Photos and videos: Kate Upton — from S.I. Rookie of the Year to cover girl

2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl Kate Upton.

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In Photos: Kate Upton

Kate Upton on Letterman - from YouTube.com

Kate Upton, Hardees and Carl's Jr. - from YouTube.com

Kate Upton in Las Vegas in 2011/Richard Corey - from YouTube.com

Kate Upton in Las Vegas in 2011/Richard Corey - from YouTube.com

Kate Upton - from YouTube.com

Kate Upton - from YouTube.com

Twelve months ago, she wore little more than body paint. Today, as she packs for Las Vegas, 19-year-old Kate Upton is wearing the tiniest bikini bottom known to man for her cover shot on the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

The blue- and green-eyed buxom blonde has become America’s newest media darling and overnight sensation after her identity was revealed on “Late Night With David Letterman” on Monday as the newest cover beauty. I’d tipped her as the cover girl last Thursday.

Kate returns to “Letterman” tonight for an interview and then celebrates the magazine issue’s launch in Manhattan before jumping aboard a jet for the now-annual invasion of Las Vegas for two days of events on the Strip.

Kate, who stands 5-foot-10, measures in at 33D-25-36. When she was in Las Vegas a year ago, she was named Rookie of the Year in a more modest two-piece than this year’s itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie dental floss bikini.

Shortly after Kate’s coup de grace, Carl’s Jr. announced it would rush release her new commercial for their brands Hardees and Carl’s Jr. brands. Here’s the behind-the-scenes video of the shoot -- even before the commercial is finished by the end of the month.

Kate was born in St. Joseph, Mich., and raised in Melbourne, Fla., and as a teen equestrienne won three world American Horse Association championships on her horse Roanie Pony and later another two on her horse Zipped. Kate’s uncle is Michigan Congressman Fred Upton.

She celebrates her 20th birthday June 10 and will be subject to 21-and-older nightclub regulations while on the Strip with the other 16 sexy stunners featured in this year’s edition and photographed as far afield as Australia, Panama, the Seychelles and Apalachicola, Fla.

Kate, who has been linked to New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, has modeled for Guess Lingerie, BeachBunny Bikinis and Victoria’s Secret. After an online video of her doing the Dougie at a Los Angeles Clippers game went viral, she made her movie debut in “Tower Heist” starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. She also appeared in “The Three Stooges” and plans on an acting career after her modeling days wind down. Little wonder that Esquire named her last year’s “Woman of Summer.”

The swimwear sirens led by Kate fly here with S.I. Swimsuit Issue Editor Diane Smith, Senior Associate Editor M.J. Day and Time Inc. Sports Group President Mark Ford. Each year, Diane makes the final choice. She told me on her last visit here that it’s a yearlong process, and when she’s here this week, she’ll be already plotting the first stages of next year’s issue.

“It’s a 365-day-a-year, ongoing process, and we start shooting again in April,” Mark told me. “Some 70 million people will see all of this excitement, and we will sell some 4-million-plus copies. It is a big business, and although it is only one specific edition a year, it’s the most important.”

The Swimsuit Issue special reportedly accounts for more than 60 percent of sales and ad revenue for the year. “We have a very unique lens that makes us different from anything anybody might say is similar. We have the right balance of being tasteful and presenting very sexy, smart, beautiful women. It’s very tastefully done, and we’re proud to say our issue isn’t covered up or hidden from view anywhere in America.”

This week’s invasion of the bombshell beauties is the third appearance of a current three-year deal between Las Vegas and S.I. that looks set for renewal.

Here’s the Royal Robin Rundown of their visit:

WEDNESDAY: Wednesday’s official welcome to Las Vegas is at their first luncheon at Mastro’s Ocean Club at Crystals in CityCenter. The models join chef Wayne Shumaker in the kitchen for photographs and create one of the signature dishes. A magazine signing follows outside Mastro’s that is open to the public.

The first red carpet photo opportunity is at 3 p.m. as the glamour girls cement their fame and fortune with a handprint ceremony at Planet Hollywood. An hour later, it’s the start of the debut two-day Beauty and the Beats Music Festival at the Cosmopolitan.

The first-night welcome party is at Haze in Aria, with the red carpet at 9 p.m.

THURSDAY: The fun starts at 1 p.m. in the sports book at Caesars Palace where the models will pay tribute to Muhammad Ali in the historic boxing ring from the Oct. 2, 1980, Larry Holmes fight at the hotel, the first mega-fight held on a casino property. The models will pose with an 8-foot S.I. cover that featured Ali.

At 3 p.m., they turn DJs as the E.C. Twins teach them how to mix at Tao in the Venetian. They’ll pose for photographs with fans and autograph copies of the magazine there, too.

The Club S.I. Swimsuit party Thursday is at Pure in Caesars Palace with a 9 p.m. red carpet. For the after-hours party, it’s a midnight red carpet at the Bank in the Bellagio. I’m guessing that some of the girls will stay up all night and sleep en route Friday back to the Big Apple, and some will stay to party this weekend.

Ten up-and-coming music groups provided the audio backgrounds for the model shoots this year, and here’s the Beauty and the Beats lineup: Delta Spirit, Elan Atlas and White Elephant, Maluca, Nick Waterhouse and Selebrities perform Wednesday, with Black Lips, White Denim, J Roddy Walston & the Business, Little Hurricane and Vonnegutt playing Thursday. All concerts are at Book & Stage, Chandelier and Castellana at the Cosmopolitan.

Check back here Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for our comprehensive reports, photographs and videos.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.


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