LONDON: She is the curvy blonde who has taken the modelling world by storm.
In less than a year Kate Upton has burst out of nowhere to become the most talked about model in the world, reported British daily the Sun on Saturday.
She has graced the cover of the swimsuit edition of Sport Illustrated and been the face — and body — of the Guess label.
And the 20-year-old beauty was in the spotlight again this week when One Direction babe magnet Harry Styles caught her eye.
Sun readers voted her bum the best in the world in an online poll earlier this year — and her 36D-25-34 body will help her to become the most famous supermodel of the next decade.
But until she was 16, the American star had set her sights on becoming a professional horsewoman. She even won five national championships.
And when she was not mucking out her horses, she was on the beach in her bikini with her friends.
One pal said: “Kate was just fun to be around, a real outdoors girl. She would hang out on the beach all weekend.”
The model herself revealed: “I grew up riding horses, so for the majority of my life I was either in boots and jeans or a bathing suit.”
Kate grew up in the coastal city of Melbourne, Florida, on her family’s five-acre estate. Her former classmates at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy remember her as a stunning teenager.
One said: “Kate was always a stand-out. You only have to look at her yearbook photo to see how pretty she was.
“She attracted a lot of attention, even more so when she started to fill out with her figure. People really noticed her then.
“The nice thing about Kate was that she was always so happy. She would always be smiling and was just so nice to be around. I never heard anyone say anything nasty about her.”
Another classmate added: “Kate was very pretty but wasn’t the girl that all the guys wanted to date. If you saw her in a bikini now, you wouldn’t take your eyes off her.
“But back in school she did not rate a second glance. There were far prettier girls.”
Yet despite her cheerleader looks, Kate was not that interested in boys.
Her best friend, Kelsey Dowdy, 19, said: “There was one boy who she dated briefly who lived in our road — but Kate’s real love was horses.
“She was also very good at doing make-up and hair and always looked so good when we would go out to dances. Boys were definitely interested in her but Kate wasn’t that bothered.”
Everyone started to take notice when Kate turned 16 and her body developed.
A family friend said: “Kate really did just develop these huge boobs out of nowhere.
“One week she had a modest bust and the next she was bursting out of her T-shirts. Her mum used to joke about there being something in the water in Melbourne.
“Kate wasn’t embarrassed about her shape and embraced it. She would wear T-shirts that showed off her cleavage. She was always very confident and not shy, so she could carry it off. She had a growth spurt and with her new body looked absolutely amazing. A real knockout.”
Kate has admitted being envious of some of the other girls at her Catholic school.
She said: “When I was in junior high I used to be made fun of for being flat-chested. Everyone would go, ‘She’s not pretty. She doesn’t have boobs.’
“So I always had boob envy. And when I finally went through my growth spurt and they appeared I just loved them. That’s why I like boobs, because I didn’t have them, then I got ’em.”
Kate told one interviewer that she faced a backlash from school friends once she started modelling. By then she had developed into a 5ft 10in beauty with 36D boobs.
She said: “Girls in high school are just bitches, in all honesty. The minute I started modelling, the girls were like, ‘Oh, she’s a model — we can’t be friends with her any more.’
“I was like, ‘What?’ Then I was fine. Friends can come and go.”
Kate was born in Michigan but her parents Jeff and Shelley moved her, sisters Christie and Laura and brother David to Melbourne when she was six.
When she was 16 she left school, with her parents’ permission, to try to make it as a model while her mum gave her home tuition.
But it was not until a video of her dancing in the stands at a basketball game in LA was posted on YouTube that her career took off.
A scout from the famous IMG agency spotted it and signed her up close to her 18th birthday. Within a year she was named as the cover model for Sports Illustrated magazine’s famous annual swimwear edition. She was suddenly the girl everyone in America was talking about.
She landed a bit part in the movie Tower Heist, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. And when she played a nun in a skimpy bikini in comedy The Three Stooges this year Catholics were outraged.
But she is proud to be famous for being curvy. She said: “My body is something that you have to work out and eat healthily for.
“I’m not doing drugs or not eating. I want to enjoy life and I can’t be enjoying life if I’m miserable and not eating.”
With such a sudden rise to fame, it is not surprising that Kate has attracted criticism.
Sophia Neophitou, who casts the models for Victorian’s Secret lingerie fashion shows, said: “She’s like a footballer’s wife, with too-blonde hair and the kind of face that anyone with enough money can buy.”
Pro-anorexia groups also have attacked her for having “floppy boobs” and “huge thighs”. But IMG agent Ivan Bart hit back, saying: “Kate is bigger than fashion.”
There are certainly no complaints from her fans. She has nearly half a million followers on Twitter.
And fashion labels are crying out for her talent — she is expected to earn more than £2million this year.
Things really are shaping up nicely.