Ashley Graham has dedicated her career to making the fashion industry more size inclusive. At only 31 years old, she’s done so much already, from calling out brands for promoting unrealistic images to starring in historic campaigns and creating her own plus size collections. Both within the industry and on her public platforms, she keeps the conversation about body positivity going.
In an attempt to further normalize different body types, Graham is also known to post unedited pictures of her “imperfections” on Instagram, but as she recently revealed at the Reshaping Beauty event hosted by The New York Times, the model-turned-designer still has a hard time getting brands to do the same. While a number of companies are committed to using unretouched images — blemishes, cellulite, stretch marks, folds, and all — the majority still Photoshop their models to perfection.
“This is the kind of conversation I’m still struggling to have on set,” she said in conversation with Times editor Joanna Nika. “‘You see those red stretch marks on the inside of my thigh? Leave those. Those are new and those are real, and we need to talk about those.’ People will take them out, but I’m not afraid to talk about it. I’m not afraid to show it on social media.”
Since she’s not always able to show off her unretouched body in photo shoots, Graham takes to social media to remind fans that she has stretch marks, scars, and cellulite — and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. In a bikini post from 2017, Graham proudly displayed her cellulite, saying, “I workout. I do my best to eat well. I love the skin I’m in. And I’m not ashamed of a few lumps, bumps or cellulite.. and you shouldn’t be either.”
Photos like this help the women (and men!) who follow her to feel better in their own skin, as evidenced in her comment section. “Thank you so much! You are a wonderful person!” someone commented on the aforementioned post. “So good to feel human,” wrote another.
So, how exactly does Graham maintain such confidence? It didn’t come overnight.
At the Times event, she mentioned how industry people often told her she needed to lose weight to be a successful model and how it took time to truly appreciate her body. She went onto explain how positive mantras have changed her outlook on life. Every day, she recites the following affirmation: “I am bold. I am brilliant. I am beautiful. I am worthy of all. I love you.”
“This really just started shifting my brain because I know words have power,” Graham explained. “If you’re telling yourself you’re dumb, if you’re telling yourself you’re ugly, if you’re telling yourself you’re not worthy enough to have anything that you want, then that’s going to be your future. So I had to change my words.”
Whether it’s with her words or her images, Graham is helping to change the industry one post at a time, and we couldn’t be more thankful.