When Kate Upton was revealed as the cover girl for this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the response was one of excitement but not surprise. Make no mistake about it, though, this is a very big deal for her, the magazine and the industry as a whole.
Unlike most cover girls that have had to wait their turn to get in the spotlight, Upton has had to wait just two years.
In 2011, she was the inset model with Irina Shayk as the featured model. That was Upton's first appearance in the issue, and she was voted the "rookie of the year."
Following that appearance, her popularity exploded. She was getting endorsement deals and became an Internet sensation.
As Slate News put it, her ascension to the top of the modeling world is a lesson in what viral marketing can do for a person.
Upton went viral last year when a video of her doing the "Dougie" dance took the web by storm. She was all over the place. As of this writing, that video has 3.4 million views on YouTube.
She is very much a new-age model. In addition to being featured in magazines and commercials, she is a social media darling. Her Internet popularity paved the way for her to grace the cover of this year's Swimsuit Issue.
While there might be some resistance to this way of thinking in the modeling community—like from Victoria's Secret—it is going to become a common trend.
Your history with a company is not going to mean as much as how relevant you are. Even in Upton's case, there were other models more deserving of being on the cover of this year's issue (Chrissy Teigen, for example).
But Upton was the new model on the block, and we, as an Internet community, turned her into a star by watching her do the "Dougie" and Googling her so many times over the last 12 months.
We are going to start seeing more SI Swimsuit Issues with cover girls who are Internet sensations. Gone are the days when you had to build your resume to get the coveted spot. Upton is the first of a new generation that is here to stay.