So Beyoncé is on the cover of Sports Illustrated‘s annual wet dream Swimsuit Issue. That should be big news in media circles because, as SI managing editor Terry McDonell just told me, it’s the first time a Hollywood celebrity has the coveted cover of this issue instead of a model. I see the Hollywood transformation of the magazine biz as complete: Models, out. Celebs, In. There’s even a term for them: Style Idols. (This time SI’s swimsuit issue is music-themed. She also got a big plug: she posed in a bikini by House of Dereon, the fashion label she started with her mother.) Of course, this has been coming for some time, and it’s bad enough to make you feel sorry for models. (As if…) The numbers of so-called Supermodels which are households names have been dwindling because they can’t get enough covers. Look at Vogue‘s 2006 covers: a model appeared on only one of the 12. And that was 41-year-old Linda Evangelista on the August cover. News reports say she was the first model on the front in more than a year. Drew Barrymore had February, Natalie Portman March, Jennifer Aniston April, Kirsten Dunst September, Sandra Bullock October. Recently Angelina Jolie. Jennifer Hudson lands on March — mouth open, fierce weave and tons of cleavage spilling — but the image has African-American media slamming Vogue.

Some media mavens credit, or blame, InStyle mag for setting the trend because the hugely successful outlet has put celebs on its covers from the start. Harper’s Bazaar is increasingly using celebs (a pregnant and naked Britney Spears on its cover last year). So has W. But the financial problem for the modelling industry is that, without those big magazine covers, no model can transition into a Supermodel with the accompanying day rates. Meanwhile careers are going into reverse, models become actresses (Cameron Diaz, Charlize Theron, etc.) and then snag a mag cover. Hollywood celebs don’t guarantee newsstand performance, but they often help. Looking at major titles over the first six months, according to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations released in 2006, Mandy Moore was Elle‘s best-selling cover in the period (June; 382,900 copies, up 46% over June 2005) and was Glamour‘s second best-selling one (February; 870,014, down 7%). But her May cover was Cosmopolitan‘s worst performer (1,800,265, down 1.4%).

Cosmo fared better with Beyoncé for its February cover (2.1 million single copies, the best for the period and a 2.2% increase from February 2005. Jennifer Aniston was the best-selling cover for Vogue (April; 571,346, up 7.4%) and for In Style (January; 865,102, down 5.5%) and was Harper’s Bazaar‘s second-best cover for the period (June; 216,000, up 25%). But Drew Barrymore was a bomb for both Vogue (February; 356,458, down 10.5%) and Marie Claire (April; 297,081, down 38.9%). Eva Longoria was Allure‘s best-selling cover in April by moving 314,128 copies, but that was 30% lower than last year’s April issue. For Glamour, Sarah Jessica Parker on the March cover was the top performer at 878,040 copies (up 6.8%). So what about the models? Well, Glamour‘s May cover, with model Alessandra Ambrosio, moved 727,097 issues, the softest of the period and a 15.6% decline over last year. InStyle also posted its lowest single-copy sale for the period with Heidi Klum (June; 717,839, down 21.3%).