Model Madness| Ashley Graham on the NY mag  Fall Fashion Issue Cover

by Charlotte Smith

Model Madness

Ashley Graham bent over in a yoga position? Designers can’t dress her for the Met Gala! Oh My!  As you know we love a little Model Madness from time to time and with Fall Fashion Week, just around the corner, we wanted to remind casting agents that models come in all shapes and sizes. We champion the model for speaking up for her Black and Latina curvy model peers.

We are very fond of Ashley and had to spread the news about another cover the voluptuous beauty has nailed. The story goes deep in the life of a curvy model in the industry and how she feels about being labeled.


Model Madness| Ashley Graham on the NY mag  Fall Fashion Issue Cover

We give you the inside scoop on what’s inside the issue. New York magazine’s fall fashion issue cover story on Ashley Graham, who talks to contributing editor Jada Yuan about how she prefers the words “curvy or curve” to “plus-size,” how some labels still won’t lend her clothes, white privilege, becoming a “body activist,” and more: Below are some highlights to the piece.

On why she hates the word “plus-size:”

A word about the phrase plus-size: Graham hates it because she thinks there’s an inherent implication of a dividing line between the “normal”-bodied and the “other.” “It’s like, ‘Plus what?’ ” she says. “That’s something I’ve always been told: ‘You’re not good enough because you’re plus-size.’

” She adds, “I’m not here to ban the word from the dictionary” — plenty of women own and love it. She prefers curvy or curve(used in a sentence: A record 26 curve models walked in New York Fashion Week last season, including Graham in Michael Kors’s show).

On the inequity of her being the only curvy model whose becoming a bona fide mainstream star:

She’s also acutely aware of the inequity of her being the only such model who’s becoming a bona fide mainstream star . . . . there’s something wrong when women-of-color model friends of hers like Marquita Pring and Precious Lee aren’t getting the same opportunities. “I know I’m on this pedestal because of white privilege,” she says. “To not see black or Latina women as famous in my industry is crazy! I have to talk about it. I want to give those women kudos because they are the ones who paved the way for me.”

Model Madness| Ashley Graham on the NY mag  Fall Fashion Issue Cover

On skipping the Met Gala, and borrowing clothing from designers:

Graham actually had been “on hold” (a prelude to an invitation) for the Met Gala the year before but ended up staying home. “I couldn’t get a designer to dress me,” she says. “You can’t just show up in jeans and a T-shirt.”

Graham tells me she now borrows everything she wears to fancy events, with the designers fully aware that her stylist will aggressively tear off sleeves, lower bust lines, and add slits to better suit her body.

On her first boyfriend in high school, who broke up with her because he was afraid she’d someday be as fat as his mom:

Her first boyfriend in high school broke up with her because he said he was afraid she’d someday be as fat as his mom. “That really made me hyper aware that I am a big girl, and that’s how people see me.” Then she went a little wild and lost her virginity to the high-school quarterback in the basement of a house party. After that, she stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship for far too long, mainly because that ex-boyfriend was the first man who seemed to appreciate her body.

Before she got married, she and her husband, Ervin, built up their friendship through 12-hour dates, and no premarital sex. Until she met him, Graham had always gravitated toward bigger guys. Now, she says, “my husband weighs less than me, but he feels bigger than me.” She even tested him out by having him toss her around in different positions before they were having sex.

On being a “body activist”

When ElleCanada heavily Photoshopped her, she posted the unretouched image immediately so her fans would know she’s not a poseur. “I was just being honest,” she says, “like, ‘Here’s the real back and belly fat,’ and it spiraled into, ‘Maybe I’m a body activist. I’m going to call myself one!’”

On why being famous for her size kind of sucks, too:

On the subway (she lives in brownstone Brooklyn), she’s often inundated with women coming up to her. “They see me and go, ‘If I had a girl when I was in high school talk the way you talk about your body, my life would be different.’ ” More difficult to navigate, though, is that “people look at my size now and know that’s what makes me famous,” she says. “That kind of sucks, too, because it’s like, ‘Damn, my size is what makes me famous?’ ”

She’d love it if she could stop having to answer questions about her body, but she says, “This is the thing: I know I’m paving the way for the next generation of girls, and they’re not going to have to do this. That’s what I hope. I’ll take the brunt work and just handle it, and then you guys can just sail right on through.”


Cover image, shot by Maurizi Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari


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