Essays, Opinion

The Great Kate Debate

Why is Kate Upton such a polarising character in fashion?

The classic All-American pretty girl, a human embodiment of red, white and blue, stars and stripes, you know the lot. Strangely enough, Kate fits the mould of what people have been crying out for for years so why is she so controversial? Kate has a body with curves, boobs and a bum. She is sexy and does Sports Illustrated but she can be high fashion doing Vogue Italia. She has an appeal which reaches out beyond just the usual fash-pack, bloggers and teens on tumblr who care about models. Men like her, women like her, she is quickly becoming a household name. So why all the hate towards her?

kate upton

Firstly, Kate’s body is her first limiting factor. The fashion industry is notorious for it’s almost unreachable high standards where the body is concerned. Models are meant to be skinny, coat hangers so to speak. They are just the mannequins in which the clothes go on, they just have to look good in it. However, the skinny ideal that is rife in fashion has been heavily criticised by people, mainly outsiders. You even get people, either in fashion or just interested, who call out for more body diversity. They want to see shorter models, they want to see larger models, they want to see “normal” girls. Along comes Kate who fits into this ideal of “non-skinny”, albeit in no way fat, and they all cry out in disgust. People on the internet can be extremely cruel. I have seen her compared to a fridge before? “She’s too fat, she looks trashy, her boobs are gross”. It makes no sense.

Secondly, Kate has done Sports Illustrated. This means that she is now classed as a sexy model, a model for the men. This leads to many people trying to exclude her from high fashion, or just fashion in general. Once you have done something sexy, you are blacklisted. Or at least Kate was. The same people who criticise her for this are accepting of the likes of Ana Beatriz Barros and Hilary Rhoda, both of whom have also done SI. Moreover, famed lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret spoke about against Kate in 2012 saying she was “too obvious” (ie. too sexy) despite her working with them back in 2011. How a lingerie brand, hiring sirens like Adriana Lima, can say Kate is too obviously sexy and therefore do not want to work with her makes little sense to me? If you have not already gathered by now, there is a lot of hypocrisy in fashion.

That is the two main criticisms of her. Other more minor ones include a bitter sounding comment like “she has a face anyone with money can buy” said by the woman who casts the Victoria’s Secret fashion show nonetheless, or that she is just average run of the mill pretty. People are constantly asking for more regular girls in fashion, people who are more relatable yet when we now have someone who millions of girls around the world actually can feel a slight affinity with, she is ostracised.

It is always people outside of fashion who have little to no power or influence that want rid of Kate. In fashion she seems to have many allies. She gets invited to the Met Gala (it’s not like she would be paying $25000 for a ticket when she can already get an invite), she has had multiple Vogue (British, Brazil, US and Italian), Elle, Harpers Bazaar (various international editions) and Vanity Fair cover, various campaigns with Guess, in particular and sooooo many editorials in a range of fashion publications. I think Kate herself understands that she is not cut out for high fashion as it stands, hence why she rarely walks in runway shows. I don’t think that was her goal. However, numerous people on the internet assume that when someone starts modelling they want to be a big name in high fashion failing to acknowledge that commercial is where the money and more importantly, the longevity is at.

Kate herself doesn’t want to be seen as just a sex symbol, an icon, an object. In her June 2014 interview with British Vogue she speaks about the new movie, The Other Women, in which she has a role showing her transition into acting. Kate has found fame in ways that she did not want initially. For example, that infamous “Cat Daddy” video that went viral on YouTube, posted by Terry Richardson, was not liked by Kate. It featured her doing the cat daddy dance in a tiny bikini, seemingly from an outtake of a photoshoot. It was meant to be some behind the scenes fun. In Vogue she says that it was “disrespectful” but has since forgiven him.

In my opinion, all the criticism of Kate is silly. However, with fame always comes criticism. People can’t stand to see other people succeeding. Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I would say Kate is harmless, she is not doing anything offensive, conducts herself well, doesn’t start fights, isn’t causing world poverty or anything that actually matters. Fashion is extremely elitist yet Kate has been accepted in by the people who matter, who actually hold influence. The rest of us sitting behind our computer screens, writing anonymous or public comments, do not matter.

Let her be sexy, let her be pretty, let her live.



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