Plus-size models have long been left to the fringes of the fashion industry, with very few designers featuring them in runway shows or advertising campaigns. American model Ashley Graham, who has just launched a lingerie collection for plus-size retail website Navabi.com and a fitness plan called Curvy Fit Club for fuller figures, is one of the only plus-size women to appear in high-fashion tomes from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar to The Edit. The curvaceous beauty, who is a size 14, is a strong advocate of a healthy body shape. The 27-year-old talks to us about why the industry shouldn’t differentiate between plus-size and “normal’” models.
Why did you launch a lingerie collection?
I really felt like there was a need for supportive and sexy lingerie. It’s pretty easy to find supportive or sexy lingerie, but finding both, especially in larger cup sizes, is quite difficult. I really wanted to bridge that gap and bring something to the women that I represent… and to my own closet. Each season is different but every time I try to create pieces that are ultra sexy. For next season, I’ve been inspired by Fifty Shades Of Grey — it’s a bit of a naughty collection!
Do you think there should be more plus-size collections in apparel?
Yes, 100 percent. I think it’s getting easier for a curvy girl to find all different types of apparel but there’s still a major gap. In the past five years, this industry completely boomed and changed its direction. You start to see curvy women on the covers of magazines and advertising, but it would be great to see mainstream companies launching more plus-size lines. A lot of high street brands have them but there is a real lack in high-end plus-size wear and I think some women are suffering from that. It’s easier to find cheap clothes but I can’t wait for high-end designers to get into it — usually they stop at a US size 12. There are a few designers like Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood and Prada who would go to a 16 or 18, which is encouraging, but there is still a long way to go.
With Candice Huffine in the Pirelli Calendar and Myla Dalbesio in a Calvin Klein campaign, do you feel like plus-size models are finally getting the attention they deserve?
Yes. This interest started a couple of years ago, with more press and coverage happening, and it’s fantastic but I think the next step would actually be to break the plus-size barrier in the fashion industry — which means that we won’t be having this conversation anymore. I’d like to be appreciated like a model and not necessarily a plus-size model, even though I’m totally cool with being labeled this way. I think it’s important we talk about size because there is still so much fatty shaming around the world.
Have you ever struggled with your body image?
Never. I’ve been what fashion considers a plus-size since the age of 12, when I started modeling. My mother had a lot of confidence and weight was never an issue. Of course I battled like any other woman having my down days and feeling fat. I get called a “cow” constantly on Instagram, which at this point is kind of hilarious,but there is so much more to being happy in life than being concerned about your weight and the way you look. I haven’t let it affect me because that’s how I was raised. I really want to encourage women to embrace their curves at any age. I’ve never been anorexic or bulimic but I don’t promote obesity either. I promote health at every size.
Some people say that plus-size models promote an unhealthy body image. What’s your response?
It’s ridiculous. I think people who say that are ignorant and don’t understand what plus-size modeling actually means, and the name plus-size promotes a negative way of thinking. I’m healthy about what I put in my body. Obviously I love burgers, fries and pizza. I enjoy life and I indulge — but I also workout three days a week. I’m actually launching a fitness program that I’ve created called Curvy Fit Club with my trainer, so I can show girls how I work out to stay toned, because you know, I’m a lingerie model and things should only jiggle where they are supposed to!
What would you eat on a typical day?
I try to have at least one green juice a day: my favourite is spinach, kale, ginger, lemon and apple. For breakfast I’d also have a yogurt with granola and honey. Lunch kind of depends on where I am. I love to eat meat and carbs, but if I don’t have veggies my meal doesn’t feel complete. I’m trying to cut out fried food because I know it’s so bad for you — but I love it so much! I love ice cream but I can’t eat it because I’m lactose intolerant so I eat tons of sorbet!
Some models like Naomi Campbell try to raise awareness about the lack of ethnic diversity on the catwalks. Do you think plus-size models should do the same?
I think we already do. I went on castings for the last two runway seasons and I haven’t been casted yet because the designers don’t have sample sizes that will fit me at such short notice. I think it’s important to have size, race and age diversity on the runway.
Watch and work out
The model shares her fresh fitness approach in a YouTube series called Curvy Fit Club. It’s designed to strengthen and tone while protecting your curves.