When Kate Upton's GQ cover hit this morning, we're sure ours weren't the only jaws to drop. There are few models who look (or move!) like Kate. Likewise, there are few models who have enjoyed such a meteoric rise to fame and success.
But make no mistake: Upton is by no means just a benefactor of good luck (or bountiful breasts). She's very much a star of her own making, and her career decisions--starting with the fateful day she posted that Dougie video to YouTube--have helped her carve out an image and public following that is truly unlike any other model: She managed to parlay a popular YouTube clip to propel her ho-hum modeling career into the supermodel stratosphere, becoming a favorite of fashionistas like Katie Grand and Carine Roitfeld and lad mags alike. Taking cues from reality TV, she plays up her blond bombshell, sometimes even ditzy, personality with a wink--and now she's poised to become a household name.
So how exactly did she do it? Read on for a look at the ups and downs of Upton's career--and how she harness the power of social media to ensure she'd be more than just a good set of you-know-whats.
Kate Gets Discovered
Kate got her start at a Miami casting call for Elite Model Management in 2008, who signed her that same day. Her first major gig was modeling for Garage, but it would seem the internet has been scrubbed of all proof that ever happened. After moving to New York, however, Kate made the switch from Elite to IMG.
Lands Her First Major Campaigns
Switching agencies worked out well for Kate, who landed major ad campaigns with Dooney & Bourke and Guess in 2010. While the two were unquestionably directionally different, they proved that Kate has the ability to be successful commercially. And obviously, the Guess campaign opened the floodgates of sexy, bombshell images Kate would soon become known for.
Becomes a YouTube Star
Ah, the Dougie. In spring 2011, a seemingly innocent and fun video of Kate teaching us how to Dougie at a L.A. Clippers game soon went viral. It's now at just over 7 million views - and we're not convinced that all of those people were trying to learn how to Dougie. She established that she had a personality (and that she might look even better in motion - just sayin'). For Kate, this was the game changer.
Lands a Gig Modeling for Victoria's Secret's Catalog--But Not the Runway Show
With all those dangerous curves, you would think Kate would make a perfect Angel (of the Victoria's Secret variety, anyway). And when she stripped down to her skivvies for their catalogue, the internet rejoiced to see a lingerie model with a body that deviated from the size 0 norm. But then Sophia Neophitou, casting director for the Victoria's Secret fashion show, said “We would never use her. She’s like a footballer’s wife, with the too-blond hair and that kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy.” Bet Neophitou is kicking herself now.
Is Named Rookie of the Year in Sports Illustrated
When you've got all that body, and Victoria's Secret doesn't want you, what's a girl to do? The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, duh. Her first appearance in the magazine was in 2011, wearing body paint and being hailed as their "Rookie of the Year." Upton, the man magnet had officially arrived.
Kate solidified her place as an up-and-coming swimwear model by walking the runway at Miami Fashion Week for Beach Body Swimwear. Doesn't she make a beautiful bikinied bride, y'all?!
Playing Up the Bombshell Angle
Men couldn't get enough of Kate, so she soon graced the pages of Esquire as their "Woman of the Summer" in 2011, and of Complex, while milking a cow (half naked, as one does). Kate has no problem playing into the stereotypical bombshell tropes--a trait that would lead her to bigger and better opportunities, and delineate her from the typical name-less bikini model.
Covers Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition
To go from "Rookie of the Year" to "Cover Girl," in just one year's time, as Kate did when she landed the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in February 2012 is impressive, and people in the fashion industry started to take notice. The Dougie may have helped her land the covetable gig, but now that Upton had the international and mainstream media's attention, her star quickly began to rise. And fast.
Kate Goes High Fashion
Fashion came calling in 2012. Kate appeared on the cover of Muse and in that spring's issue of V, both photographed by Sebastian Faena. It was smart - though there's just no hiding that body (and who would want to?), Kate proved she could be as high fashion as the rest of them. She was also styled by Katie Grand in Prada for the book to accompany the Met's Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations exhibit, and walked in Carine Roitfeld's amfAR fashion show in Cannes.
Lands the Cover of Esquire
Only Kate Upton can take our attention away from Jon Hamm in a suit, and that's exactly what she did on the gatefold cover of Esquire this past March.
Joins Forces With Terry Richardson to Dominate the Internet
Upton and Richardson are a match made in heaven--when it comes to their work anyway. Upton's boobilciousness and tongue-in-cheek raunchiness make the 19-year-old model the perfect subject for Richardson, while the influential photographer has helped expose Upton to the more high fashion scene (see: the Harper's Bazaar shoot they did together) and to a more downtown-y audience. When Richardson posted a video of Upton doing the Cat Daddy, the internet went nuts (and we mean NUTS). Shortly after that, Richardson posted photos of a very, um, exposed Upton and again they went viral. It's clear these two are onto something, and we expect them to continue working with one another for a long time.
Hits the Red Carpet in Style
Upton wowed on the red carpet in Michael Kors at the Met Ball and at Cannes amFAR Gala red carpet (where she also participated in that all-black runway), proving that she's just as comfortable in couture as in a bikini.
Develops Her Persona with Onscreen Appearances
One of the reasons why Upton gets away with being who she is--and looking the way she does--while still coming off likable and approachable, even to female fans, is because she doesn't take herself too seriously. Appearances on SNL, Letterman and Tosh.0 made it clear that Upton is not above laughing at herself. In fact, she embraces the whole ditzy bombshell persona, playing it up to comedic proportions, much like iconic bombshells Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield did before her.
More Commercial Success
Upton already proved that she could move magazines--and women's fashion--but her commercials for Carl's JR and Zoo York showed she could achieve commercial success in a variety of product categories. Also notable: As opposed to her work for Guess and Dooney & Burke, where Upton is a nameless model, here she is so much more than just a pretty face (and hot bod): She's Kate Upton, the model personality.
Scores Two Acting Gigs
While it took big-name models like Gisele years to land onscreen cameos, like everything else, she's accomplished Upton proved she could get it done faster. Given these two roles--one as a mistress in Tower Heist, another as a swimsuit-clad nun in Three Stooges--were small, but we have a feeling they're only the beginning. Upton's made it a priority to turn herself into a personality, not just a model, and that definitely lends itself to the screen.
Kate Designs Swimwear for Beach Bunny
Kate has only been on the scene for three years, but she's already on her way to model moguldom!