Ashley Graham, on her rise to supermodel-dom, has positioned herself as the face of female confidence. She’s good at it, too. She’s the first plus-size model to become a household name, she’s real, she’s outspoken, and her list of recent accomplishments includes being a 2017 Time 100 honoree, landing Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and Vogue covers, and judging on America’s Next Top Model.
“It’s like, ‘Plus what?'” she told New York Magazine recently—another cover story for Graham. “That’s something I’ve always been told: ‘You’re not good enough because you’re plus-size.'” She’s proved that to be wrong. And for the record, she’d rather use “curvy” or “curve” instead of “plus-size.”
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But Graham acknowledges that while she champions the hard fight for body positivity, she’s not without help. “I know I’m on this pedestal because of white privilege,” she said. “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.”
She also said she often talks about the issue with her husband, Justin Ervin, a filmmaker who is a person of color. Her body type is incredibly rare in modeling but very common among regular women. Latina and black women in general are also grossly underrepresented in the fashion industry. Graham just happens to be the model-turned-celebrity for championing her size and posing the way she does, which is often very sexily and always body positive. (“I don’t pose naked just for women,” she says of the enthusiastic responses she gets from men.)
“People look at my size now and know that’s what makes me famous,” she said. “That kind of sucks, too, because it’s like, ‘Damn, my size is what makes me famous?'”
But it gives her that opportunity—and privilege—to try to change a stubborn, regressive industry. “I’m getting a seat at the table we’ve never had before, and I’m also pulling up a couple of seats around me,” she said. “I know this isn’t about me. Just one girl is not going to change the world.”