Kate Upton

Leaves Her Mark 

Kate Upton is an iconic American supermodel for more than just her beach blonde waves and beautiful curves. She was one of the first supermodels to take off via social media, and also one of the first to break out of the restraints of unfair body size measurements that were dominating the industry. With her confident demeanor and upbeat personality, Upton is still one of the most loved models today, but she didn’t get there without lots of determination, and an unwillingness to fail.

Upton, born in St. Joseph, Michigan, but raised in Melbourne, Florida, didn’t necessarily always have modeling on her mind. Instead, her passion was at first horseback riding! She began taking lessons at a young age, and by eight years old she was already participating in shows. A year later, she began to show in American Paint Horse Association shows as a youth exhibitor and won three Reserve World Championships with her horse, Roanie. “I’m actually an equestrian… [I] competed for top 20 in the nation… I grew up around horses, and that really is my passion,” Upton revealed.

Kate had never really considered modeling until she was scouted at age 12 while leaving a horse show. However, due to her young age, her mother thought that it might be too soon to allow her daughter into the industry. She continued her equestrian endeavors until 2008, at age 15, when she decided to attend a casting call in Miami for Elite Model Management, where she was signed the same day. After a few small shoots, she decided that if she wanted to make it big she had to move to the Big Apple. In 2010, she moved to New York City and signed with IMG Models, which ended up being one of the best moves of her career. That same year, she managed to snag ad campaigns with Dooney & Burke and Guess; they loved her mole above her lip, and her megawatt smile that would soon become her trademark.

The following year, Kate unintentionally made a major change to her career. While at an L.A. Clippers game with some friends, the then upcoming model decided to dance to a song that was playing over the loud speaker; the song happened to be an extremely popular one at the time: “Teach Me How to Dougie” by Cali Swag District. Her friends filmed her as she laughed at her own dance moves and had fun moving to the famous track. Without even thinking about it, she uploaded it to YouTube, and the views began to steadily climb until they were over seven million! The video showed her goofy personality in a way that couldn’t be expressed through pictures, giving people another reason to love the model besides her gorgeous looks. Before social media, it would be increasingly hard for a model to gain attention and make it big, but now, with the option to show the world your personality online, it became easier to make yourself more marketable. This was the case for Upton, who soon began to build a fan base centered around the video. Her Instagram following grew and grew (She has 6 million today), as fans came to love her blonde bombshell persona.

“For a long time, fashion has been going to celebrities,” Upton explains, “Celebrities are on the magazine covers, and nobody wanted models. But why not have a model celebrity? Why not a girl who comes with her own following?”

Soon after the Dougie video went viral and her star began to rise, Upton found herself being featured as “Rookie of the Year” in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in 2011. Relying heavily on her voluptuous figure, the magazine featured Upton as their newly crowned “Rookie” with nothing but a bikini on and body paint to cover her upper half. Thus, the new swimsuit model, sex icon Upton, was born. She was soon using her sexy, Marilyn Monroe type image to her advantage by accepting features in Esquire as “Woman of the Summer” and in Complex, where she posed as a scantily clad farm girl.

The next year, Kate was able to land the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, where she appeared in a red triangle bikini, posing seductively on the beach. Suddenly, everyone that didn’t know who Upton was, wanted to know, and her cover was widely talked about for weeks. It was almost unheard of for a model to go from “Rookie” to “Cover Star” in just a year, but thanks in part to YouTube, she was able to complete the “nearly impossible” task. Simultaneously, she was also finally recognized as a potential high fashion model, when she posed for the cover of both Muse, and V Magazine., as well as Vogue Italia and British Vogue, which came as a shock to people who didn’t see potential in the young model.

“People told me I couldn’t be fashion, that I’m just an old-fashioned body girl, only good for swimwear,” Upton revealed, “But I knew that I could bring back the supermodel.”

A few months later, Upton hit viral gold online once more when photographer Terry Richardson released a behind-the-scenes clip of her dancing. This time, it was to The Rej3ctz’s “Cat Daddy,” and in the video, she dances provocatively in a skimpy red triangle bikini, smiling and laughing as she does so. The Internet lit up in response, and the video has since been viewed more than 27 million times. By now, everyone knew who Upton was, and they loved her personality just as much as they loved her looks!

It wasn’t long before the big screen came calling, and Upton promptly answered. Her very first movie was a small part in Tower Heist (2011), but a year later she got a more notable role as one of the swimsuit wearing nuns in The Three Stooges.

In 2013, Sports Illustrated couldn’t ignore the explosive popularity of the blonde beauty, and so Upton became the Swimsuit Edition’s cover girl again for a second consecutive year. This time, the photoshoot took place in Antarctica, with Kate in a white bathing suit and fur-trimmed jacket; all she had to keep herself warm. After the swimsuit cover came even more opportunities. She was able to grace Vogue’s cover a third time, though this made her first U.S. cover. She was sporting a bathing suit, but a much more conservative one, with high heels and tussled blonde waves to complete her high-end look. In response to her new title as “Vogue material,” Kate also scored upscale fashion deals with David Yurman’s jewelry line, and Sam Edelman shoes, showing that she possessed flexibility in the industry. She had experienced exponential growth in just a couple of years; it usually takes models a long time to climb up the ladder like she had, and people were taking notice.

At the 10th Annual Style Awards, she walked the stage to accept her award for 2013’s “Model of the Year.” By the end of the year, she was accepting another honor: the cover of Vanity Fair for their 100th anniversary issue. On the cover, she channeled Marilyn Monroe, with bright red lipstick, stunning diamond earrings, and elegant, blonde side swept waves. She leans forward in a champagne body suit, holding out a tempting cake with a single candle on it.

In 2014, she dove back into the film industry, this time alongside Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann in The Other Woman, which focused on three women that get revenge on a man that had wronged them. She also returned to Sports Illustrated, but this time on the back cover of the Swimsuit Edition, as a special additional “double cover;” the first time the magazine had ever done something like it. That year, major changes in Upton’s life were also underway. She began dating Major League Baseball pitcher for the Houston Astros, Justin Verlander. After about a year and a half of dating, Verlander proposed while the two were on vacation in Turks and Caicos as they were on a boat at sunset; “[He] is very romantic,” Upton shares. Last year, in 2017, the two finally wed during a picturesque ceremony at the Rosewood Castiglion Del Bosco resort in Tuscany, Italy.

“I got to marry my best friend,” Kate exclaims, “He’s an amazing man. He’s so supportive and focused and motivated, and he inspires me every day. I’m so very lucky that he’s my husband.”

That same year, Upton starred in The Layover, about two friends who compete for the same man while their flight is being redirected. This was her biggest acting achievement yet! Upton shares that she would love to do more acting in the future, but it’s “not an easy industry.” As she works to build her momentum in acting, it’s clear that her modeling won’t ever slow down. She was also able to land her third Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover for 2017, and the editors loved the photographs so much that they printed three different covers with Kate on them! This third cover had put Upton among the greats (And at just 22!), as she joined the likes of Heidi Klum, Christie Brinkley, and Tyra Banks in the SI Swimsuit legends class.

In July of this year, Kate had a second huge announcement relating to her love life: She’s pregnant! Excited to share the news, she uploaded a photo to Instagram with the caption, “#PregnantInMiami,” causing surprise from fans everywhere! Congratulations were in order as Upton celebrated the big moment, but that didn’t mean that her career would have to slow down. A month before, she had appeared on the cover of Maxim, where they awarded her the #1 spot on their Maxim Hot 100 list of beautiful women. She posed in the sands of Israel, in various outfits, showing off her famous natural assets and that dazzling smile.

Upton has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time; from equestrian, to viral video star, to top-of-the-world supermodel, she has climbed a challenging mountain through hard work, intelligent marketing skills, and her radiating genuine personality. It’s clear that this supermodel has left her mark!

By Selene Rivera