Ashley Graham: 'I Am More Than My Measurements'

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Ashley Graham has had enough of the haters. For the past 16 years, she's been in the spotlight as one of the most successful models of all time. She was the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in its coveted annual swimsuit issue. She started a body positive revolution with the hashtag #BeautyBeyondSize, and she's an amazing role model for women who don't fit into any cookie-cutter mold of beauty.

Today, she penned an essay for Lena Dunham's weekly newsletter, Lenny Letter, after hateful comments on one of her recent Instagram posts gave her pause—she stated she had a "tougher time brushing off the haters."


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"Raise your hand if you go through a tough selfie-editing process before picking the perfect photo to post on Instagram," she said, opening the letter. She then went on to describe how the above photo came about—her hair stylist snapped a pic of her in a jacket she loves, in clothes that aren't typically marketed toward women her size, and she said, "YESSSS, HONEY! I look damn good!" To be honest, we can't help but agree with her.

Then, some of her followers decided that she looked too good or was feeling herself too hard (not sure how this is possible but OK). Those who wanted her to fit their vision of plus-size told her she was pandering to restrictive beauty standards; others accused her of promoting obesity. Both opinions are too narrow to do her any justice; Graham isn't a role model who's sole purpose is to please those who depend on her for their own validation, and by being comfortable in her own skin and promoting healthy habits with a series of workout videos and a hashtag that built a body positive community, she's definitely discouraging poor health.

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"I refuse to let others dictate how I live my life and what my body should look like for their own comfort," Graham said. "And neither should you."

Graham's formula of self-acceptance and healthy habits should be what her fans try to emulate, rather than looking for a direct reflection of themselves in mainstream media. If Graham lost weight, it wouldn't take back all the messages she's sent to women who look up to her. It wouldn't make her any less of a role model—you can encourage self-love regardless of size, class, race, or creed. If we base her worth on her measurements, we're doing just as much harm as the industry that's inspired and encouraged disordered eating and low self-esteem.

"If I did want to lose weight, it would be no one's decision but my own," said Graham. "To some I'm too curvy. To others I'm too tall, too busty, too loud, and, now, too small—too much, but at the same time not enough."

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A recent New York Times article revealed that it's not someone's weight (obese, overweight, or normal) that directly impacts their chances for a long, healthy, happy life. It's exercise. Those who exercise regardless of size will likely live longer than those who don't, even if those who don't are at a "normal" weight.

"Body shaming isn't just telling the big girl to cover up. It's trying to shame me for working out. It's giving 'skinny' a negative connotation," says Graham. "What type of example are we setting for young girls and their self-esteem if grown adults are on Instagram calling other women 'cowards' for losing weight, or 'ugly' for being overweight?"

Not just young girls, but all girls. Those similar in stature to Graham see those comments and feel personally offended; but if those same women attack Graham for responding, then that's just as bad. Someone's hate is not justified with someone else's counter-hate. No woman should be shamed for her body, regardless of what it looks like.

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"I am not just here for the size 8s (where plus-size modeling starts) or the size 14s (my current size) or the size 18s (my former size)," Graham said. "I am here for all women who don't feel comfortable in their skin, who need a reminder that their unique bodies are beautiful."

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Slowly but surely, mainstream media has begun to conform to the long-changed attitudes of consumers. People want diversity and acceptance and wellness, and advertising and corporations are finally starting to respond. About a month ago, London mayor Sadiq Khan banned body shaming advertisements from public transportation. 

From big brands like Aerie and Dove to smaller ones like Modcloth, the representation of women is shifting from what is mostly seen as an unattainable standard of beauty. Ashley Graham and other models have played a large part in that change, and her activism is nearly irrelevant to her size.

She said it better than me: "I am more than my measurements. I'm not Ashley Graham just because I'm curvy."

Photos via Ashley Graham's Instagram

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