It’s not like Kate Upton wasn’t noticed before That Dance on the interwebs. The teenage model’s career was setting up nicely with her first appearance on the inside pages of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue last year – the magazine named her rookie of the year – and photo shoots with Guess and Victoria’s Secret.
But after her SI debut, she became an Internet sensation, fueled in part by buzz from the 2011 edition and social media – and, yes, by the YouTube video that has taught about 3 million people how to do her version of the Dougie.
Upton, 19, is now on the cover of SI's 2012 swimsuit edition, which hit stands Tuesday. As The New York Times has noted, her quick path to one of modeling's coveted achievements seems to have been facilitated by the fame she achieved in short order on the Web.
Exhibit A is the Dougie video, which hit the Web last spring, just weeks after her first swimsuit issue appearance. Upton was in the stands at a Los Angeles Clippers game when the Cali Swag District song "Teach Me How to Dougie" started playing. With ESPNLA.com writer Arash Markazi manning a camera, Upton started dancing in her seat.
In an interview with SI.com last year, she recalled that she knew the song from working out to it, but a friend had just showed her a way to dance to it the previous night.
"The song came on, I did it and I didn't even plan on it being on Twitter. And so to see it being that big of a hit, I said, 'Oh wow, I must do it really well,'" Upton told SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
Well enough to catch the attention of millions of new fans, apparently. Markazi posted the video to TwitVid, collecting a modest 364,000 hits. The video made it to YouTube on April 3, and has since gotten 3.2 million views.
Ivan Bart of IMG Models said he signed Upton shortly after the video appeared, despite concerns from others at the agency that she "wasn't 'fashion' enough," The New York Times reported. Her profile has continued to rise with further modeling jobs. Last month, AskMen put her at No. 2 on its "Top 99 Most Desirable Women of 2012."
Upton's deft use of Twitter (did you see her spat with hockey pro Sean Avery?) and the proliferation of her provocative pictures through the same outlet (and Tumblr) also has helped her take the fast road to fame.
Upton, born in Michigan (she's a niece of Michigan’s U.S. Rep. Fred Upton) but raised in Florida, was a former competitive equestrian who says she started modeling seriously after she turned 15, when someone signed her after an open call in Miami.
Making the swimsuit edition’s cover is “unreal,” she told SI.
“To me it means so much, because I grew up looking at all the Sports Illustrated models and admiring all of them, being in a sports-fanatic family,” she said in a video posted after the cover was released. “I know everyone talks about how it’s such a boost to your career, but it means a lot to me, personally.”