The announcement was made at the inaugural People Magazine Awards, held Thursday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, making Upton the first woman to ever receive the title.
Upton, best known for her work as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover model and for her role in the romantic comedy The Other Woman, took the stage in a curve-hugging black dress to accept the award.
"This is such an honor to me because sexy to me means someone who's confident and happy, and that's the person I always strive to be," Upton told the audience as she accepted her trophy.
The winners at the People Magazine Awards are not chosen by fans, but are selected by editors at People and sister publication Entertainment Weekly. Some of the night's other big winners included Karlie Kloss for Model of the Year, Kate Hudson for Celebrity Role Model of the Year, Jimmy Fallon for Talk Show Host of the Year and Gwen Stefani for Style Icon of the Year, among others.
Upton was the first model to appear solo on two different covers of the SI Swimsuit Edition, and in 2013 she talked to ET about the honor. Check out the video below for more from Upton on why she views swimsuits as "everyday wear."