Kate Upton, a 19-year-old swimwear model, is your 2012 Sports Illustrated cover girl this year, and seemingly everyone has an opinion on her. Although the magazine’s cover model always makes news, it’s been a while since an issue has provoked such polarizing opinions: Fans of Upton will defend her fiercely, while her detractors have slung some vicious insults.

It’s not just bodysnarking or the annual feminist outcry against SI’s objectification of women — some of Upton’s harshest critics come from within the fashion industry. See why the new “it” girl inspires such praise and demerit.

Model Kate Upton graces the cover of the Sports Illustrated 2012 Swimsuit Issue. (Walter Iooss JR/AP)


Both men and women love her “real body”: Upton represents a move back toward the Cindy Crawford-style curvier supermodel, and away from the super-svelte sunken-cheekbone type that has been walking runways in recent years. And for that, men and women love her. “I hope she represents a new/retro standard in modeling. She’s hot. She’s a cheese steak sandwich compared to the desiccated beef jerky we’re being force fed,’ said one commenter on The Gloss. When a post on The Dirty called her fat, commenters immediately jumped to Upton’s defense: “She is not fat, she is a completely normal (thank God, she’s not anorexic)!” said one. “It’s refreshing to see some models with a more normal body, as it is crazy how thin most of them are! It is not healthy to be that thin!”

She’s a self-made star: Upton is her own publicity machine, posting videos of herself on YouTube and tweeting to her 180,000 followers on Twitter. According to the New York Times, one of the contributing factors to Upton being signed to IMG was a YouTube video of her doing the Dougie.

She wants to be a Tyra Banks-style ‘modelpreneur’: It’s not enough to be a pretty face these days — models must nab endorsement deals and launch their own products to have staying power and move into Tyra Banks/Heidi Klum territory. Upton knows that business smarts are one of the most important assets a model can have, and she’s starting early: She’s already arranged a swimwear collaboration and multiple endorsement deals. At only 19 years old, she’s competing on a different level than other models of her peer group. On the “Today” show, she mentioned that she admired Kathy Ireland for landing the cover of Forbes.


She’s not high-fashion: That’s an allegation by Sophia Neophitou, casting director for Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, who said the brand would never use Upton on the runway because she is “too obvious.” She told the New York Times, “She’s like a Page 3 girl,” Neophitou said, referring to the scantily clad voluptuous women featured in the Sun, a London tabloid. “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.” (That day, Erik Wemple noted with glee that a bikini-clad photo of Upton appeared on the New York Times’ Page 3.)

Her celebrity dating life makes her tabloid fodder: Upton has been linked to New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and Kanye West, though she has denied dating both. Upton’s tabloid life means she risks being overexposed in more than just a too-tiny bikini sort of way. And speaking of that bikini ...

That teeny bikini kind of icks women out: The cover takes the idea of a Brazilian bikini to a whole new level, with bottoms that are “really more of an eyepatch, actually — so disturbingly small and low,” wrote Cassie Murdoch in Jezebel. “Surely, they could have sprung for an extra centimeter or two of bikini fabric for one of the biggest magazine covers of the year.”Certainly, the ability to wear unnaturally small bikini bottoms has not endeared Upton to women. A CafeMom commenter wrote, “What bikini? That’s barely a pantiliner!”