Ashley has worked in numerous areas of the fashion industry including editorial, catalogue, runway, commercial, television and film. In February 2015, she starred in #CurvesinBikinis, a campaign with swimsuitsforall that made her the first plus size model to appear in an ad in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition. In February 2016, she was selected as a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Rookie and also landed one of three covers for the magazine, making her the first plus size model to ever be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
A business-savvy entrepreneur, Ashley has collaborated with Canadian brand Addition Elle on her own line of seductive, size-conscious lingerie. Featuring sexy pieces designed to fit and accentuate women of various sizes, the line is available at Nordstrom and on AshleyGrahamCollections.com. In March 2016, Ashley launched “Beyond by Ashley Graham,” an exclusive dress collection in collaboration with Dressbarn. Additionally, she secured an exclusive partnership with swimsuitsforall, for who she will design three annual swimsuit collections, the first launching in May 2016.
As a role model and body activist, Ashley is regularly invited to speak at numerous high schools and girls’ groups about body image, self-acceptance and female empowerment. Her first TEDx talk “Plus Size? More Like My Size” was given at TedxBerleeValencia in April 2015. She is also a co-founder of ALDA, a collective of models that represents beauty beyond size and challenges conventional notions within the fashion industry.
Welcome to the world of fashion design! How does it feel to have your own collection and how did you go about creating it?
Thank you! It’s exciting, hard work. I’ve now designed 10 lingerie collections for Addition Elle, and also have a line of dresses with Dressbarn and swimwear with swimsuitsforall. While each line is different, they all represent my sophisticated atheistic with a hint of sexy. I started off modeling for each of these brands and eventually developed partnerships with all three.
How do you approach body politics? What do you say in the plus size argument?
I’ve been very vocal about this. I don’t like the term “plus size” because it’s a label that often carries a negative connotation. I’m not a fan of any labels, especially categorizing women because of their size.
You have been titled as a “body activist.” What does it mean to you in relation to body politics or the plus size argument?
Essentially, I’m advocating for size diversity across the entire fashion, beauty and media landscape. I’m proud to be a role model for so many young girls and women who are struggling with self-confidence and loving their bodies.
You’ve been asked to be part of TEDTalks to talk about body confidence. Can you describe your own personal journey of truly having confidence in your body and owning it? What advice do you give women of all ages to help them reach body confidence?
It didn’t happen overnight, but I can confidently say that I love my body. Every part of it. My weight fluctuated when I moved to NYC at age 17. After a bad relationship, I vowed to start taking care of myself better and living a more healthy, happier lifestyle. Then the weight started coming off naturally, and I practiced affirmations to work on my internal perception of my body. I encourage all women struggling with confidence to talk to their bodies and to practice affirmations so that their minds and bodies are in sync.
What else goes hand in hand with body confidence, but feeling sexy! And now that swimsuit season is upon us, how do you get in shape for swimsuit season? What are your best tips for workouts?
My biggest tip is to just get up and do something! Get your body moving. Start by taking walks, swimming, dancing—anything that works up a sweat. Lately I’ve been obsessed with boxing! It’s an amazing physical workout, but also works out your mind while you’re practicing agility and reaction speeds.
Your swimsuit collection features bathing suits as the focus and there is a change in perception on what sexy is where you are at the forefront of it. What is the new definition for sexy?
Sexy is feeling confident in your own skin, being fearless and not letting anyone tell you that you can’t
You are currently at a high point in your career. What do you want to conquer next?
I’d love to write a book and host my own TV show.