Ashley Graham Talks Clothes and Confidence, Proves She Can Wear Anything

Ashley Graham Talks Clothes and Confidence, Proves She Can Wear Anything

The night before her V105 fashion photo shoot with Steven Klein and Robbie Spencer, the model stopped by the V office to try on a few (or 22) looks. Between outfits, the model and activist talks about finding body positivity, breaking out of the fashion bubble, and using social media for the right cause.

The night before her V105 fashion photo shoot with Steven Klein and Robbie Spencer, the model stopped by the V office to try on a few (or 22) looks. Between outfits, the model and activist talks about finding body positivity, breaking out of the fashion bubble, and using social media for the right cause.

Text: Wyatt Allgeier

How did you decide that you wanted to model?

I don’t think I decided that I wanted to model. I think what happened was that modeling fell into my lap. I was in the right place at the right time. And I don’t think that you can teach someone how to be a model. I think you can teach them how to appreciate the unique things about themselves; and I think you can teach people how to act on set or how to be personable. But if you got it you got it; if you don’t you don’t.

And have you learned things through modeling that you think are applicable to any industry?

Yeah! I think, you know, I started modeling when I was 12 years old, and I was traveling the world at age 13. I learned more on the road, figuring out where I was going on my own than I ever would have learned in algebra. And I don’t even do my own taxes anymore, so what do I need math for?

Have you been able to find a good community in modeling?

I think I have made some life long friends, for sure, in the industry. I think that there is a reputation that the fashion industry is hardcore and it’s rude and mean, and either you are in or you are out. Yeah, granted those things are it sometimes, but, if you see the good in people, and you see where there should be change, and you take the rains for the horn, and you try it to change as much as you can, then that’s all.

And now you are a judge on America’s Next Top Model.

So, I like to think of myself—even though I am not the host—I really like to see myself as like the Tyra Banks in a way. I feel like the mother, sister, big sister role. And, you know, it’s all done with tough love, because I know they can succeed. It’s just the matter of—you have to put hard work and determination.

And you put so much hard work into things outside of fashion. I want you to be able to talk about that.

Yeah!

That desire to use your energy and force outside of the fashion bubble, when did that hit you?

For so long I have been an outsider because of my size. I think that fashion has always in some way catered to celebrities or to a thinner idealistic model. And I think now it’s changing because of voices like mine. The switch that flipped for me was probably in 2009, when I realized that: okay I am a pretty face, but what am I going to do with my pretty face? Am I just going to sit here and collect a check, with, you know, a catalog? Or am I going to be the voice of so many women that have never been heard before? I think so many women still to this day think that they are ugly, fat, not worthy because they aren’t represented in fashion. Now, it’s completely changed. Now, there is, you know, multiple women that you can look up to; the role models that are bigger, that are curvy, that are talking about “imperfections” that they have. I am happy to be a part of that, but I think 2009 it hit because I turned 21, and someone told me: Oh, you are getting old!

Oh!

I know! And you know we have models now that are working into their 40s and 50s. Like look at how beautiful Caroline Murphy is.

Or Amber Valetta.

Or Amber Valetta, oh my gosh! Like I envy their skin! So, I just, I took it as like a wake-up call. Like, okay, so it’s going to happen, modeling is not going to last forever. What else do you want to do? And that’s when I started my lingerie line. And I had a lingerie line for about three years, and swimwear line and now the dress line. And now all three are wildly successful. And we are selling in all over different department stores in America, and through Europe. And my swimwear line is all over the world. But, I just think it’s important for women, whatever their difference is, whatever the thing that causes them maybe anxiety or maybe makes them feel less them, change it! You know be a voice in your community, be a voice even amongst just your friends if you are not amongst a whole big community. And change the way that people perceive you.

What advice would you give to younger women as they use social media to post their projects?

Well, for me social media has been such a big platform, because that is the biggest way for people to hear my voice and to see my unretouched photos, or to see what I am proud of or what I am fighting for. One thing I realized in posting a half nude photos is: why am I posting them? Am I posting them because I think I am hot? Or am I posting them because I want women to see what they’ve never seen before because that’s what they look like. I think that if you are posting something that is a little bit risky, what actually is your cause here. Just remember what your cause is and don’t use social media just to just get followers or likes. Use it to change somebody’s mind on something.

Great advice.

Thanks!

Have you experienced, in the wake of such hatefulness in politics, any sort of ripples in your community, and have you felt any more reasons to act now?

I think what’s going on politically has only brought women closer. And it actually made us realize that a revolution needs to happen. Yeah we are getting paid less, and we are getting treated differently, and we are being told that we aren’t good enough and especially the minority community. I think that this is the time for everybody to stand up and to really work together. I am excited to see what happens—not in the next four years, not because of who we chose, but because of what America is going to do together.

Yeah, this sort of the dark before the light. I hope there is a light. I think you are right. Maybe I am just telling myself that, too, but people have come together. Even in the streets of New York, you just have great conversations with people that you would have never talked to.

Exactly! I think New Yorkers are very like-minded people, in a lot of ways. So, it’s nice to be here at this time. Especially being a good old girl from Texas, Atlanta, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Nebraska.

LINGERIE ADDITION ELLE, CAPE SONIA RYKIEL

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