Kate Upton Adds ‘Vogue’ Cover to Growing High-Fashion Credibility

Only a year ago, many doubted whether a social media sensation turned Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl had the chops to crack the Anna Wintour code

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Kate Upton’s June American Vogue cover is the latest feather in her high fashion cap. But only a year ago, many doubted whether  a social media sensation turned Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl had the chops to crack the Anna Wintour code. After all, Upton wasn’t even being considered for the Victoria’s Secret runway show at the time. “We would never use” her for a show, casting director Sophia Neophitou told The New York Times in February 2012. “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,” Neophitou added.

A little over a year later, Upton’s having the last laugh and showing some serious lasting power. After arriving on our radars in 2011, having been caught on tape by a friend dancing to Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie” (the video eventually gained 2 million views), Upton went on to grace the cover of the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in a barely-there bikini. Her star power quickly took off, and by year’s end, Upton had become the 6th most searched person on Google in the U.S. for 2012, thanks to not only said Sports Illustrated issue, but also to a couple of well-timed viral YouTube videos, including one where she’s dancing the Cat Daddy for photographer Terry Richardson (16 million views) in another super-skimpy bikini. The model is also a Vine addict and boasts nearly 940,000 Twitter followers (our unscientific guess is that most of them are men).

Despite her widespread reach, Upton has been attacked for her body, which is a healthy but slim size 4. When she was first brought to IMG Models, the company behind Gisele Bündchen, Heidi Klum, and Kate Moss, she was deemed “not high-fashion enough,” according to the Times. In the June Vogue cover story, Upton talks candidly about all the criticism people have wagered on her body. Referring to the anonymous online commenters who’ve called her “fat,” she told Vogue, “It was hard at first. You sit there and you’re like ‘Is something wrong with me?'” She continued, “The things that they’re rejecting are things that I can’t change. I can’t change my bra size. They’re natural! I can work out and I can stay healthy and motivated, but I can’t change some things.” For the cover, Mario Testino photographed Upton clad in a floral-print bathing suit, with her hair teased up in waves. She’s reminiscent of the curvier, all-American models from the 1980s—almost as though the Kate Moss waif era never happened.

Prior to the latest Vogue cover and editorial, Upton had already made leaps and bounds into high fashion, covering Vogue Italia, British Vogue, CR Fashion Book, French Elle and more. Now that she’s conquered the cover of fashion’s Bible, Upton’s looking beyond the modeling world: she’s slated to star along Cameron Diaz in a comedy called The Other Woman.