“You are bold, you are brilliant, and you are beautiful,” begins model and body activist Ashley Graham, as she talks to her reflection in the mirror, in her 2015 Ted talk titled ‘Plus-size? More Like My Size’. Graham, who is known internationally for her active partaking in the body-positive movement, challenges the labels and impossible beauty standards set in the fashion industry.
“I was never going to be perfect enough for an industry that defines perfection from the outside in. And that’s okay; rolls, curves, cellulite, all of it. I love every part of me,” she says. “The fashion industry may persist to label me as ‘plus size’, but I like to think of it as ‘my size'”.
Speaking about her journey, she says she was all of 12 when she was scouted in a mall. “At 13, I signed with a major modelling agency, and was travelling the world… At 17, I graduated and moved to New York. And while most kids are going through their self-discovery stage in college, my self-discovery stage was in the midst of catwalks, catalogs and casting calls”.
Graham says she was working as a full-time plus size model, but in her hometown Nebraska, she was known as the “fat model”. “I hated answering the question: ‘what do you do for a living?’. I would see the person’s eyebrow raise as I would reply: ‘I am a model’, then quickly qualify with: ‘I am a plus size model'”.
Graham goes on to describe the difficult details of her life, growing up. “As a young model, my confidence was tugged at and pulled in all different directions… I would go home and look in front of the mirror and only hate what I saw”.
She urges men and women to create a body-positive environment, to create a safe space for women to express their body and their beauty for who they are, not because of who they are not. “Be your favourite kind of woman, don’t let anybody else take that job,” Graham says in conclusion.