Ashley Graham has been breaking down barriers since entering the modeling industry as a teenager. The Nebraska native moved to New York to launch her career but was criticized from the start for her height. “I called my mom, I was 18 and said, ‘Mom, I’m coming home,'” Graham said at the 2017 Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit (via CNBC). “I said, ‘I’m not doing this modeling thing anymore, I can’t take it anymore.’
But Graham’s mother encouraged her to change her perspective and focus on her qualities. She soon learned that it was all about showing that beauty and confidence come in all sizes. “I stopped comparing and competing with the women around me,” she explained. At 21, Graham was already making an impact as a plus-size model, starring in Glamour’s September 2009 issue. However, her career continued to be an uphill struggle, with Graham having to stand up for himself from an early age.
In 2010, she appeared in a Lane Bryant lingerie commercial, which was banned by ABC, a decision she quickly slammed. “The first thing that came to my mind was Victoria’s Secret commercials and how classy they are, if not classier than Lane Bryant,” she told the New York Post. “[The models are] just a lot smaller than me.” While Graham is used to defending her oversized physique, she was unprepared to find herself on the other side of the body-shaming camp.
Ashley Graham has been criticized for appearing to lose weight
When she made history in 2016 as the first plus-size model to land on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Ashley Graham experienced the opposite of fat-shaming. In July of this year, Graham uploaded a behind-the-scenes photo of America’s Next Top Model to Instagram, which showed her in a three-quarter length pose in a white crop top and high-waisted skirt, paired with a black Balmain jacket. The outfit and the angle made her look slimmer. The model felt confident and glamorous in the snap, so the reaction surprised her.
Instagram users attacked Graham for losing weight after all these years of advocating taller bodies. “You don’t make plus size bucks anymore, you make sneaky bucks,” one user commented underneath, as Graham recalled in an essay for Lenny Letter addressing the controversy. Graham denied losing weight but defended her right to it. “The reality is, I haven’t lost a pound this year … And anyway, if I *really* wanted to lose weight, it wouldn’t be anyone’s decision but my own,” she argued. In fact, photos from the period (the picture above is from June 2016) appear to show Graham flaunting her usual height of 44.
That wasn’t the only time she was accused of giving in to pressure. An October 2018 Instagram post drew similar criticism, and Graham had to deal with it again. “If these people really knew me … they would know that my body just hasn’t changed,” she told Glamour.
Ashley Graham continues to inspire with her positive attitude
Ashley Graham’s Instagram followers love her for really embracing her body. In Graham’s case, that often means showing aspects of her body that many prefer to hide, like cellulite and stretch marks. This is especially true during their postnatal journey. In January 2020, she welcomed her first child, The Hollywood Reporter noted. In January 2022, Graham gave birth to twins, a back-to-back experience that took a toll on her body.
Staying true to herself, she accepts everything. “Me and my postpartum body feel sexy, confident and unstoppable in my most personal lingerie collection ever,” she captioned a post promoting her collaboration with Knix. In another post highlighting the designs, Graham shared a snap that revealed the stretch marks on her stomach. And her followers loved it. “Seeing them peeking out over your panties just like mine made me feel that way,” one user wrote, adding red hearts to the comment.
In May 2021, Graham addressed the pressures new moms face to lose weight quickly and established where she was at 16 months postpartum. “I’m still working on about 20 pounds. When I say work on it, I just look at it every day like, ‘Hello, new body,'” she told parents. “And so I just keep doing it.” Whether she’s losing or gaining weight, it looks like Graham continues to encourage women to embrace their unique, ever-changing bodies.