Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Photo Shoot: Racy or Racist?

ABC News

With a hot cover photo of model Kate Upton on this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the magazine created a big buzz about photo shoots on all seven continents.

But this year, beautiful models in barely there bikinis are in the middle of a controversy brewing over some photos and video the magazine posted online that did not make it into the magazine - particularly photos taken in Africa and China.

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Some people are calling them insensitive.

"For me, the African picture was probably the most offensive because it played on some of the most old and stereotypical images, it showed the African as primitive as almost uncivilized," said Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at Columbia University.

On the website Jezebel, Deputy Editor Dodai Stewart is also critical of the photos.

"Using people of color as background or extras is a popular fashion trope … but although it's prevalent, it's very distasteful … people are not props," Stewart wrote.

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abc gma si swimsuits controversy jt 130217 wblog Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Photo Shoot: Racy or Racist?

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One of the models, Emily Didonato, talks about her shoot on SI's website:

"It was such a cool experience to shoot with someone like that, something completely different from anything I've ever seen or someone I've met in my life," she said.

In response to the controversy, Sports Illustrated gave ABC News the following statement:

"Since its inception, the swimsuit issue has been a showcase for beautiful women and exotic locations. This year's edition went to all seven continents, something that no other publication has done, to present the natural beauty of each setting and its people. We apologize to anyone who has taken exception to the way their culture was represented."