The name Ashley Graham first appeared on my radar after it was announced she was the beauty seen in Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition’s first-ever ad to feature a plus-size model. Since then, I’ve noticed her popping up in a few different places, including in a video for USA Today‘s #InTheirWords campaign where she talked about being a body activist. Intrigued, I jumped on an opportunity to ask her some more questions.
AMSFTV: What does the term “body activist” mean to you?
Ashley Graham: One of my favorite sayings is “sexy is a state of mind,” but unfortunately, society has people convinced that common female body characteristics, like cellulite and stretch marks, are flaws. There are few curvy women to look up to as role models. I’m here to remind women that our bodies are beautiful at any size, as long as you are living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of yourself.
I’ve always been a firm believer that obtaining a positive body image starts from within. Instead of dwelling on the things I can’t change about my appearance, I look at myself in the mirror and embrace everything. I perform daily affirmations—”I love my awkward butt shape and thick thighs!”—because our words have so much power. We all need support too, so I encourage everyone to create their own body-positive environment. I’m inspired by so many women every day, and being a body activist gives me the chance to share what I’ve learned.
AMSFTV: How do you connect that with feminism? Do you remember when you first started thinking about feminism?
AG: I’m not a fan of labels, so I’ve never labeled myself a feminist, but I’ve always been a strong woman who cares about our rights and empowering each other. Emma Watson’s U.N. He For She talk really inspired me and reinforced my beliefs on what feminism means to me. The female body is so beautiful but all too often critiqued. Ladies, we need to own our bodies!
[USA Today‘s #InTheirWords campaign] gives women like myself an amazing opportunity to stand up and express who we really are and what we truly believe in. We have different ways to define feminism, but we all agree that women need to encourage and support each other despite our differences.
AMSFTV: The plus-size industry has had a lot of attention on it recently, and there are conversations about whether the term “plus size” should be retired in favor of all models being in one category. What’s your stance?
AG: I understand why the term is used in the modeling industry, [but] I’m still not a fan of labels. I am a model, regardless of my size, and the term “plus size” does not define who I am as a person. My agency IMG doesn’t have a “plus size” or “curvy” division. All of the models are on the same board. They send me on different types of castings, even ones that don’t necessarily ask for curvy models, and that’s definitely a big step in the right direction.