Name: Katherine Elizabeth Upton
DOB: 10 June 1992
Place of Birth: St. Joseph, Michigan, USA
Ms. Upton, in the past three years you have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Vogue, GQ, Esquire, V, ELLE, and even the 100th anniversary issue of Vanity Fair. Why do you think you can sell magazines?
I am the target audience. I’m 21 and I love fashion and I feel like a normal girl – at least to a certain extent. I think that people can relate to me.
Because you are not the typical overly-skinny model that is normally on magazine covers these days?
Yeah, most of the time the model is retouched and too skinny and other women get depressed by it. But really, that model who is being retouched and is too skinny is depressed as well.
Because she doesn’t look like that photo either! It’s not realistic for that model or that woman reading the magazine to think she should look like that. I love my body and I feel very confident with where I am and who I am as a person.
Was it always like that?
No, at first it was terrible! But then I got inspired by other women being inspired by me. Seeing that other women went through that as well made me stronger. I wanted to inspire them by going through it and making it out the other end. Everybody goes through hard times, regardless whether they didn’t get the job that they wanted or if they are being criticized for their body, so I think they can relate to that and people are rooting for me. Me being criticized is more on a global level, but it still hurts just as much for any girl if she’s at school being criticized or at work being criticized.
Even though the fashion industry has celebrated you and put you on their biggest covers, you still haven’t been in an advertising campaign for one of the big high fashion brands. Normally if you shoot an Italian Vogue cover with Steven Meisel, high fashion clients are lining up to work with you.
Well, you’d be surprised how many offers I actually do get in fashion campaigns, but I unfortunately have to say no because my career is moving at such a rapid pace. I want to hit all the top things. I want Italian Vogue with Steven Meisel, but I can’t do all of the other things because I also want to shoot a movie. You think you can do it all. I’m traveling everywhere and I’m trying to do everything and I can’t. But I feel like the fashion world has welcomed me and nobody is scared of me.
But the campaigns you are in are definitely more on the commercial side.
I think that sometimes I take more commercial brands because I want it to be affordable. Not because I’m trying to plan it out, but because I used to be in a situation where I couldn’t afford the really amazing expensive clothes and I want to show people that there are fashionable clothes out there for affordable prices. And now I’m in a position where I have a voice to lead people in the right direction.
Is your voice also the reason why you have stayed away from being photographed naked? Being shot nude by great fashion photographers is very common among famous models like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Lara Stone.
For me those photos are art. Your body is art, your body is beautiful, and to be photographed in that way is amazing and it’s received in a very positive way. But with social media and the Internet and not so great blogs and the attention like that, I don’t think that my pictures would be received in the way that I’d want them to be received. That’s why I’ve stayed away from them. I really appreciate those photos and I think those women are beautiful and I think a woman's body is beautiful, but I think social media and the Internet have prevented me from putting myself out there like that.
How does a 21-year-old deal with the fact that a good part of the world refers to her as a bombshell?
It’s where I’ve started and it’s what I’ve accomplished, so I’m happy about it. But the more my career grows, I think that people will see that I have a lot more to offer and a lot more to give, but I want to do it right and that’s why it’s taking me time. I’m patient about it. Now it’s out of my hands – it has kind of been rolling on its own – but at the beginning I was micromanaging every little step. For example, I felt that my agency before wasn’t helping me in the direction I wanted to go, so I approached IMG myself. I always had in my mind where I should be at a certain stage.
Even as a teenager?
I started modeling at a young age, at 15, but before that I was doing competitive horseback riding and my mom always encouraged me to take things into my own hands. She told me that I’m in charge of my career and in charge of my success. I dealt with a lot of things in the horseback riding industry and I took that knowledge and put it into modeling. I think having success in horseback riding at a young age showed me that success is possible at a young age. A lot of agents say, “Wait for your time, wait for your time,” but I believe in creating your own time. Also, because many models are so young, agents speak to them in a very intimidating way and bully them into doing things, but I’m not one to be bullied.