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The feature started with the Toronto Sun, which was launched in 1971, and was adapted from British tabloids with similar featured women. While the British tabloids started publishing photos of topless models in 1970, the Sunshine Girls have never been photographed in this manner. The photos usually feature a clothed or swim-suited female model, actress, athlete. Although primarily published in color since the 1990s, prior to this the feature alternated between color and black and white and was exclusively black and white in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Typically featured on page 3 of the Sun in through the 1990s, the Sunshine Girl moved to the back page of the sports section in the early 2000s. In 2011, the Sunshine Girl was restored to page 3 in some, not all, versions of the Sun, in addition to keeping her place at the back of the sports section; two different photos of the same Sunshine Girl are now run each day. Famous former SUNshine girls include: Amanda Coetzer (tennis star), Ann Rohmer (of Breakfast Television), Trish Stratus (WWE Diva), Stacy Keibler (WWE Diva and Dancing with the Stars finalist), and Krista Erickson (Sun News Network anchor, who appeared on the date of that network's 2011 launch).
Additional images of the day's Sunshine Girl are posted each day to the Sun newspapers' websites, along with behind-the-scenes videos of select models.
At least twice a year, the Sun Group produces and sells a calendar featuring a selection of Sunshine Girls. Typically, the Girls who are selected for the calendar are chosen by the public online and by a mail-in vote.
Spinoffs and Knockoffs
- There was a Sunshine Boy feature in the Sun as well, further on in each daily paper. This feature was discontinued in 2006.
- Sunshine Girl Magazine is a men's magazine published from Miami, Florida. Sunshine Girl Magazine is sprung out of the Sun's annual Sunshine Girl calendar.
The Sunshine Girl series has been criticized by some readers and media commentators for objectifying women. Critics have also condemned the series as degrading and inappropriate for a newspaper as a medium that purports to publish credible journalism. On November 14, 1985, the Ontario Press Council upheld at least one reader complaint saying the feature "portrays women as sex objects", although there were no penalties attached to this ruling. Margaret Coulter of Toronto made the complaint, saying a newspaper was not an appropriate medium for the suggestive photos, which made her feel "embarrassed and offended." Coulter said she had the same feelings about the Sunshine Boy feature.
- Russell, Nicholas. Morals and the Media, 2nd Edition: Ethics in Canadian Journalism Retrieved 6 Sept 2013
- Ottawa Citizen. 14 Nov 1985. Sunshine girl feature portrays women as sex objects: Ontario Press Council