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Ashley Graham was everywhere in 2016. From the cover of Sports Illustrated, to America’s Next Top Model judge and so much more, she is so hot right now. She’s a girl with curves who loves to show them off…but she isn’t my role model. She may be curvier than the average fashion model, but Ashley isn’t an icon for the plus size community, and here’s why.
Ashley Graham has called for an end to the term ‘plus size’, she doesn’t want to be labelled and just wants to be called a ‘model’. At a UK size 14/16, Ashley is on the smallest end of the plus size spectrum. She can pop into pretty much any store she likes, knowing she’ll fit into something they sell, without having to look for a plus size section. This isn’t reality for most plus size bodies. We can’t go into any store we want and buy clothing in any part of the store. We need the label plus size so that we can find clothes that actually fit us. Without the term plus size we can’t shop. It would be total guess work in every shop as to whether or not they even sold anything that fitted us! Ashley has the privilege of being a very small fat that can shop anywhere, most of us do not.
Ashley Graham would rather use the term ‘curvysexylicious’ than plus size. The level of ridiculous in this one is strong. Being plus size and curvy are not mutually exclusive, being sexy and plus size are not intertwined. We need to stop focusing on making plus size bodies sexual, bodies are not inherently sexual. I am plus sized, but I would never call myself curvy, that’s not my body shape. Some plus size bodies are curvy and hourglass shaped, but it isn’t all of us. Suggesting the term ‘curvysexylicious’ instead of plus size is like my suggesting we switch and call ourselves ‘Lumpy Space Princess’ shaped, because that’s more my shape and aesthetic. Plus size covers all bodies over a size 16, curvy does not. Focusing on plus size bodies as a sexual commodity is so problematic. Plus size bodies belong to every type of person and being seen as sexual isn’t what we want, we just want to be treated with respect like everyone else. Our self-worth should not be tied into our appearance as a sexual being to others.
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As a plus size woman, Ashley Graham has a huge amount of privilege. She is a small fat, she is hourglass shaped, she has a flat stomach, she is white, she is conventionally attractive, she is straight. And she doesn’t tend to acknowledge any of this. Many of her interviews focus on how hard her modelling career has been because she is curvy, yet she has been in Vogue and is a darling of the catwalk. There are incredible plus size models out there who have had to fight so much harder to be seen and to be respected. Ashley Graham isn’t something new pushing the boundaries of society’s conventions, instead she has just pushed them a teeny bit by being a curvy body that still very much fits in with what society tells us is acceptable.
If Ashley Graham doesn’t want to be a plus size role model, let’s stop holding her up as one. Instead let’s celebrate the hard working models out there who love and embrace the plus size label, and speak out for body positivity in an inclusive way, not just in a way that includes them.
Olivia Campbell by Darnell Temenu
Let’s celebrate Olivia Campbell, who celebrates her thick thighs and plus size body. Let’s share her message of self love and her embracing of our community. Let’s celebrate brands like Ready to Stare who use real plus size bodies in their fashion photo shoots and show us dimpled and big bellied and beautiful. If Ashley Graham doesn’t want to be a plus size model, let’s stop applauding when she takes jobs from proud plus size models and encourage brands to use those models instead!
A Ready to Stare Collab Collection With Proud Mary
Photography by Stevie Anderson
Hair by Eileen Noda
Makeup by Tifani Blakely
Styling by Jessica Hinkle & Alysse Dalessandro
Modeled by Alexandra Villalba & Megan Kimberling
Ashley Graham is no role model of mine, and I would ask you to consider whether she is the role model you want or deserve.