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The social media savvy Kate Upton had roles in "The Heist" and "The Three Stooges" comedies, but her nonspeaking part as the cover girl for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition developed her following. (Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)

Kate Upton bounced into the national consciousness in 2011 the old-fashioned way: posing in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. The blonde parlayed her form in viral videos and in two small movie roles ("Tower Heist," "The Three Stooges"). She cemented her online status with a vaunted S.I. cover shot in a tiny Kathleen Bruening two-piece that barely covered her merits.

The bikini shot wasn't her only claim to fame: Like Kim Kardashian before her, Upton has deployed social media to savvy advantage: "I studied this," she told The New York Times, which described how she cultivated a YouTube following, made herself a "largely self-created Internet phenomenon," and parlayed that fame into modeling. Although she doesn't fit the usual mold of supermodels, her numbers (as in her AskMen.com ranking or YouTube audience) proved to doubters that she has plenty of appeal. As her so-called superagent described her, "She’s the Jayne Mansfield of the Internet."

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