Of the few good things to come out of 2016, Ashley Graham was one of the most beautiful. Her takeover as a successful supermodel involved making history, landing several covers and building a brand that spans lingerie, workout videos, must-see reality TV and possible new stints that could change the fashion industry for good.
Not only is Ashley Graham hitting her professional stride, but she’s also revealing herself to be one of the most badass women in the biz right now. She’s genuine, honest and empowering, making it her mission to give all women confidence.
There’s a lot to know about Ashley Graham and all of it transcends cliche labels like “plus-size.” She is poised to become even more successful in 2017, so take a look at the fun facts about the woman sure to be on every sing magazine cover very soon.
1. She doesn’t like the phrase “plus-size.”
Though industry insiders tend to label Graham using the common fashion industry phrase “plus-size,” she prefers to be without labels at all.
Graham told Shape:
“When it comes to the word ‘plus-size’, I’ve been called a plus-size model for the past sixteen years. I hear it, sometimes I say it– it’s a slip of the tongue. But at the end of the day, it’s a label. You can say, ‘Yes it’s a negative thing’ or ‘maybe it’s not a negative thing’…but why would we want to be labeled something? Why do we want to be put in a different category than all the other types of models? No one says ‘skinny model’, so am I wrong for not wanting a label? I don’t think so. And you know what, this younger generation of girls that are bigger and curvier, do they want to be called plus-sized at age 13 when they go to school? No. You just want to be a girl. I think it’s about getting with the times.”
2. She’s married.
Graham met her husband, Justin Ervin, at church in 2009. They married a year later. The model says that one of her favorite past times is spending time with her husband, who is a filmmaker. The two live in Brooklyn, New York.
Ervin even made a sneaky appearance in Graham’s shoot for Maxim.
3. She has her own lingerie collection.
Graham collaborated with Addition Elle to create a lingerie line and a body positive movement, giving women of all sizes the chances to embrace their curves and their sex appeal. The collection can be found online at several retailers and bought at Nordstrom.
4. She gave a kickass body positive Ted Talk.
Graham explained to the audience that not only was the label of “plus-size” problematic but that every woman should feel comfortable at every size, expressing her own ambition to shift the narrative around body positivity and fashion. She was also candid about her struggles with self-acceptance and the role that it played in her life, especially her past relationships.
5. She broke barriers in Sports Illustrated… Twice.
Truly speechless!!! This cover is for every woman who felt like she wasn't beautiful enough because of her size. You can do and achieve anything you put your mind to. Thank you so much to the entire @si_swimsuit team! I'm so excited to be a part of your family. I love you all!!! #siswim #beautybeyondsize
She first appeared in an advertisement in the legendary Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, making her the first curvy model to be featured in the issue. The next year Graham appeared on the cover, making history as the first curvy model to ever be given the magazine’s cover and a swimsuit spread.
6. She has gone on humanitarian mission trips to South Africa.
Graham has made several mission trips to South Africa in recent years with the help of The Themba Foundation. Graham, who has spoken about her strong moral values and identification with the Christian faith, works with the organization to aid in helping South African children to receive medical treatment and equal care.
The foundation states its mission as the following:
The THEMBA FOUNDATION pursues its mission in partnership with existing South African ministries. Together we work to provide dignity to the dying and hope to the children of South Africa. Our efforts range from simply feeding a hungry child, holding a crying baby, comforting those in their last days of life, to the desire to provide for the thousands upon thousand of children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
To learn more about how to work with Themba, check out its website.
7. Before meeting her husband, she gave up pre-martial sex.
Graham has admitted that her early years of modeling weren’t without their struggles. Before her marriage, Graham has said she was so filled with self-doubt that she became wrapped up in drinking and partying, living an unhealthy lifestyle and entering an abusive relationship.
She told Cosmopolitan:
“He was abusive in more than one way… He threw a couch on me. He came home drunk. I was sitting on it, and he flipped it upside down. I remember my elbow being jammed but thinking, ‘He didn’t hit me; he was just really angry, you know?’ … Looking back, I should’ve left, but I was an insecure woman in a terrible relationship who did not know herself.”
After leaving her abuser, Graham went on a mission to “reclaim” her body and empower herself. “I had to reclaim my body, my sexuality and my image. It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” she told Elle U.K. “I’m not having a man decide what he’s going to do with my body – I’ll decide.”
8. She shuts down body shamers.
Graham wrote a personal essay for the popular Lenny Letter addressing another type of body shaming that she had encountered after posting a selfie.
In the piece, entitled “Shamed If I Do, Shamed If I Don’t,” she talked about body shamers who criticized her for appearing “too thin” in a photo. Graham responded to the commenters by reminding them that no matter her size, the only person whose opinion mattered was her own.
“And anyway, if I did want to lose weight, it would be no one’s decision but my own. I love to sweat it out at the gym — two years ago, I even made workout videos — but I also don’t restrict myself from eating certain foods or indulging on some extra-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese every once in a while.”
9. She wasn’t always comfortable with her curves.
Ashley Graham is the epitome of self-love now, but she admits that it wasn’t always so easy. Whether it was the voices of those around her or her own self-doubt, she struggled with finding confidence.
“I think I was about 18 years old, and I already had an agent tell me that I needed to lose weight, I had clients tell me I needed to lose weight,” Graham told ET. She also told Vogue that she was constantly belittled by being told she would “always be a catalog girl, never a cover girl.”
Little did the haters know that Ashley Graham would land herself five covers in the span of a single year, a major feat for any model, let alone a model with curves.
What changed? Her attitude.
Graham told ET:
“So in that moment, I had to start doing my affirmations. I started going to the gym more, I started changing my eating habits, and all of a sudden, it all came together and I am still just as curvy and cute and sexy as I was then. It is just my mind has changed.”
And now Graham says that as much as she used to want to lose weight, it would be “disloyal” to herself and her happiness to be anything but her size.
10. She’s rumored to be working on a secret project with Victoria’s Secret.
After posting an amazing illustration depicting her as a Victoria’s Secret Angel, there was some speculation that VS might be giving Ashley Graham her own pair of wings next year.
The rumors have increased with some recent Snapchat and Instagram videos featuring VS Angels Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid in the same secret location and at the same shoots as Graham, even wearing matching ensembles. Teen Vogue addressed the rumors, but few details are known of what could come of the hush-hush photos.
Fingers crossed that Ashley Graham will be one of the models strutting down the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway next year. It would be another barrier broken by the amazing model.