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Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model Hannah Davis defends cover

This year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover star is speaking out about the backlash over her front-page photo.

Hannah Davis, 24, defended the cover shot, in which she's facing the camera while pulling her bikini bottom down -- a pose some critics have suggested is, well, overly suggestive.

"There's controversy every year, so I think it's kind of just silly that they're making it out to be the big thing; I mean it's the swimsuit issue," Davis said at a celebration of the 2015 Swimsuit Issue in Nashville, Tennessee. "There are far more scandalous pictures in the magazine if you open it up. It's a girl in a bikini, and I think it's empowering; I've been hearing it's degrading. I think the people who are saying that aren't feminists, because I think when you're a woman and you look at that picture and if you overanalyze it as anything more than just a full picture, it's just silly to me."

Fellow model and Nashville resident Lily Aldridge spoke up in defense of her friend.

"I think people are totally overreacting over the cover," said Aldridge. "It's a beautiful picture. Her bikini bottoms are in the perfectly placed position. It's fine. It's sexy and that's what Sports Illustrated is."

Davis' cover was unveiled last week on the "Tonight Show" and is on newsstands now.