Why is Kate Upton creating so much noise? Look around. So many once-bedrock institutions up for grabs—newspapers, the Republican Party, our school system … and now the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, too? The S.I. swimsuit issue, though not of the same import as journalism or public education, was an institution we—or at least adolescent American boys— could count on, at least until Upton up and shook her bad self on the Internet.
There had always been a classic American rhythm to the whole S.I swimsuit deal. The issue would arrive in subscriber mailboxes on a bitter and cold February afternoon, back when February afternoons were always bitter and cold. Dad and son (or sons) would fight over first dibs, neither acknowledging their interest in the issue to the other. Mom would pretend not to notice the issue was in the house.
The similitude, oddly comforting, continued through the generations. Though the locations of the photo shoots would change (each location being more exotic than the last), the models were cut from the same template: lithe, distant, pouty … and did I say, lithe? The poses were consistent, too: a model caressing a palm tree, another bending over (wink, wink) to pick up a shell and the money shot: a model (or maybe two!) stretching sensually in the sand, the sudsy tide washing over her (lithe) body.
Consistency was the hallmark of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. And for a long time, it worked.
Enter Kate Upton, this year’s S.I. swimsuit cover girl.
The very un-lithe Kate Upton.
The New York Times describes Upton thusly: “Wholesomely proportioned at 5 feet 11 inches with a 36-25-34 figure, Ms. Upton was a long way from the coolly robotic Eastern European beauty ideal that has dominated the catwalks for many seasons.”
Upton’s fullness of frame, in and of itself—she’s been described as the Jayne Mansfield of our time—ought to adequately seize male teenage America’s rapt attention. But the real news here is how she came to be: Upton is a YouTube sensation, a self-created phenomenon, the first major Internet hottie to be acknowledged and awarded by the mainstream media.
Upton came to the attention of the hopped-up adolescent set for the first time when she posted a YouTube video of herself doing the Dougie at a Clippers basketball game. The video—now approaching three-and-a-half million views—touched all the required bases: it was cute, sexy and hip (or at least hip enough).
Kudos to the editors at S.I. They recognized Upton’s YouTube success and put the amply endowed teen on their cover.
Still. It must give them pause.
Here they are, spending their precious (and undoubtedly ever shrinking) editorial budget to take models and photographers and crew to exotic locations around the world, and out of nowhere comes this Florida chick with the sizzle and chutzpah to score big with all the boys on the Internet.
Dang, the viral power of the Internet upends the status quo again!
In light of all this, here’s the question that must be asked of both the editors at S.I. and any young men who may be reading this: Would you rather thumb through the pages of a magazine filled with models in swimsuits in exotic locations, or watch this YouTube shot in a hotel room a half dozen times?
Case closed, yes?