Upton shows off her best assets on cover
Upton shows off her best assets on cover

Being on the cover of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue can catapult a model to the world stage - just ask Elle Macpherson.

The Aussie model gained massive exposure after she first appeared on the cover in 1986 aged 22 - and she didn't do it just once - but featured on the cover a record five times.

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Now in the dead of winter in the US, it's Kate Upton who has made it onto the cover, reminding the readers that warm days are around the corner.

Repeating her world-class pin-up feat for a second consecutive year, the 20-year-old, 177cm Upton graces the cover of the 2013 edition, which is set to be officially unveiled on television on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman (with 10 of the models presenting the Top 10 List).

The new edition - marking the 50th anniversary - will be on newsstands in the US on Tuesday.

It's Upton's third appearance in a Swimsuit issue. She was chosen as rookie of the year in 2011, when Irina Shayk was on the cover.

But there is an Australian presence this year in the form of Michelle Jenneke, the young hurdler who became an internet sensation with her pre-race jig.

Photographed in a tiny burgundy bikini, Jennekke was one of four athletes chosen to feature in the 2013 issue.

The Aussie athlete found fame last year with her warm-up routine before the 100m hurdles at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona.

This year for the first time, the fashion shoot covers the entire world, with 17 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models journeying to all seven continents. Photo sites include African dunes and Asian cliffs.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models Jessica Gomes, Anne Vyalitsyna, Kate Boch, Adora Akubilo, Natasha Barnard and Jessica Perez pose on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. Picture: Reuters

But for Upton, there's lots of ice. She is warming things up in Antarctica, where the cover shot displays her clad only in a white, fur-lined parka and bikini bottom.

Out of a dozen or so photos in which she appears, the cover shot "is the most clothes I'm wearing in the whole issue," Upton said.

"It was a sort of I-love-you from the editor: 'I'll let you wear a coat for this one'."

The shoot spanned 10 days in December, which is what passes for Antarctica's summer. Some of the photos, including the cover, were shot from the base ship, which also carried the team from one icy land shooting site to another.

When she returned to her home in Florida, Upton said she was "very, very sick. I don't think you can go to Antarctica and stand in a bikini without that happening. But I didn't die, and I'm OK now."

Very OK, after hearing only on Friday that she was the editors' choice for the cover.

Despite the challenges of the assignment, Upton said it would likely remain her most thrilling ever, and called Antarctica "the most beautiful place I've ever been".

But for anyone else who wants to experience that magical place, she offered this bit of advice: "You are definitely recommended to keep your clothes on."

The West Australian

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