Saturday, April 21, 2012

Kate Upton Is a Woman We Love

Hanging out at the rodeo with the most famous swimsuit model in the world. But first, a video. And scissors.

Kate Upton looks down at her iPhone as she charges toward the makeshift red carpet in the corner of Madison Square Garden. A TV reporter asks her what she is doing here. "I'm here for the bulls!" she says. It's Friday night, and she's making a volunteer appearance at the Professional Bull Riders' annual weekend in Manhattan. An old man asks to have his photograph taken with her. Two college kids. The New York Giants tight end Bear Pascoe. A CBS executive, bloggers, a Daily News writer, the paparazzi itself--she obliges them all. Before heading to the ring, she sees the big championship bull-riding trophy. "My feed needs this," she says. She hugs the cup, kicks a boot in the air, and her agent takes a photo. A twelve-year-old boy looks at her, then looks at his father, then looks back, then gets caught looking by his father, and then they smile. So she poses for them, too, the father's hands trembling.

If any of the people wanting to be photographed with the supermodel Kate Upton know who she is, they know her from her appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue last year, or from a trailer for the upcoming Three Stooges, in which she plays a nun exiting a pool in what you might call clerical resort wear, or from a video uploaded to Twitter last year of her dancing and singing along to "Teach Me How to Dougie" in the front row of a Clippers game. It's an honest moment from an eighteen-year-old woman, and the video shows her having an unmistakably great time. "People want to see personality. Otherwise they make assumptions, like" — she describes a pair of invisible breasts with her hands — "'Yeah, she's pretty, but she's probably a bitch.' That's why everyone likes the video. It's me. It wasn't planned for Twitter or YouTube. It's, like, real."

Legs up in the front row, center, surrounded by twelve thousand people, forty bulls, one horse, and a rodeo clown, Upton switches from one text to another. She got her iPhone the other day after dropping her BlackBerry in the toilet the other night in Florida, where she grew up riding horses, before her current life in New York. In the last few minutes, she has heard from her grandfather about his time as a Texas rodeo champion (saddleback and bareback!); from her mother, encouraging her (must be some cute cowboys there — you should be in your element); from her fellow model and best friend Lizzy Glynn, who's been trying to get to Upton's seats since they've been apart for a whole three hours now.

The announcer asks the people to pray. Upton stands tall (five foot ten, plus boots), continuing to check her Twitter feed, and shows off her first tattoo. She got this the other day as well — a cross on the left side of her right middle finger. "Bikini models have to be careful," she says.

Three of the bull riders on the other side of the fence are glancing over, combing their hair as they half-turn toward the flag. One of them tips his hat her way, so she smiles and gives him a lazy little Boy Scout salute.

Then another text: the photo of her and the trophy, sent from the agent sitting next to her. "Great. Okay."

The national anthem is over and the show begins. She has not tweeted in a day, but there are at least a dozen mentions of @KateUpton in her feed from the people who have seen the real Kate Upton tonight. You can ride me like a bull is her favorite. "I like to see all of it," she says. "Even the bad stuff." She presses upload as the gate opens and the first bull charges. The cowboys are still looking at her every now and then, and she is still looking down, waiting for responses.

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