Ashley Graham knows she has as a unique platform because of ‘white privilege’

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Ashley Graham covers the current “digital issue” of Glamour Magazine. The cover reminds me of a nitpicky problem I have with so many magazines – when they dare to feature a fuller-figured woman on their cover, they only do it in extreme close-up on her face, or they do a full-length photo of her, usually from a bigger distance. There’s no happy medium for full-figured ladies. Anyway, Ashley is still happening. She worked for years without getting much attention, then about three or four years ago, she was everywhere, and she was part of the bigger conversation we had about body type representation and plus-sizes and more. Ashley hustled when she got her chance, and now she’s getting tons of modeling work, she’s got fashion lines and a popular podcast (Pretty Big Deal), and sponsorships with Revlon and more. You can read Ashley’s Glamour interview here. Some highlights:

Intersectionality conversations: “I think everybody in today’s day and age is curious, right? There are so many different backgrounds, and people are assuming this and assuming that… What I’ve always done—especially when I first got married and I was more involved in black conversation—[is say], ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ You don’t know it because you don’t ask questions.”

On being a breakthrough plus-sized model: “When you’re the first of something, you are always going to have to answer the hard questions,” she says. People aren’t going to like you. People are going to hate you. People are going to be confused by you because you’re the new kid in town. But if you ask me, I’m not the new kid in town—this body’s been around for centuries and now I’ve just been given a voice.”

Her husband helped educate her on race and privilege: “Because I’m white and because of white privilege, I’ve been given a platform. But we can’t erase all the women who came before me. Now, I can also talk about the Marquita Prings, the Precious Lees, the Paloma [Elsessers]…. The list goes on and on, so why aren’t we talking about them as well? I’ve had this conversation with some of my white friends, and it’s hard for them to understand what that means—the only reason I understand is because of the hard conversations that I’ve had with my husband. He’s the one who really opened my eyes to that and made me understand. I’ve been married to Justin for eight years now, and there are still moments where I’m like, Oh God, did I just say the wrong thing?”

When people accused her of losing weight to fit in: “It sucked that everybody had to go in on me like, ‘Oh, you lost so much weight.’ If these people actually knew me—which, you know, they don’t and maybe never will—they would know that my body just hasn’t changed. To be completely honest, I’ve gained weight in the last five years, not lost weight. If you actually look at my IMG Polaroids from when I first signed with them to now, you can tell I’m thicker. I mean, it’s just age. Geez. Whatever!”

[From Glamour]

I sort of appreciate the careful way she worded some of what she said about race and white privilege and recognizing the fuller figured models who came before her. Think about how messy and racist that conversation could have been – she handled it with a lot of sensitivity. And she’s absolutely right – as soon as a woman who looks like a plus-sized Eva Mendes came around, she was embraced by the fashion community more than any beautiful, plus-sized black model. I do wonder if her husband gets a little bit tired of being her Race & Racism professor though. Of course, if she doesn’t know, she should ask, and as I said, she’s showing a lot of sensitivity for what are some very charged conversations. But surely she has other people in her life whom she can ask too?

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Photos courtesy of Alex John Beck for Glamour, sent from promotional Glamour email.

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18 Responses to “Ashley Graham knows she has as a unique platform because of ‘white privilege’”

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  1. BendyWindy says:

    I can only speak for myself, but as a black woman married to a white man, no, I don’t ever get tired of explaining these things to him. He’s my best friend. We have a bunch of kids. He needs to understand (as much as possible) what their experiences will be like. It can be exhausting with other people. I always mention that I’m not the authority on blackness, I’m just me. But I never tire of trying to educate and open my spouse’s eyes. In 14 years, he’s come a long way.

    • cannibell says:

      Thanks for this. My instant thought on that question was – why? They’re married and probably like each other enough to engage in these kinds of discussions and lots more besides.

    • KCo says:

      Bendy, yes. This is me too, and even after 15 years together, 9 married, I never feel burdened or feel tired explaining something, and sometimes re-explaining. He listens with an open mind and heart, and i really appreciate it. I also appreciate how Ashley explained this all with sensitivity.

    • DesertReal says:

      You and me both Bendy.
      We’re 6 years and counting and I love the discussions we have and I never get sick of them.

  2. BaronSamedi says:

    I think it’s a bit unfail to characterize her relationship with her husband as him having to be her professor. I read her comments about her husband as a perfect example of what it is to actually have an ‘expert’ on the issue in your personal life.

    Being married to a black man is of course going to expose her to issues of racism in ways that the average white person just might not be simply because they do NOT have black people in their lives. The ‘I have black friends’ excuse comes to mind – how close to those black friends are you really if you have to ever pull that card because you said something stupid.

    I think she actually said all the right things here.

  3. Kaye says:

    It’s fine to feature plus-sized women (I’m one myself) in body-con clothing, but I’m not sure that first dress is the correct size. Seems like you shouldn’t have to wear something too small to indicate you’re proud of your body.

  4. Tanesha86 says:

    As a black woman married to a white man I don’t ever get tired of having those conversation and I’m definitely not afraid to call him out when he says or does something out of pocket. I don’t do it maliciously, it’s all out of love because even at 36 years old there are a lot of things he just doesn’t even know or realize are wrong because he doesn’t have that lived experience.

  5. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I truly liked that interview. I like what she said, and she comes across as the type of person who, if she doesn’t understand something, asks questions. She’s not afraid to be real and not intimidated by wanting to know more. I can really relate to that aspect of enjoying the journey unhindered, inquisitive and with a love for all human beings and their personal stories.

  6. OriginalLala says:

    I talk to my husband about issues facing women all the time – I think it’s important to have that dialogue with your spouse. I also talk to him about moving through life as a woman whose ethnic make up is often ambiguous to most people and who has been on the receiving end of racist comments/acts because of my skin colour (I am a dark skinned Italian with Moroccan ancestry).
    For me these are important conversations to have with my spouse – i don’t view it as a burden at all. of course, I’m sure not everyone will agree, and thats ok, we are all different.

    • Mash says:

      @OriginalLala — please share inform me…what are some racist acts and comments you’ve received. I’m curious to know. additional educational experience for me as a black woman.

  7. JoJo says:

    I think it’s great that Ashley and her husband don’t shy away from talking about race,racism,white privilege.Knowledge is power.

  8. hkk says:

    I’ve been married twice, first time to a black man second time to an Indian man. Both seemed very eager and happy to explain to me and have someone understand their bigger picture that white people get to ignore. I’ve never been one to question someone else’s experience so that probably helps. I’d guess you wouldn’t end up married to someone (I hope!) who questions racism or does that thing where it’s like, oh not everything is about race. I mean you couldn’t have a good relationship if that was the response you were getting from your partner.

  9. Yup, Me says:

    It’s great that Ashley is bringing up these topics in her interviews and that she and her husband discuss them regularly. I do know people of color who have dumped white people (or refused to date them) because the “teaching” aspect was too much of a burden on the relationship.

    White people are the most segregated ethnic group in the US and a lot of times the years (and decades) of lack of awareness really shows.

  10. ichsi says:

    Oh my, I googled her husband and he is a Hottie! Gorgeous couple! #imshallowandilikeit

  11. Shaleah says:

    I think I’ve always assumed she was Latina. I didn’t even realize she is white.

    • Tiara says:

      I thought the same thing! I’m shocked, actually. Girl does NOT look white. Mixed, maybe, but not 100% Caucasian. HUH.