By: Rachel Benbrook, IATG ContributorJune 29, 2016
When it comes to the fashion industry, we seldom see diversity in body types permeating the front page of magazines. As a monumental breakthrough, “plus size” model, Ashley Graham, is changing the mold. Graham recently graced the cover of the sports illustrated swimsuit edition, which hit newsstands on Feb. 9 and has garnered attention for promoting body positivity. Graham is a size 14, and has previously modeled for Lane Bryant.
Recently, former sports illustrated model, Cheryl Tiegs, criticized the magazine’s decision to feature Graham on the cover, saying that she thought it was “unhealthy” to promote fuller figured models. Although the backlash for Tiegs comments was swift, Graham firmly claimed that they did not faze her, and her skin is thick enough that she can take this type of criticism.
She states, “There are too many people thinking they can look at a girl my size and say that we are unhealthy. You can’t. Only my doctor can.”
Graham is adamant that the world is ready to embrace diverse body types in the modeling industry. “I know my curves are sexy and I want everyone else to know that theirs are too. There is no reason to hide and every reason to flaunt. The world is ready for more curves in bikinis.”
In addition to her modeling work, Graham has begun to use her platform to advocate for health and body positivity. She says, “Young girls don’t have much to look at, curvy women are not on magazine covers. A year and half ago, I started a group called ALDA- it means ‘wave’ in Icelandic- with four other plus size models. We go to schools to talk about body image acceptance; the UN wants us to do a panel discussion…Things are happening, it’s exciting. Now is the time: people want to know about curvy women.”
Although I definitely believe the desire or lack of desire to flaunt one’s body is up to the individual, it is true that Ashley Graham is starting a much-needed conversation on body image for young women. Her tasteful modeling showcases that women can be sexy, yet empowered, and that size doesn’t matter.
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and Graham personifies this.
Although seeking the approval of men should not be our objective, I believe it is positive that Graham is able to be a part of a movement that confirms the fact that men, as well as women are attracted to wide range of body types. Beauty and attractiveness are not held to a singular standard. Her work with young women is inspiring, and it's about time that this an important issue, and its impact on girls is given proper recognition.
Just like her organization ALDA, Graham is making waves to help change the attitudes of men and women and the fashion industry as a whole.
Graham started a body positivity trend, but it’s up to us to continue it! Take some time today to look in the mirror and truly appreciate your body!
Rachel is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and the University of Leeds where she studied Political Communications. She is a passionate advocate of strong friendships, caffeine, social justice, current events, travels and adventures, as well as all things peanut butter. She enjoys watching Parks and Recreation, as well as teaching English to new language learners.