When you’re up close with model and designer Ashley Graham, it’s hard not to notice her beautiful face and figure. In 2016, at size 14, Graham was the first curvy model to make the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She’s since been on the covers of Vogue and Glamour, challenging the ways in which the fashion industry has staunchly perceived beauty. Graham has also had back-to-back hosting roles with the Miss Universe Organization, written her first book, A New Model, and released her holiday collection of Ashley Graham Lingerie. Her body-positive platform has also inspired women to feel confident regardless of their measurements (she’s over the term “plus-size”) and she believes this trend is here to stay. Vegas Seven caught up with Graham at her recent in-store appearance at Macy’s in Fashion Show.
You’ve broken barriers in a world, which has excluded women with curves. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think people put limitations on me because of size. It was like, “It is what it is, you’re a catalog girl and that’s all that matters.” The naysayers who would be like, “Oh, you’ll never get this, because they would never book a girl your size,” not because of me, but because of the idea of what beauty was for that brand or that company or that magazine. Part of the success story is that I didn’t let all the negativity get to me. I just said, “This is me, this is who I am, and there’s so many other girls who are just like me. Let’s just embrace each other.”
You’ve been in fashion for much of your life. How has that helped you when it comes to designing your own line?
Well, I am the customer, you know. There’s so many stores that I still can’t even shop in or I’ll be the largest size at a store that I really wanted to have a whole look in. I just make what I want. I also think about the customer. Does she want a thicker strap on her bra? Does she want to hide her arms? You can’t just make clothes or lingerie or swim for one kind of body when you’re talking about a woman, because we’re all shaped so differently.
What’s been the main focus with your current lingerie collection?
I really wanted to make something that was so sexy that you would never think that a big girl could wear it. This is my 17th collection and now we’ve progressed into this really sexy bondage kind of stuff that’s also classy.
Not your mother’s beauty pageant, what would you like people to know about today’s Miss Universe competition and you representing as a co-host?
The most interesting thing about all the contestants that people don’t really get to hear … these girls have these intense stories. Either they’re doctors, they’re lawyers, they’re the Iraq girl—and they’re not there just because someone told them that they were pretty. They’re there because they’re smart, they’re dedicated, they’re hard workers, and I think that they’re representing their country because of those things. People always ask me, “Why aren’t there any curvy girls in Miss Universe?” I say, “Well, there hasn’t until the last two or three years been any curvy girls on the covers of any fashion magazines.” It’s not something that just changes overnight. So I’m proud to represent a curvier, larger woman within this. I’m excited to show people that it’s not just about the stereotypical beauty pageant girl—this is about every kind of woman.
You released your first book this year. What did you learn about yourself in writing it?
It was just a big, long therapy session. Having that really made me realize how much clarity I had in dealing with food and dealing with ex-boyfriends and dealing with family. It’s like, “Wow, I really have come a long way,” and it was really nice to be able to tell the world my story.
You get deeply personal in the book and can relate to the #metoo movement, sharing your own experience. What advice would you give to women facing these issues?
I think women now, more than ever, just have to stand up and talk about their experiences, whatever they’ve been through, whether it’s public, personal, whether it happened when they were young, or yesterday. The more you talk about what you’ve been through, the more healing that comes, the more that people around you are changed and it gives you more confidence and enables people to really just stand up for what’s going on in their life as well.
What’s next for you?
You’re gonna see me on TV a lot more next year.
What’s your favorite thing to do while in Las Vegas?
Every time I’m in Vegas, I never leave the Strip and everybody talks about how much nature is here. So next time, I want to go on a hike. I want to go see something outside of the Strip.