watched her grow up, and now she has a life of her own." Campbell says. "As for myself, I want to go on to other things. I want to turn the page and start a new chapter."
But she won't soon forget the adventures from her three decades of traveling the globe for SI. All of her photo shoots, which usually take place over the course of about two months in the fall, have been eventful, and this year's was no exception. Campbell and Truscio spent nine weeks working at 10 locations in South Africa with three photographers and nine models. And several lions.
In the Mala Mala Game Reserve, as the team was driving back to its quarters after a shoot, a pride of lions passed within a few feet of the SI vehicle, which had no roof or windows. "We could have reached over the side of the Land Rover and touched their manes," Campbell says. Wisely, no one did; the group had received strict instructions to remain seated. But model Kathy Ireland got a little overeager when the group later saw the pride feeding. Subject of many photos—and three SI covers—over the years, she couldn't resist standing up to snap a few shots. Truscio quickly coaxed Ireland back into her seat, and the SI team left the lions to eat in peace.
Campbell hasn't lost a model yet and, in fact, has discovered quite a few. "I've watched them grow up from kids to supermodels—Cheryl, Christie, Paulina, Elle, Kathy, Vendela, Ashley," she says. "They're all one-name girls now. That's how famous they are."
Campbell has made a name for the SI swimsuit issue as well. "For 32 years Jule has been the first lady of swimwear fashion," says SI editor Mark Mulvoy. "She's taken a little five-page section and made it into a rite of winter, and she's discovered more talent than anyone in Hollywood." That's what Campbell will remember, much more than the rain.