Kate Upton should have been on top of the world when she covered her first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in February 2012. Instead, the 21-year-old supermodel felt objectified and ridiculed. "After my first Sports Illustrated cover, I felt terrible about myself for a solid month," ELLE's September 2013 cover girl reveals. "Every single guy I met was either married or about to be married, and I felt like I was their bachelor present or something."
The 5-foot-10 beauty continues, "I'm not a toy, I'm a human. I'm not here to be used. I am a grown woman, and you need to figure your sh-t out." Even in professional settings, Upton says she's treated like a stereotypical "dumb blonde."
"People deal with models like they are children. They think they can pull one over on you. It's actually funny," says the model, who covered the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue a second time in 2013. "I'm always like, 'I'm about to pull something on you, and you're so focused on thinking I'm dumb you're not even going to know.'"
And yet, in spite of her sexed-up image, the Florida-raised star insists she's a good girl at heart. "I was at a photo shoot and I was wearing a cross necklace that my mom bought me, and somebody made a joke like, 'Why are you wearing a cross? Like you would be religious.' And then they took it away. I was really affected by that," Upton recalls. She later decided to get a tiny cross tattooed on the inside of her finger. "The whole thing made me realize that I do want [a cross] with me, at all times."
In regard to her rumored romance with Dancing With the Stars pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy (as first reported by Us Weekly in June), Upton plays coy. "I really have never had a serious relationship in the industry," she tells ELLE. "I'm just having fun. Obviously I have a very busy schedule at this time in my life, and I don't put relationships as a priority.