The untold truth of Kate Upton

Model, actress and…champion equestrian? There's little Kate Upton can't do. The 24-year-old model shot to fame just a few short years ago and since then has proven she's more than a pretty face. Way more. From acting to participating in endless partnerships with big names, Upton hasn't been afraid to think big and show she's here to stay. Let's take a look behind that smile to those untold truths you don't know about world-famous model Kate Upton.

She was made fun of as a kid

Seeing Upton today, it's hard to imagine she could ever have been made fun of — not just because of her looks, but her carefree, fun attitude as well. However, that's exactly the case. In September of 2016, Upton opened up to Glamour about her childhood and when she first started to think about modeling. "I knew nothing about fashion growing up, because in Florida you just wear bikinis and flip-flops. But kids can be cruel, and they used to make fun of me for having long legs and bushy eyebrows." Her mom would show her magazines and point to models saying, "Look, all these models have that too." That was the moment young Upton decided she wanted to be a model.

She's a champion equestrian

Before Upton took the world by storm in her modeling career, she was competing in a different field. As a kid, she competed as an equestrian in various horse shows. And as to be expected, she was awesome at it. According to Vanity Fair, as a kid she took the title of the American Paint Horse Association's Under Reserve All-Around Champion, and won the Western Riding category at the same competition.

Horseback riding did also have a big impact on Upton's future career. According to the Evening Standard, it was at a horse show that 12-year-old Upton was first scouted for modeling. And Upton hasn't forgotten where it all began. She continues to vacation near Lake Michigan, where she has recently been spotted horseback riding. Seriously, is there anything she can't do?

Dancing actually brought her to fame

Although Upton may have been originally scouted for modeling, it was actually the future star's dance moves that caught the world's notice. Back in May of 2012, fashion photographer Terry Richardson was shooting a session with Upton, when she took a quick dance break. Little did she know a break from work would end up being her claim to fame. Richardson continued to film as Upton did her version of the Cat Daddy dance — which was made popular by the hip-hop group Rej3ctz. Once he posted on YouTube, the video went viral. YouTube quickly removed the video, but then received upset feedback from viewers and posted it again.

In 2013, Upton reflected on the moment with Vanity Fair, saying, "The funny thing is, I dance all throughout the day…I just like to goof around and have a good time. It's not like I'm a good dancer. It's just me. It's just what I do."

She wasn't everyone's favorite

While we're charmed by Upton's overall positive and fun-loving attitude and look, not everyone felt the same throughout the years. In 2010, when 17-year-old Upton was meeting with new modeling agencies, she received some unusual feedback from one. She later told Vanity Fair, "I'm not going to name names, but one agency told me, 'You're too American, and everybody knows American women are lazy.' I was so offended! I've never been so offended! I was like, 'You know that you're in America, right?' And it wasn't 'American models'—it was American women are lazy, period! I feel like a lot of women would disagree with that."

And while Upton ended up being just fine and signing with International Management Group, she still had to handle some negative comments. Sophia Neophitou, who worked on casting Victoria Secret's runway shows, made a comment to the New York Times in 2012 that she "would never use" Upton in a show. She went even further, describing Upton as, "a footballer's wife, with the too-blond hair and that kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy." Wow. And Upton was just as surprised to hear such remarks, telling E! News, "I had never met her, so it really came out of nowhere." But Upton stuck with her career even with the negativity and had many others cheering for her, blocking out those who didn't.

Willing to risk her life for work

Upton doesn't mess around. In early 2013, she had one of her most memorable photo shoots, posing in freezing temperatures in Antarctica in only a bikini — seriously. She described the experience to CBS News, saying, "It took two days to get down there and we were on the ship for six days. To say it was an adventure was a complete understatement."

After the shoot, she spoke with NBC's Today (via International Business Times) and discussed the aftermath and the frostbite she endured. "When I came back, I was like losing hearing and eyesight because my body was shutting down, it was working so hard to keep me warm." She continued to say, "It was freezing. I'm from Florida, so it wasn't great for me." We don't think that's easy for anyone and have to give Upton some serious props.

She's all about doing good

Upton has used her fame and success for good. In 2013 she teamed up with Movember. This organization asks men to grow a moustache for the month of November, and as a result, the charity raises money for prostate and testicular cancer. Upton's title with the organization was "Mo Sista" and she partnered with Gillette to help get the word out. She spoke with CBS News about the charity work and women's roles in the movement, saying, "We're not growing moustaches, thank goodness, but you can help set up appointments or bring awareness or talk about. And for guys, they grow 'staches and go to the doctor." Keep up the good work, Upton!

Defending her faith

Upton has been open with the media about her religious beliefs. In 2013, she shared a story with Elle Magazine (via Fox News) about a photo shoot she took part in. "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 [my necklace] away…I was really affected by that. The whole thing made me realize that I do want [a cross] with me, at all times." And now she has one. After the incident, Upton chose to get a tattoo of a cross on her finger so that it is truly always with her.

She took acting lessons for years

When the world saw Kate Upton starring in the 2014 film The Other Woman, many thought that was her first time acting ever, but the truth is, Upton had a planned for just that. She later spoke with Cosmopolitan and mentioned she took acting lessons for two years before she took on the part in the movie. She continued to describe her path to acting, saying "I think that it's cool to learn a completely new industry. I didn't ever think I would have this amazing opportunity to pursue acting, but when I was younger I definitely had it in my mind that I wanted to try it."

So how was the experience of her first big movie? Upton only has positive things to say. She told E! News, "I was on set with Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann and they were the most inspirational and amazing women I had the honor to work with…They were really helpful in my experience with the movie, and I really appreciated all of their advice and all of their encouragement throughout the movie set." Okay, can we be in a movie with them next?

She continued on to say she wanted to continue her acting career, but she's still figuring out next steps. "For me, it's been such an amazing year and such a great experience…I've worked with some of the most iconic people and I've been very grateful for the whole experience, but I still feel like it's just the beginning, and I have a lot of ways to grow and I just want to continue in this direction."

She didn't wait too long — Upton added a few more movie credits to her resume in 2016 that have yet to hit the bg screen.

How she got over the social media haters

Although social media and the internet helped Upton jump-start her career, she tends to have a love-hate relationship with all of those platforms. While discussing social media, she told the Evening Standard, "I fantasize about deleting my social media accounts. But I can't." With a career that tends to be dependent on media, Upton has found a way to handle the internet and comments, whether positive or negative.

She told The Edit (via Glamour), "I really try to use it in a way that doesn't affect my entire day so that I can have a conversation or be with people without constantly thinking about it. I don't preplan anything. Sometimes I lose cool moments to post about, but as long as I'm enjoying my life, that's more important." And Upton is the first to admit those negative comments aren't fun to read, but she's moving forward. "In the beginning it was so hurtful. But I have to say, the other day I was reading some negative comments, and I was thinking they were really funny. So I guess they don't anymore." Stay fierce, Upton.

No fashion shows for this model

Normally, when we think of models, one of the first things that comes to mind is the runway show. However, Upton isn't interested in following expectations. She told GQ that fashion shows are about the designer and don't feel "collaborative." She continued, saying, "There's also a weird energy backstage — it's a little too aggressive. I prefer a relaxed, happy environment. I love everybody to be happy on set because I think if everybody's having fun you get the best photos…So I usually go out of my way to have good energy whenever I'm shooting. You can't do that in a fashion show because it's not a collaboration: it's really not about you."

But just because it isn't Upton's path doesn't mean she doesn't support her fellow models who walk in shows. She told New York Magazine, "For some girls, the dream is to walk in a show, so I feel really happy for whoever is reaching their ultimate goal."

A role model for "real" women

When New York Magazine interviewed Upton, the reporter mentioned Upton is a role model for "real women." Upton fully supported that statement. "Those are the comments that really make me want to continue doing what I do…It's really motivating to know that I'm helping people look at their life in a healthy way, just by living my life by example." With her more curvy look, Upton has not always been seen as the classic model, but she is showing that all body types should be featured and look great. She continued on to say, "If someone feels confident in their body, it should all work out. At least that's what I think."

She struggles with body image, too

With Upton's beautiful looks, it's hard to imagine her being body-conscious, but this is a topic the starlet is very open about. In 2015, she told Hello!, "I think all women are similar; we all struggle with the same things when it comes to body image and wanting to be beautiful…I'm the same when I'm on the beach with my friends or when there are paparazzi around."

So how is she in an industry that focuses on her looks? She said, "Being on a fashion shoot is like an acting job. I feel like I'm a different character, and that character doesn't get pangs of anxiety."

And in her day-to-day life, Upton has a great attitude as to why she wants to be healthy, which leads to looking great. She spoke on this topic with the Evening Standard, saying, "this is the body I was given, I appreciate it and I try to take care of it every day as best I can, but I always enjoy my life. So I'm not going to let my insecurities stop me from enjoying life." We can all take notes from Upton.

Where she gets her confidence

One word most people would use to describe Upton would have to be "confident." She always looks happy and comfortable in any situation. How does she do it? Hint: as the phrase goes, "Mother knows best." Upton shared with Vogue, "My mother always taught me that smiling when you walk into a room is the best beauty secret, so if I'm nervous when I walk in I just smile, and I think everyone warms to you quicker that way…Sometimes people look stern when I come on set, just because they're concentrating or getting ready for their day, but I'll chat and smile and finally I break them down!"

Upon has done just that with me, too. Officially an Upton fan, it's exciting to see what will come next from this real and radiant woman.