Sports Illustrated gave fans quite the Valentine’s Day treat when it revealed the 2017 swimsuit issue cover girl, Kate Upton, on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Shot by photographer Yu Tsai in Fiji, fans will have three cover shots of the gorgeous Upton to choose from: One of her in a barely there macramé number (where she uses her hand as a top), one in a pair of white bottoms with a sparkly silver jacket, and a final shot of Upton in gold chains, once again using her hand to cover up. Apparently, bikini tops are in scarce supply in Fiji.
“This is the biggest deal in all of modeling, right?” Kimmel asked Upton when she took a seat on the couch next to him. “Is there anything bigger than the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?”
“Not for me!” exclaimed the model.
Believe it or not, the 24-year-old didn’t know that she had landed the cover until Monday … and even then, she had no idea what cover the magazine had picked.
“When did they tell you that you were going to be on the cover of the magazine?” Kimmel asked. “Because as I understand, this is a very secretive thing.”
Related: Watch Kate Upton Play Hide and Seek in Lingerie
“They’re very difficult to read,” Upton — who is engaged to Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander — told him. “They just completely ghost you. They just don’t ever talk to you at all. You’re, like, texting, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Is there an SI launch? Are we going to announce anything?’ And then they finally gave me a call yesterday.”
Kimmel joked with Upton that there are probably a bunch of angry women right now, but Upton assured him none of the angry women were swimsuit models.
Upton is particularly proud to be featured on the cover of this year’s issue, as its theme is body diversity and age inclusion. “To have an issue that focuses on that is really an amazing moment for me, because I think it’s important for everyone to be the best they can be, but not to strive to be a company or industry’s idea of perfect,” Upton tells Sports Illustrated. “For SI to emphasize every different type of perfect is really inspiring. Those are the campaigns I want to do and the career I want to have — to inspire women to love themselves.”
Sports Illustrated is equally pleased to be featuring Upton on its cover for the third time.
Though she started modeling for such brands as Dooney & Bourke and Guess, Upton shot to fame thanks to her first appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue back in 2011. She was named Rookie of the Year, and went on to grace the covers of the 2012 and 2013 issues. From there, her star exploded.
Related: See More Photos From the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
“We didn’t start off with the idea of three covers, regardless of who was on the cover,” explained SI swimsuit editor MJ Day of the 2017 edition. “But when Kate was actually shooting, we were trying so many different looks on her and each photo was coming back just as great as the next.”
Day continued, “It’s a full circle moment for us. We started Kate in her career, and you know, we watched her grow and become not only this worldwide, superstar phenomenon; she changed the direction of the modeling industry. Kate Upton was really this trailblazer that lead the way for the Ashley Grahams of the world and everything you’re seeing happen that’s different in fashion right now.”
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