Ashley Graham has been modeling since the age of 12, appearing in Vogue and Elle and being chosen as the first model for Jennifer Lopez‘s plus-size clothing range. Now she’s opening up about body image in a candid essay for Net-a-Porter’s online magazine The Edit.
“I think that you can be healthy at any size and my goal is to help and educate women on that,” she shares. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or 22 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.”
A size 14 for the past eight years, Graham says her weight fluctuates 10 to 15 lbs., and that’s perfectly fine with her. “It’s not about conforming; it’s a size I feel good at. I love my body, I love my super-hourglass shape and I love showing it off.”
Maintaining a sense of humor in the essay, she writes: “I look at myself naked in the mirror and say, ‘You know what, awkward butt shape? You’re not gonna get higher or rounder but it’s OK, because I’ve got Spanx for you.'”
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Graham was once a size 18, but admits to feeling healthier now. “True, I didn’t like my body when I gained a lot of weight. I was trying to like it — when you are plus size, you have to embrace your curves and accept your rolls. I have rolls now and I won’t airbrush them out on Instagram, but I was unhealthy then. I could feel it in my skin.”
How did she end up so self confident? “I think being told I was beautiful by my mom my whole life made the difference.” Her wise mama also led by example: “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,” wrote Graham, who helped form the ALDA coalition of models promoting healthy body image.
Although she praises Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Lopez for their shapely bodies, Graham thinks girls need more examples of women who have embraced their healthy frames. “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. Jennifer Lawrence is the media’s poster girl for curves — she’s tiny.”