Kate Upton Reveals Why Returning to SI Swimsuit This Year Was So ‘Special’

The repeat cover girl reflected on what it was like to reconnect with fellow brand models for the 60th anniversary issue.
Kate Upton was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico.
Kate Upton was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico. / Yu Tsai/Sports Illustrated

Kate Upton just landed her fourth year on the SI Swimsuit Issue cover last week, and we’re still not over the iconic moment.

The supermodel, who made her debut with the brand in 2011 and landed her first cover just a year later, has posed for the magazine seven separate years now. The upcoming Dress My Tour host makes her mark once again on the front of the 2024 issue, following her photo shoot in Mexico. She also participated in a 60th anniversary legends feature, which resulted in a triptych of group covers featuring 27 women in total, in honor of the six incredible decades of the publication.

The mom of one, who shares a daughter with her husband, MLB player Justin Verlander, worked with Yu Tsai for both of her photo shoots this year. While on the red carpet ahead of the 60th anniversary launch party at the Hard Rock Hotel in New York, the 31-year-old reflected on her experience working with SI Swimsuit for the special anniversary issue.

Kate Upton
Kate Upton was photographed by Yu Tsai in Mexico. Swimsuit by Tropic of C. / Yu Tsai/Sports Illustrated

View Kate Upton’s Mexico photo gallery here. View her Legends photo gallery here.

“I actually was a part of the legends shoot for the 50th [anniversary], and so to come back and be a part of the shoot for the 60th was really special and to reconnect with everyone, especially after COVID, even friends I haven’t stayed in touch with and then [also to] see old friends and also meet the the new amazing, inspiring women that are part of the issue now [was great],” the actress told us. “I feel like Sports Illustrated [Swimsuit] has always taken me on a journey, and they’ve always had these very special experiences. Like my second cover [in 2013] was in Antarctica, then in 2017 we went to Fiji, which was amazing. But this year was really special because I got to reconnect with MJ [Day, editor in chief]. I was her first cover when she was editor [in chief] and to now see where she’s taken this magazine, the mission she’s been on, and to work with Yu Tsai who just always celebrates women [has been incredible].”

The Michigan native’s first SI Swimsuit cover in 2012 sparked some backlash over her body, and the brand was criticized for featuring someone with curves, which at the time was not the norm. Upton was a catalyst in the brand reevaluating who should be featured on the front of the magazine, and what kind of messaging, values and missions the franchise should champion.

“[Celebrating women] should be important to everyone. Women should be uplifting each other and pushing each other to be in the right place and giving opportunities to everyone so we can drop this competition with one another and just work on being our best self,” Upton added. “I think MJ has really turned the magazine into that messaging.”

Ananya Panchal