No one has shaken up the modelling industry quite like Ashley Graham. Ever since she was first scouted aged 12 while out shopping at the mall, she has been labelled as 'plus-size'. Now, the term is a pretty familiar part of the fashion world's vernacular, but this hasn't always been the case.
Back in the early 2000s when Ashley started her career, it seemed as though she was entering uncharted territory. Sure, she was profiled by Vogue and starred in a Glamour editorial, but she also featured in a 2010 Lane Bryant lingerie advert that sparked a huge amount of controversy – both ABC and Fox refused to air it during its intended timeslot on the basis that it was too racy, with Fox demanding extensive re-edits. Ashley remained unperturbed but was convinced that the real reason for the drama had been down to an ingrained social bias against plus-sized women.
Ashley Graham: body positivity
These days, it only requires a quick scroll through the 34-year-old's Instagram to realise that she is hugely vocal about body positivity and self-love. Throughout her career she has walked for a whole host of major names, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and Michael Kors to name a few, but she also inspires her 19.1m followers with her candid, refreshing takes on the reality of motherhood.
Ashley makes a point of practising what she preaches – and was recently commended by many for wearing ruched cut-out midi dress to the VMAs which showed off her stretch marks.
"The mantra I say to myself is this: 'I am bold, I am brilliant, I am beautiful, I am worthy of all, I love you'. Those are my affirmations and I've had them for such a long time," she told Stylist last year.
"They've evolved and changed but they're also words I’ve come back to, especially after the baby when I had a whole new body, but I think that, you know, having affirmations and knowing that your words can either bring death or life is something that really is so key for me."
What is Ashley Graham's style like?
"Before the pandemic, I was a fashionista – even while I was pregnant," Ashley wrote in an essay for Oprah Daily last year. "I was always on the go, always at an event, always at the airport. I was trying on a million outfits before I left the house. It was fun, deciding which girl I wanted to be each day."
But in an instant the world changed, and practically overnight Ashley went from constantly being dressed to the nines, to not even bothering most mornings.
"I started buying cosy sweatsuits in every colour you can imagine. I had tie-dye, I had pastels...beiges, greys, blacks, everything. That was when I started to have a little fun with clothing again. I realised, you can wear a 'look' and be cute and fun, but still casual and comfy.
"Before I knew it, I was adding chunky jewellery or a sexy hoop earring to my outfits, because those small additions made me feel more pulled together.
"I learned a lot about getting dressed during this past year. When it comes to clothing and the things we put on our bodies, I think we all now feel more comfortable with being...comfortable. But you can do it in your own trendy, chic way."
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