Plus-sized model and body activist Ashley Graham wants everyone to embrace their bodies. Raised in Lincoln Nebraska, Graham was discovered at a very young age while scouts saw her at a shopping mall. When she finished high school she moved to New York City.
In addition to her modeling career, Ashley Graham makes it a personal mission to speak at high schools and other events to express her viewpoints on maintaining a positive body image. In a TED talk she gave at the TEDx BerkleeValencia, Graham starts off her motivational speech by expressing her love of her body while talking into the mirror. She affirms herself by mentioning parts of her body that might not be ‘perfect’ by some standards, finally expressing her love for her cellulite by saying, “And cellulite, I have not forgotten about you. I’m going to choose to love you even though you want to take over my whole bottom half, but, you’re a part of me. I love you.”
Ashley Graham’s message is one of body positivity. She moves on to mention that, “Rolls, curves, cellulite, all of it… I love every part of me.” According to the model, she was actually the first Plus Sized swimsuit model to ever appear on the infamous Sports Illustrated magazine. Graham says that,“over the years I have come to the conclusion that there is no one perfect body.” She uses her Instagram account to share photos of her modeling, and messages that inspire hope in people everywhere.
When she expresses when she first started off in the industry, Graham recalls in her TED talk that, “As a young model, my confidence was tugged at and pulled in all different directions. I struggled to achieve true confidence. I would go home and look in front of the mirror and only hate what I saw.” Graham added to this by saying, “And to fill the void on the inside, I began to cave to all the different vices thrown my way.”
According to emedicine.com cellulite “is found in about 80%-90% of normal adult women.” It is less common to occur in men but it does happen. Graham wants to express to women that this is a very normal part of the human body. Graham goes on in her TED speech to say that, “I was looking for self-love—for affirmation from somebody— where in reality I didn’t love who I was and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on regulating my own weight. I began to face my insecurities head on and instead I was filling my life with temporary fixes. I, like so many young women, have struggled to love who I am.”
Graham’s journey to find acceptance in her appearance was one that was aided by her mother. Her message to young women everywhere is clear,“We need to work together to redefine the global vision of beauty and it starts with becoming your own role model. My mother always told me I was beautiful and never devalued herself. She told me, and taught me, that true beauty comes from within, that validation and self-worth must also come from within.” Graham’s biggest struggle, however, was in what she describes as reclaiming her body image as her own. “In reclaiming my body as my own I understood as a woman that I had a greater purpose. I had to redefine beauty—feminine beauty.” This is an important message for anyone struggling with their own body image.
Graham’s final words of wisdom for women everywhere are: “We are calling ourselves what we want to be called. Women with shapes of our own. I believe beauty is beyond size. With so much emphasis on the body and external, it’s no wonder that we all suffer so much internally. People in the fashion industry actually told me I’d never be in magazines let alone the covers of them. Well, I guess I’ve proved them wrong.” She goes on to inspire people everywhere by communicating her mantra of, “Never let anybody tell you that you can’t.” Ashley Graham states that this is the ‘generation of body-diversity’ and will continue to spread her message of hope to people struggling with their own body image everywhere.