The Only Way Is Upton

The Only Way Is Upton

from Catalogs To Commercials To Cover-only Mandates For Top Fashion Bibles, The Ascent Of Kate Upton Has Been Anything But Ordinary. Now, Set To Appear Alongside Cameron Diaz And Leslie Mann In This Spring's Revenge Comedy The Other Woman, The First Supermodel To Become A Household Name In A Decade Is Bracing Herself For Hollywood Stardom. Only In America

from Catalogs To Commercials To Cover-only Mandates For Top Fashion Bibles, The Ascent Of Kate Upton Has Been Anything But Ordinary. Now, Set To Appear Alongside Cameron Diaz And Leslie Mann In This Spring's Revenge Comedy The Other Woman, The First Supermodel To Become A Household Name In A Decade Is Bracing Herself For Hollywood Stardom. Only In America

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Nicola Formichetti

Text: Horacio Silva

Kate Upton may be one of the most desirable women on the planet, a crossover star who has successfully made the leap from the salt mines of modeling to the high-fashion arena, but don’t hate her because she is beautiful.

As Upton explains, with made-for-talk-show candor that belies her usual perky self, catalog modeling is not as easy as it appears, and her journey from nowhere to everywhere has come at a price.

Sort of. “I now suffer from Catalog Tourette’s,” says the 21-year-old Michigan-born sexplosion, in a cheeky attempt at deadpan that quickly dissolves into a hearty chortle. “I can switch a pose like it’s no one’s business,” she adds, with accompanying sorta-kinda-maybe vogueing moves. “As soon as I hear a camera click, I’m on. I tell you, it’s a serious nervous condition.”

We are sitting by the pool on the rooftop of Soho House in New York’s Meatpacking District, and Upton, virtually unrecognizable in clothes, let alone regulation Frockville black (Givenchy and Barbara Bui, for the record), is clearly in a playful mood.

The thought of her having a Pavlovian response to the sound of a camera is amusing (no wonder she claims to be uninterested in click-click-click runway work). But to spend time with the personable Upton is to know that even when she is writhing around in the backseat of a convertible Cadillac for a Carl’s Jr. Super Bowl commercial that was so hot it was banned, she is still very serious about her hotter-than-Hades career.

“Kate has an incredible joie de vivre,” says Ivan Bart, the starmaker at IMG who took a risk with Upton and her Marilyn Monroe–esque brand of All-American glamour when no one else would. “She walks into a room and she kills it—some can and some can’t. People tend to focus on how bubbly she is, but she is also extremely ambitious.”

By Upton’s own reckoning there was never any Plan B, and the idea to go into modeling full-time, hatched as a 15-year-old obsessed with the charter members of the Swimsuit Sisterhood of Cindy, Nikki, Heidi, and Co., was hers alone. (The only condition set by Upton’s “ridiculously supportive” mother, Shelley, was that she had to finish her high school degree online with a view to attending college.)

Even before she decided, at 18, to hightail it to New York, because things weren’t moving fast enough in her adopted Florida, she made sure to do her homework. “My life isn’t as manufactured as people think,” she offers, in between sips of coffee. “I have dreams and I express them. But it’s a business and you have to be a good observer if you want to do your job properly.” For the starry-eyed newbie this meant assiduously poring over magazines and videos and memorizing the poses and pouts of her favorite models. And if she doesn’t possess Tyra Banks’s 275 trademark smiles or Coco Rocha’s ability to seemingly conjure every couture pose in the book, then so be it.

“I don’t compare myself with other models,” Upton says, sitting upright, her perfect posture betraying years of competitive horseback riding. (According to Upton mythology, she holds five world titles.) “For me, modeling is really about competing with yourself, becoming the best you can be. But the truth is that I can’t do facial expressions like Coco and others do. If I pull a goofy face, it doesn’t look cute; I look like a dying animal. But I guess someone likes what I am doing.”

No kidding. Since the curvaceous cutie first burst onto the scene, in 2011, with a multi-platform attack that included hijacking social media with her “Dougie” tutorials, her high-fashion debut—by photographer Sebastian Faena and famed editor Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, in the pages of this magazine—and landing the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover (twice), she has become the fashion industry’s new certified superdupermodel.

“She has global appeal,” says Nicola Formichetti, who styled her for this shoot. “To me, she is more than fashion. She puts the clothes on and she’s still Kate. In fashion we try to force these head-to-toe looks on the girls and turn them into these characters, but she is always Kate. It’s actually very rare, and only the supermodels transcend fashion in that way. It’s almost like she’s an actress. She’s an actress playing a model.”

Now, with her supporting role in this April’s The Other Woman, a latter-day First Wives Club revenge comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann, Upton is set to show off her acting chops and further insinuate herself into the collective consciousness.

“I was completely out of my league,” she says of her three months on set with her more established costars. “I make no bones about it. But I just listened and paid attention. Cameron and Leslie were the most amazingly friendly and helpful people—very inspiring. It sounds hokey, but it was a dream come true for me to work with them on my first real movie.”

Upton, who previously had cameos in Tower Heist and The Three Stooges, the latter of which incensed some Catholics because she posed as a nun in a bikini, has no delusions of being tapped to play Hedda Gabler anytime soon.

A straight shooter if ever there was one, she is more than aware that her formidable bod, not her delivery, is the focus of worldwide attention—particularly her D-cup breasts, which could well have a SAG card of their own.

“Ah, the ladies,” she says, looking down at her cleavage with devil-may-care abandon. “Everyone brings them up, so I have to have something to call them.” Although she is the beneficiary of the positive buzz that social media can bestow, Upton claims to be more than a little embarrassed by some of the attention she and the ladies receive online: a recent video posted on YouTube featuring 10 hours of her bajoingles bouncing up and down in slow motion has received approximately two million views (and counting).

“Not to offend anyone,” she explains, “but in my opinion that’s the downside of the job. Having grown up in Florida, where you practically live in a bikini, you don’t think that when you go out to the beach that people are going to do that. It’s a little embarrassing, but you have to learn to get over it. Although I think I have gotten to a place where I don’t let the Internet control my emotions.”

While she can deal with the virtual gaze of her mammary-obsessed male fan base, one barb from the X-chromosome camp managed to get under her skin. In an interview last year with the New York Times, an influential editor who consults for Victoria’s Secret was quoted as saying that she would never consider using Upton in the televised spectacular because her all-American looks were too infra dig for the purveyor of push-up bras and seductive lifestyle fragrances.

“You have to remember that I was 19 when she said that,” explains Upton, “and I had just gotten my cover ofSports Illustrated that day. Literally that day. So it didn’t really affect me at first. But it did in the end, because I wasn’t used to that kind of media swirl at all. I had never met her, so it really came out of nowhere. It was my introduction to being in the spotlight and having people you’ve never met have an opinion of you.”

Upton and the ladies are not going anytime soon, especially now that she is doing the cha-cha-cha with Maksim Chmerkovskiy from Dancing With The Stars, a fact that she begrudgingly confirms, with an uncharacteristically guarded, economical “yes” and a nervous smile.

Maybe it’s a result of her recent media training—which she takes with a pinch of sodium chloride, preferring instead to rely on advice from her “competitive, but grounded” family—or perhaps it’s the result of her years as a champion rider, but she appears ready for any coming battles.

At the recent FGI Fashion Awards in New York, Upton presented to Carine Roitfeld, who featured her on the cover of the inaugural issue of her namesake magazine, CR Fashion Book (thanks to a gentle suggestion from Bruce Weber). She won over the fashion power-player audience when she thanked the legendary Roitfeld for actually featuring her in clothes. But don’t expect her to be covering up as a matter of course. Kate Upton has a slamming body and doesn’t care who knows or sees it.

“You know what,” Upton says. “I recognize that some things are out of my control, but the way I deal with those situations largely defines who I am. So I really want to be a good example for women. I think that women today go through that level of scrutiny every single day. We put so much pressure on ourselves, but I want women to see that you don’t have to do these crash diets. You can eat healthy, be healthy, and be the best you can be.”

Safe to assume, then, that no one these days tells her to eat less because she has a big gig coming up. “Are you kidding?” she asks incredulously. “I tell myself that all the time! Sometimes I listen and sometimes I regret not listening, but it’s all right. There are moments all the time in my life, whether it’s my time of the month or I’ve been traveling a lot, where I don’t look my best. It happens, but it’s not life-ending, and I think that’s what people have to realize.”

Credits: Makeup Aaron De Mey for Sephora (Art Partner)  Hair Shay Ashual (Tim Howard Management)  Model Kate Upton (IMG)    Manicure Deborah Lippmann (The Magnet Agency)  Creative movement director Stephen Galloway (theCollectiveShift)  Lighting director Jodokus Driessen  Digital technician Brian Anderson  Photo assistant Joe Hume  Stylist assistant Sean Nguyen  Makeup assistant Tayler Treadwell  Hair assistant Taichi Saito  Production Stephanie Bargas and Lauren Pistoia (theCollectiveShift)  VLM studio manager Marc Kroop  VLM print producer Jeff Lepine  Retouching Stereohorse  Location Pier 59 Studios, NY  Catering Smile to Go


HBD, Lara Stone