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What Does It Take to Be a Sports Illustrated Cover Girl? Here’s How Kate Upton Did It

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Kate on this year's SI cover (Sports Illustrated)

230 hours, 90,000 air miles, 10,000 photos, seven months shooting in seven continents, and only one cover girl.

A lot of time and money goes into planning the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue and this year, Kate Upton landed the cover for the second year in a row.

So, just what does it take to be a SI cover girl? omg! spoke with Upton and SI Swimsuit issue editor MJ Day who shared how and why the 20-year-old model got the coveted cover girl title.

“Obviously, the cover is very special, and how we look at it now is it’s more than a photograph, it’s a story,” Day revealed. "That photograph encompasses everything you want, it’s a story. It’s a perfect picture with perfect light, a perfect smile, a perfect face and incredible backdrop. There is so much more to it than a pretty girl on a beach. It’s more than a picture."

"We wanted to do [Antarctica] because we thought the moment was right," continued Day. "Every issue we want to outdo our self and make a bold statement and go where no magazine has never gone before…to me this is the most mind-blowing ambitious achievement you’ve ever seen in print and in video."

While it takes a good story to land the cover, don't forget that it takes a great body, too.

So, did Upton do anything different in her diet and exercise regimen leading up to the shoot, knowing the cover was a possibility?

“Before a big shoot I amp up my working out, but honesty before this shoot I was gone two weeks straight working, and was only home half a day before I took off for Antarctica,” Upton explained. “It’s very difficult while traveling, I just try to watch what I eat and work out even on the go.”

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Kate in this year's SI Swimsuit Issue (Sports Illustrated)

Upton emphasized she maintains a healthy lifestyle year round and works with her personal trainer daily, so she wasn’t worried her famous curves would fluctuate before this shoot.

“My curves are natural they are not going away no matter how hard I try!” laughed Upton.

After you prep as much as you can physically, Upton said mentally you just have to have a hard working and “up for anything” attitude the day of your shoot. 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model Brooklyn Decker reiterates this.

“You have no idea [what you’re wearing the day of the shoot], especially for Sports Illustrated,” the model-turned-actress told omg! Thursday. “It’s kept so secretive, especially from the models, and so you find out your location, you know who you’re shooting with, but you don’t know what you’re wearing. You’re not allowed to say where you’re going. A lot of times you don’t know when you’re going!”

Decker, 25, continued:

“As far as the cover goes, as the model, you don’t find out until two days before. It’s all kept under wraps, even from the models. It’s a big surprise, which is exciting but different.”

[Related: See more of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit beauties!]

When Upton found out on Twitter all her hard work paid off again this year, she said she didn’t believe it at first:

“I wasn’t really sure if the [photo online] was the real one! I was like, ‘Is this true, is it not?’ It was surreal. I was just so happy to see a photo from Antarctica. It was such an amazing shoot. I had no idea it was going to be the cover at the time.”

Although Upton says she hasn’t “paid any attention” to people’s reactions, she knows that come critics are claiming the picture must have been touched up or Photoshopped a bit, which isn’t the case.

“You can look at the picture and the video and you’ll see both are very similar,” she explains, stating they are so identical “you can almost screenshot it.”

See for yourself when the one-hour Travel Channel special, “Sports Illustrated: The Making of Swimsuit ’13 – 7 Continents, 17 Wonders,” premieres Sunday, February 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

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