- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Leo’s gal pal on coveted SI cover

The world knows a lot more about Bar Refaeli today than it did yesterday, including where her tiny tan line falls.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit unveiled the 23-year-old Israeli, who has been romantically linked to Leonardo DiCaprio, as a first-time cover girl on Tuesday.

This gig, more than top fashion or entertainment magazines, can be career-altering as it puts a model’s face (not to mention, her fantastically toned body) in front of millions of eyeballs, appealing to both men and women, sports fans and fashionistas.

It’s the cover that matters most, says SI group editor Terry McDonell, but each model 19 for this issue gets an equal shot at the cover. Miss Refaeli wears a string bikini by Missoni and the strings on the bikini bottom are being tugged south.

“The cover has to reflect the athleticism and sexiness of the culture. This photo is modern, her hair and swimsuit look natural. You see her freckles. Her body is amazing and she looks intelligent,” Miss McDonell said.

It’s also purposeful, he noted, that the models have healthy, sometimes curvy, figures. “A skinny waif won’t work here.”

Miss McDonell, along with Swimsuit editor Diane Smith and SI creative director Steve Hoffman, sifted through 90,000 photos this year. In consumer testing, it’s inevitable that the raciest one is the favorite, but that’s not the one that lands on the front. “There are marketplace considerations,” Miss McDonell explained. “I want to be at the front of the store, not the back.”

Miss Refaeli told Associated Press that she had the feeling that this particular shot of her in the water on Canouan Island in the Grenadines was her chance to be on the front. “This is the one I felt the most comfortable with,” said Miss Refaeli, who twice before was featured on the inside pages of the magazine. “You have the beach, blue water and a body. That’s it. I liked that the top of the suit was on.”

Museum head chosen

The Smithsonian has named scholar Johnnetta B. Cole as director of its National Museum of African Art. She will start her new job on March 2, succeeding Sharon F. Patton, who left in January.

Ms. Cole currently leads an eponymous institute devoted to diversity in the workplace at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., where she served as college president from 2002 to 2007. Before that, she taught anthropology, women’s studies and African-American studies at Emory University in Atlanta. From 1987 to 1997, Ms. Cole was president of Spelman College in Atlanta, where her appointment generated a $20 million gift from actor Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille.

She has served on the advisory board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture since its inception and has worked with a number of Smithsonian programs since the mid-1980s.

“Serving as the director of this museum will bring together my passion for African art, respect for an anthropological knowledge of the people and cultures of the African continent and my involvement in the world of education,” Ms. Cole says.

Usher with ailing wife

A representative for Usher says the singer’s wife, Tameka Foster, is recovering from surgery in Brazil, Associated Press reports.

Publicist Simone Smalls says Miss Foster “is in stable condition after suffering complications from routine surgery in Brazil. Her husband Usher is with her at the hospital.” No further details were provided.

The 30-year-old R&B star married Miss Foster, 39, in August 2007. They have two sons, 2-year-old Usher Raymond V and 2-month-old Naviyd Ely Raymond.

Ocean view

Tomorrow, Mother Earth will get two high-profile hunks as advocates.

Actor Ted Danson and Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and chief executive of the Washington-based EarthEcho, will testify before the House Natural Resource Committee on the impacts of offshore drilling and how to mitigate the industrial demands on the ocean.

This will be the first hearing before the committee dealing with the impacts of offshore drilling on the oceans. Mr. Cousteau is testifying on behalf of EarthEcho and the Ocean Conservancy and Mr. Danson for Oceana.

Short takes

• After a week of rousing performances, including her knockout appearances at the Super Bowl and Sunday’s Grammys ceremony, Jennifer Hudson is taking her show on the road. The Grammy and Oscar winner, 27, will kick off her first solo tour on April 2 in Philadelphia alongside R&B singer Robin Thicke. According to People.com, the duo will co-headline a five-week American tour that will wrap in Houston on May 8. The concert itinerary includes stops in the District, Baltimore, New York City, Detroit, Atlanta, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, Las Vegas and other cities.

• Former Vice President Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” won the 2009 Grammy Award for best spoken-word album, broadwayworld.com reports. The album is read by Beau Bridges, Cynthia Nixon and Blair Underwood.

Aretha Franklin has recorded a “preferred version” of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” because the version she sang at President Obama’s inauguration was marred by the cold, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. The single will be released this week.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt want to adopt another baby, this time from Burma, says Denverpost.com, citing a report from London’s Daily Mail. The couple reportedly were heartbroken after the actress visited refugees from Burma during a trip to Thailand, the Daily Mail said. The adoption would expand the Brangelina brood to seven, including three adopted children — Maddox from Cambodia, Pax from Vietnam and Zahara from Ethiopia.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse, Stephanie Green and Deborah K. Dietsch from staff, Web and wire reports

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