An Interview with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model Ashley Graham on Body Positivity| Fab Female Friday

Fab Female Friday

Every January, Sports Illustrated releases their Swimsuit Edition, and for years (52 years to be exact!), women with a very specific body type wearing swimsuits on sandy beaches have graced the covers. But this year is different. This year Ashley Graham was featured on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Edition as their first ‘plus-sized’ cover model.

Ashley is a supermodel and body activist who has advocated for body positivity and self-love in the fashion industry, and  she has spoken at length about how every body type is beautiful. Her TED talk, “Plus Size? More Like My Size” encouraged women everywhere to find their inner beauty and channel it outward, further encouraging women everywhere to be their “favorite kind of woman.” She also helped form ALDA, a collaboration of models who use their power from within the fashion industry to empower women everywhere and change the outdated perceptions of beauty and size.

I recently got the opportunity to ask Ashley a few questions about her hopes for girls, what keeps her going in the face of negativity, and her determination to spread body positivity:

Grace Wong: What advice would you tell your adolescent self? 

Ashley Graham: Find a strong role model who you can relate to. They don’t necessarily have to be a celebrity or a public figure. I was told to look up to women like Jennifer Lopez just because she had curves. Growing up, my role model was my mother. She taught me that beauty comes from within and instilled confidence in me at a young age.

GW: You encourage everyone to stare in the mirror and say positive affirmations to themselves, what do you say to yourself?

AG: I say to myself: You are bold, you are brilliant, and you are beautiful. Today you will not let other people’s words affect you.  You are worthy of greatness!

GW: Do you ever have days when you are not feeling your most beautiful self? And if so what motivates you to keep shining? 

AG: Absolutely. What motivates me are the women and young girls who look up to me for my confidence. I’m the voice for these women who want to see change, who want to see more diversity in fashion and media.

GW: Do you think the fashion industry is changing to accept women of all body types or do we still have a long way to go? 

AG: The fashion industry has made great strides – plus-size models are on the covers of major magazines, ads for plus-size brands are in the September issue of Vogue and curvy actresses are celebrated on the red carpets. However, I believe there’s more progress to be made – we shouldn’t stop here! We’ve proven that we can accomplish anything when we join together and demand that our voices are heard.

GW: What changes do you hope to see for girls and women in the next few years? How can you – and other girls and women – be a part of that change?

AG: I hope that over the next few years, girls and women are no longer judged by their body types or labeled by the size of their jeans. I hope to see more females celebrated for their differences. Together we can create that change by creating body positive environments. When you’re hanging out with your friends or your sisters or mothers, eliminate phrases like “I hate my body” or “I’m so fat” from your conversations. Instead, highlight each other’s good qualities.

GW: Who is your #GIRLHERO? 

AG: My mother is the #GIRLHERO I know, and Kathy Ireland is the #GIRLHERO I can’t wait to meet!

Ashley serves as an inspiration for girls everywhere to embrace all parts of their bodies. Thank you, Ashley, for your commitment to creating the new normal beauty standards that include all shapes and sizes – and congratulations on your SI cover!


Photo Credit: Lily Cummings