On November 17, 1970, editor Larry Lamb celebrated the tabloid's first anniversary by publishing a photograph of twenty-year-old German model Stephanie Rahn in her "birthday suit. Photographed by Beverley Goodway, who would work as The Sun's main Page Three photographer until he retired in 2003, Rahn was profiled from the side, sitting nude in a field with one of her breasts fully visible. Over the next several years, The Sun featured Page Three girls in more overtly topless poses. While these photographs caused much controversy, they are credited with the increase in sales that established The Sun as one of the most popular newspapers in the United Kingdom by the mid-1970s. In an effort to boost their own circulation figures, the competing Daily Mirror and Daily Star tabloids instituted their own Page Three–like features under different names.
The Sun's Page Three photography has generally featured models in orthodox glamour poses, although the tabloid would sometimes connect the feature to a topical sporting event: A model might pose in a short white skirt with a tennis racquet during the Wimbledon tennis championships, for instance, or appear holding a soccer ball during the World Cup. From the 1970s until the mid-1990s, captions to the photographs were often filled with titillating puns and sexually suggestive double entendre about the models' lives or interests. These captions were replaced in the late 1990s with a simple listing of the models' first names, ages, and hometowns. The Sun also greatly reduced its use of sports-related costumes and props at this time, and also instituted a policy of only featuring models with natural breasts. Models with augmented breasts, such as Jordan and Melinda Messenger, were thereafter "banned" from The Sun.
In 1999, The Sun launched its online Page Three website Page3.com The site features the tabloid's daily Page Three girl in up to four poses, including the photograph published in the printed edition. It also hosts an online archive of previous Page Three photographs, a "Page 3 Gold" section featuring models from earlier eras, and various other features.
Since 2002, The Sun has run an annual contest called "Page 3 Idol," in which any British woman over the age of eighteen can submit pictures to be considered for a Page Three modeling contract. The entrants' photographs are published on the Page Three website, and the outcome is decided by public vote. In 2004, eighteen-year-old Keeley Hazell won the contest and went on to become one of the United Kingdom's top glamour models. The 2008 winner, nineteen-year-old university student Jenny Grant, tragically committed suicide in the early hours of September 13, 2008.
In 2003, Julian Jones made a documentary about Page Three girls, The Curse of Page 3, which examined the negative aspects of some Page Three models' lives, including addiction to drugs and involvement in abusive relationships.
While editors of The Sun have always vigorously defended Page Three from external criticism, they have themselves periodically considered eliminating the feature from the newspaper. During her tenure as the newspaper's deputy editor, Rebekah Wade had argued (on economic, rather than feminist, grounds) that printing topless photographs on Page Three harmed the newspaper's circulation by offending women readers. When she became the tabloid's first female editor on January 13, 2003, she was widely expected either to terminate Page Three or to modify it so that the models would no longer appear topless. However, she decided to retain the feature unchanged. Wade later wrote an editorial defending the feature against its critics, calling Page Three models "intelligent, vibrant young women who appear in The Sun out of choice and because they enjoy the job."
The Sun and other British tabloids have also provoked controversy by featuring girls as young as sixteen as topless models. Samantha Fox, Maria Whittaker, Debee Ashby, and many others began their topless modelling careers in The Sun at the age of sixteen, while the Daily Sport was even known to count down the days until it could feature a teenage girl topless on her sixteenth birthday, as it did with Linsey Dawn McKenzie in 1994 and Cherry Dee in 2003, among others. Although such photographs were legally permissible in the United Kingdom under the Protection of Children Act 1978, critics noted the irony of Murdoch's Sun and News of the World newspapers calling for stricter laws on the sexual abuse of minors, including the public identification of released pedophiles, while publishing topless photographs of girls whom many other jurisdictions would legally classify as underage minors. Controversy over these young models was effectively resolved when the Sexual Offences Act 2003 extended legal prohibitions on indecent photography to any minor under the age of eighteen.
Canadian tabloid newspapers in the Sun Media chain such as the Toronto Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Ottawa Sun, Calgary Sun, and Edmonton Sun feature a daily "Sunshine Girl", usually on page three (in fact, the Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton Suns have permanently moved the Sunshine Girl to the sports section; while the Sunshine Girl is a daily feature, the Sunshine Boy feature only appears sporadically). The full-page, full-colour photo is of a woman in tight, revealing clothing, lingerie, or a swimsuit. In 2000, the Toronto Sun moved the photo off page three and into the last pages of the issue, or into the sports section.
The American supermarket tabloid Weekly World News regularly featured a bikini-clad "Page 5" girl. Yes! Weekly, a local on-line and print publication in Greensboro, North Carolina, features Page 3 talent sometimes featuring men as well as women. FOCUS weekly entertainment paper in Hickory, NC, began featuring a Page 3 girl decades ago. Founder John Tucker did this as an homage to the British tabloid THE SUN, as well as in appreciation for women of all types, sizes and ages.
The Indian newspaper "Mid-Day" features pictures of models (mostly in bikinis), known as Mid-Day Mates.
The Mexican newspaper "Ovaciones" features a topless model on Page 3. Other newspapers as "La Prensa", "El Metro", "El Universal Grafico" also include photographs of female glamour models, sometimes topless.
The popular Chilean newspaper "La Cuarta" features every Friday a section named "La Bomba 4", in which a voluptuous girl appears topless.