Ashley Graham has been making waves in the plus-size industry for a few years now, but she doesn’t just want to be known as a plus-size model. She wants to be an inspiration for all girls and women of different shapes and sizes.
A lot of the stars today have millions of followers on Instagram and other social media pages. Most of them are slim and fit. There aren’t many that are open about their struggles with their own bodies. However, Ashley isn’t like that. She is very candid about her personal struggles and is not afraid to talk about them.
On Becoming a Role Model for Young Girls
Ashley wants young girls to have role models who are full-figured and curvy and they should be honest and unafraid to talk about body issues like cellulite, as these should not be something to be ashamed of. Many women have body issues, but there aren’t a lot of celebrities talking about these. They hide behind heavily retouched images of themselves, and promote the idea that they are perfect and blessed in every way. These images are what the fans see and these give them unrealistic ideals to live up to.
Aside from being a model, Ashley is also a body positive activist, who admits to wearing Spanx. She doesn’t try to pretend she is something she is not. She embraces her curves and is not afraid to flaunt them.
On Paving the Way for Change in the Modeling Industry
The first plus-size model to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Ashley is best known for being plus-size clothing retailer Lane Bryant’s model. She hopes that she is paving the way for the upcoming plus-size models because she wants them to be more accepted in the industry. If more plus-size models are featured in the big magazines, it will be a victory for the industry.
Ashley says, “I believe that what I’m doing, and what other plus-size models of my generation are doing, is continuing to open that door for the next plus-size model to come in and to not be labeled as a plus-size girl, for her not to be judged by the number that’s inside of her pants, for her to be able to be on the cover of American Vogue and it not have the whole article be about, ‘Are you fat and happy?'”
On Breaking Barriers
Ashley has her own lingerie line for Addition Elle, which she will be showcasing during New York Fashion Week. That’s another boundary that she has torn down because they are the only plus-size show that will be included in NYFW. The modeling world is changing and including plus-size is just the beginning.
“There are so many new opportunities that are coming up,” she reveals. “I’m excited to see which designers actually put curvy, plus-size models in their show. Those designers will be groundbreaking.”
Ashley’s career is going from strength to strength. Kathy Ireland, Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, and Tyra Banks are among her modeling icons. For her, these women have had careers that went beyond being a pretty face and clotheshorse. She hopes to emulate their success. The Nebraska native says she “can’t wait to be the curvier version of all of them”.
On Overcoming Struggles on Body Issues
The model has been in the fashion industry since she was discovered at the age of 12, but she has also had some struggles with her body. She revealed that she felt “ugly, fat, and disgusting” whenever she would look in the mirror. Working in the fashion business can be tough, especially when you start at such a young age.
One day, Ashley came to the realization that even though she did not fit the typical fashion model mold, it was okay. Positive affirmations helped her. She would say to herself in the mirror, “I am beautiful, and I do have a great body” and eventually she began to believe it. Once she started loving herself, a positive change happened. She started to work out and take care of herself.
Along with her fellow plus-size model, Marquita Pring, Ashley is one of five co-founders of plus-size modeling agency ALDA. Their mission is to spread body-confident positivity to others. They spoke to a group of campers at Pocono Trails and then they stripped down to their swimsuits and had a photo shoot on the campground. They showed the campers that they were proud of their curves and they hopefully empowered everyone there with the message that you don’t have to be a stick figure to be proud of your body.
Ashley urges teenagers and youngsters to learn to love themselves for who they are and not spend years trying to be someone else. As someone who has battled with lack of self-esteem, Ashley is a good spokesperson for loving your body. She’s able to relate with what teenagers go through with their insecurities.
Their campaign was effective. Lauren, a 17-year-old who has gone to the camp for six years, said that it was inspiring to know how “people that are the same size as you” can be successful, which proves that “you don’t have to be skinny to fit in”.
The teens who heard them speak really appreciated their message. Another camper said, “It’s hard to pursue a career in [fashion], but seeing all these women made me realize there’s more than one way to incorporate wanting to look good and feeling beautiful into my life.”
Ashley’s message is to love your body. To feel beautiful, you have to be confident. Wear the clothes you want and develop your own style. You can make any outfit sexy whether it’s a crop top or a dress that goes down to your ankles. Being plus-size doesn’t mean you have to wear frumpy clothes. You can follow the trends as long as you adapt it to your personal style.
As an advocate for the plus-size community, Ashley’s message is about positivity. It’s not about skinny shaming. Rather, it’s giving young women realistic role models who are not obsessed with perfection. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, which is why promoting acceptance of your body is a more powerful message.