Plus Size Model Ashley Graham Writes Essay On Being Healthy At Every Size


Over the past few years we have been in the middle of a body revolution. We’ve seen the insane rise of plus size fashion thanks in large part to plus size bloggers sticking their digital middle fingers at the rest of the industry clearly making a statement that they can give consumers what labels, designers and brands often cannot.

The slow diversification on the major runways of the world is also a huge signal that this is not just a fad or a trend, but an attitude shift in the way we are viewing bodies in our modern and global culture.

Now that the industry is catching up to the rest of the world and realizing plus size fashion and plus size models are not a smaller niche market (especially since 14-16 is the average size of an American woman and therefore they could be considered the majority of consumers) there have been a handful of models that are now making a name for themselves on the international fashion stage, on par with the other “supers” like Gisele, Adriana, Heidi, Tyra etc.

One of those stand-out names is Ashley Graham, the woman who Vogue credited as one of the people who have revolutionized fashion for the modern era.

In an essay she wrote for The Edit online magazine, Ashley went into depth as to how her upbringing and body image have had a huge impact on how successful her career has been.

Ashley started modeling while she was in high school. She was flown around the world on jobs, and became the first model for Jennifer Lopez’s plus size range. She was a size 10. At age 17 she moved to New York, and despite being told she didn’t look like an editorial model, she quickly began booking jobs at Vogue, Elle and other high fashion publications.

Her agency IMG played a huge part because not too long ago they decided to nix all their body categories and promote each model in the same manner.

Despite being a plus size model, she describes constantly being asked to gain or lose weight. At one point she gained 25 lbs, going up to a size 18, but today she feels she is at her healthiest at size 14, and that is not because of an industry standard or an agency mandate, it is what she feels is right for her body.


“[It’s] a size I’ve maintained for the past eight years. It’s not about conforming; it’s a size I feel good at. I am always being asked to gain or lose weight, but I am at a point now where I don’t care anymore. I love my body, I love my super-hourglass shape and I love showing it off,” she says.

One of the reasons she gives for having such a strong sense of self-confidence is her mom. From a young age she constantly told Ashley she was beautiful, but beyond that her mom was also setting a great example for her daughter about beauty.

“My whole life she told me, ‘You have to love who you are. You have an amazing personality, you have a great heart. Just be who you are.’ I think being told I was beautiful by my mom made the difference. My mom never said, ‘I feel so ugly’, she never looked at her face and said, ‘I need a lift.’ I never saw her looking at herself negatively and therefore I never looked at myself that way.”

In lieu of having a body positive role model around every girl growing up, Ashley believes this is where plus size models speaking positive messages into the world are crucial. For instance, she will says she will not lose 30 lbs all of a sudden and claim how much happier she is, and she refuses to airbrush her photos on Instagram.

“I think that you can be healthy at any size and my goal is to help and educate women on that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or 22, you can be healthy as long as you’re taking care of your body, working out, and telling yourself ‘I love you’ instead of taking in the negativity of beauty standards.”

In an industry where there needs to be more options for women’s sizes, and not all brands are willing to do this, Ashley doesn’t believe every label has to follow suit. Her idea about promoting positive body image goes beyond just a number on a label.

“I don’t think every store or designer has to make plus-size pieces, but I think if we get the majority on board to start thinking of a normal woman’s body, that’s where the change is going to be,” she says. It’s the attitude that will make all the difference, and the media also needs to get on board with this.


“We need role models for young girls who say, ‘Embrace your curves. Who cares that your body isn’t perfect?’ There’s too much anorexia, obesity and suicide in this generation and nobody is addressing the issue. Young girls don’t have much to look at, curvy women are not on covers of magazines, they’re not talked about on social media as much as other celebrities,” she said.

“There needs to be more education in schools, because that’s where eating disorders start. It’s not just about being healthy; it’s also about loving who you are.”

Ashley believes words have power, just as much as representations we see in fashion, advertising and the media. Where these three areas have failed to provide the confidence and positivity for women to feel good about themselves in their own bodies, bloggers, writers, artists, photographers and everyday people have stepped up to the plate and provided invaluable resources for other women, especially online.

Unfortunately we live in an age where we can’t rely on the fashion world or even schools to send the right message. We have to find alternative sources, and it has to start from a young age.

“I think people need a purpose and my purpose is helping women who don’t love their bodies to embrace them. Having a purpose in life has made me feel like I am meant to be here. I’m meant to spread the word and change beauty and body standards in the fashion industry. And even outside the industry, in my whole community,” she said.

“Things are happening, it’s exciting. Now is the time: people want to know about curvy women. We are in the middle of a great conversation, and we still have years before we hit the peak, but this is the beginning of a great adventure that is going to go on and on, I really believe that. Curves are here to stay.”

Ashley was one of the international plus size models who formed a group in 2014 called ALDA, where they go to schools and organizations to speak to women about body image in an attempt to shift attitudes toward a more inclusive definition. They are in talks with the UN about doing a panel discussion, which gives you an idea how needed these messages are on a bigger, more corporate and institutional level.

But underneath it all, at the ground level, it starts with an individual mindset, toward yourself, and toward bodies in general.

“If you don’t love who you are, you are never going to feel 100 percent satisfied in life. It all starts with you. If you don’t love you, nobody else is going to be able to.”




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  3. tracycampbell says:

    I totally agree with your article. I’m a plus size woman and I can actually see the difference in the fashion industry considering plus size. We can find many online stores for plus size these days. I order from which provides only plus size clothes.

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