Ashley Graham: ‘I know I’m on this pedestal because of white privilege’

Prince Harry visits Leeds

I actually have a pretty strong tacky streak, so I enjoy a good animal print. There was a Gucci leopard-print coat that I lusted over many years back, thinking that if only I owned that coat, my life would be so much better. I would also love to have some animal-print throw pillows, and I would go so far as to get an animal print duvet if I found a really cute one. But this NY Magazine cover? It’s too much. Ashley Graham is being drowned in leopard spots. She’s actually being camouflaged, which completely ruins the idea of putting a fuller-figure woman on a magazine cover. Sigh… anyway, you can read Ashley’s profile here at The Cut. She talks about a lot of the same stuff she always talks about. Some highlights:

On why she hates the word “plus-size:” Graham hates it because she thinks there’s an inherent implication of a dividing line between the “normal”-bodied and the “other.” “It’s like, ‘Plus what?’  That’s something I’ve always been told: ‘You’re not good enough because you’re plus-size.’  I’m not here to ban the word from the dictionary” — plenty of women own and love it. She prefers curvy or curve.

Curvy women-of-color model friends of hers like Marquita Pring and Precious Lee aren’t getting the same opportunities. “I know I’m on this pedestal because of white privilege. To not see black or Latina women as famous in my industry is crazy! I have to talk about it. I want to give those women kudos because they are the ones who paved the way for me.”

On skipping the Met Gala, and borrowing clothing from designers: Graham actually had been “on hold” (a prelude to an invitation) for the Met Gala the year before but ended up staying home. “I couldn’t get a designer to dress me. You can’t just show up in jeans and a T-shirt.”

Her husband: Until she met him, Graham had always gravitated toward bigger guys. Now, she says, “my husband weighs less than me, but he feels bigger than me.” She even tested him out by having him toss her around in different positions before they were having sex.

On why being famous for her size kind of sucks, too: On the subway (she lives in brownstone Brooklyn), she’s often inundated with women coming up to her. “They see me and go, ‘If I had a girl when I was in high school talk the way you talk about your body, my life would be different.’ ” More difficult to navigate, though, is that “people look at my size now and know that’s what makes me famous. That kind of sucks, too, because it’s like, ‘Damn, my size is what makes me famous?’ This is the thing: I know I’m paving the way for the next generation of girls, and they’re not going to have to do this. That’s what I hope. I’ll take the brunt work and just handle it, and then you guys can just sail right on through.”

[From The Cut]

I rolled my eyes a little bit at the idea that Ashley is, like, The Pioneer Big Girl. While plus-sized models have always existed – mostly serving what was perceived as a niche audience – Ashley is sort of right about being the first one to really get this kind of profile. She’s like the crossover plus-sized model. And yes, she’s had so much success because of white privilege. At least she acknowledges it.

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Cover courtesy of NY Magazine, additional photos courtesy of WENN.

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29 Responses to “Ashley Graham: ‘I know I’m on this pedestal because of white privilege’”

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  1. Thebees says:

    Yep, I agree with her.

  2. Jamieee says:

    I agree plus size is a bad term, but curvy doesn’t work for a lot of people either. A lot of larger women aren’t actually curvy at all, and the use of it as a catch all term for anyone over a size 16 just highlights that the only way it’s ‘acceptable’ to be big is if you have an hourglass figure like Graham. Which very few women, big or small, do.

  3. Fiorucci says:

    her vogue 73 questions is pretty cute. I don’t find her as pretty in these pics as in that video.
    I agree with kaiser, no need for all that animal print. I wonder why they did that

  4. Nicole says:

    Agreed. She is the first with this crossover appeal. Good for her to consistently talk about it

  5. Barrett says:

    She’s hourglass. That figure is considered the best from a small to larger size. It’s biology.

    Remember Kate Dillon from the 90s?

    • Maple Girl says:

      But just 5 years ago, there wasn’t anyone like her in the media. I mean, she is still a model. Of course she’s not going to be like us regular people. But it’s a start, isn’t it?

    • Veronica says:

      She’s more of a triangle/pear than an hourglass. The latter is a pretty uncommon body type with fairly specific waist to bust/hip measurements. What she has is a decent set of hips and boobs on her that help her weight distribute more evenly than most. It makes a big difference in how weight settles around the stomach.

  6. magnoliarose says:

    It took me a moment to understand why plus size was the wrong term but now I understand. She is simply a model no need for the qualifier, but we don’t live in that world yet. If others start getting a high profile maybe they can change that. Right now I don’t believe the fashion world is eager for two fuller models, it takes time to change an ingrained belief system that is built on the idea that high fashion is for thin people. If she had a different shape and not hourglass she most definitely wouldn’t have gotten this far.
    I wish I was surprised no designer wanted to dress her. She isn’t famous enough for them to move out of their comfort zone. There is the fear they will do it wrong and some don’t know how to design for her body type. Still, there should have been someone out there willing to give it a go.

  7. Pumpkin (formally soup, pie) says:

    She *is* famous because of her size. So why seem that bothered about it? It’s like Cressida the other day complaining about her fame resulting from her relationship with Harry the Innocent.
    I might be wrong, she looks to me more of a mix of white with with some indigenous central/south american.

    • Maple Girl says:

      She looks Italian to me. Or Southern European in general.

      • Pumpkin (formally soup, pie) says:

        My reaction the first time I saw a photo of her was who is this beautiful Latina. She could have some Southern European genes though, there is more diversity in some parts of Europe than some people realize. But I can’t “place” her really. I find this kind of ambiguity a bit annoying – about her or anyone else.

      • Sasha W. says:

        Why do you find it annoying?

      • Pumpkin (formally soup, pie) says:

        @Sasha W. I forgot to mention that such ambiguity – not the person – is annoying to me. I am very visual and find people with of mixed races/ethnicities very beautiful/interesting/attractive and I am always eager to know what their origins are. So I am annoyed AND frustrated when I can’t figure it out.

      • Tanya says:


        You can’t box them by using preconceived notions about them, which adds to your annoyance. Yes, you’ll say I’m wrong. But, yeah. I’m pretty right.

  8. Lulu says:

    I have a real soft spot for Ashley. She seems down to earth. I’m glad she acknowledges she has privilege and I hope there can be more crossover plus size models like her.

  9. Mop top says:

    I had t noticed she was on a pedestal

  10. Monsy says:

    She’s very pretty. It’s me that a high profile, successful model like her couldn’t find a designer to dress her for the met gala

  11. Jenns says:

    This is going to sound dumb, but I really like her Instagram. I’m about the same size of her and she does not shy away from posting pictures of her cellulite(which is the thing I’m most self-conscious about). After going through her pictures, I bought a bikini and already wore it at the beach.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      Me too. I have a similar figure although my boobs and legs aren’t as nice. I can’t really tell what size she is but I’m a European 42/44 and seeing her wear all these cute outfits that hide very little, I felt a lot better at the beach this summer. That’s what bothers me about the criticism of models like her or the body positvity movement. It’s not about promoting obesity. I’m not obese but yeah, a bit overweight. I always felt super fat. She’s gorgeous though and rocks whatever she wears. Okay, most of what she wears. 😉 So I guess I can be a bit more experimental as well.

      • Tata says:

        Yes, i agree that liking her is not about promoting obesity. Someone on CB responded to me yesterday that in saying 12/14 are normal sizes I somehow normalize obesity… but, if that is the average, don’t those women deserve clothes nevertheless? Don’t ashley Graham and Women built similar to her – or even dissimilar to her – deserve options?

  12. Annetommy says:

    Gorgeous. Nothing could camouflage those boobs…

  13. naomipaige says:

    She’s not the first plus size model. There were/are some before her. WTF is the big deal with her? I just don’t get it.

  14. stephka says:

    All famous models are famous for their “size” and all other aspects of their appearance.

    • Wilder says:

      Exactly! I don’t understand why she’s bothered by that. Twiggy and Kate Moss became famous because they were so thin. Cindy Crawford became famous because she was considered “curvy.” You wanna be a model, you better get used to the idea that people are going to base their knowledge of/feelings about you solely on what you look like.

  15. Neens says:

    I always thought she was Latina. She kind of looks like Eva Mendes.

  16. themummy says:

    Wait…she’s not Latina? She certainly doesn’t look like white to me. Like…at all.

  17. Vet says:

    No she is just a mix of European backgrounds from Nebraska.