Ashley Graham is leading a revolution to change the way society defines beauty and body image, proudly showing off her curves in prominent campaigns for brands like Levi’s and Calvin Klein. Sitting down with Glamour, the 28-year-old discusses her start in the industry, her path to becoming an advocate for women of all shapes and sizes, and teaches why real beauty cannot be summed up with a clothing tag.
According to Graham, everything first started after high school when she moved to New York to pursue a career in modeling. Considering giving up after being rejected at so many auditions, she reached out to her family for support.
“I called my mom and she said, ‘You’re there for a reason. Your body is there to change the lives of people,’” Graham shared. “She said, ‘You are the one who’s looking in the mirror every day. You have to speak to yourself.’”
So, that was exactly what she did. Graham began to focus carefully on her modeling goals, creating a vision board for what she wanted to achieve. She also embraced social media and proudly shared images from shoots and beyond. The response to her photos was huge and provided Graham with the momentum to keep her going.
“They were tired of seeing one form of beauty,” she said. “A woman who was bulimic for six years said she stopped throwing up after she watched my TED Talk.”
And her hard work is still paying off. This year, 16 plus-size models appeared in New York Fashion Week — a record that Graham plans to help break very soon.
However, Graham’s first priority is to help young girls learn to love themselves no matter the size.
“I hope they look in the mirror and say, ‘I am beautiful,’” she said. “When you do that, it’s a whole other ball game—you start to understand that your words have power.”