Ashley shines on the cover of the August 2018 cover of Harper's Bazaar UK — but it's not just the playful, powerful, energetic cover that makes this noteworthy.
Btw, let's all just take a second to appreciate that this is Graham's SECOND major magazine cover this month, which is additional proof — should you need it — of her supermodel status.
In the feature article, Ashley gets INCREDIBLY honest about what it's like being a plus-size woman in the notoriously thin-obsessed world of fashion.
Of her early modeling experiences, Graham said "I had an agent who would constantly say to me, “It’s time to put the Snickers down, Ashley.” Was I called fat to my face? Hell, yeah."
But still, Graham told Harper's that these experiences, while painful, opened her eyes to her larger mission. "My goal is to make a change in the world. It’s about women – all women – saying 'I’m included in this.' We need to work together to redefine the global definition of beauty as beyond size."
Though the days of fat-shaming from agents are over, Graham says she still experiences strong reactions from the fashion industry, just for existing. "I sometimes still hear gasps when I turn the corner on a runway," Graham told Bazaar. "But it’s creating a conversation."
"I may be the only curvy girl in a show," she said, of many designers' unwillingness to work with plus-size and curve models. "But I feel that I am representing the majority of women when I’m wearing that dress."
This is something that even the Harper's editors discovered as they were prepping Ashley's shoot — many high fashion designers flat-out WOULD NOT lend, provide, or make clothes in Graham's size. They wouldn't dress a literal supermodel for a major magazine editorial because she isn't sample size.
"It’s an eye-opening exercise to put together a clothes rail for a cover shoot with someone who fits this description, no matter how famous and fabulous they might be. When Bazaar’s editor Justine Picardie and I went to do an A/W 18 collection resee with one major Milan house, the global PR director literally rolled their eyes when we asked if it was possible to offer us a look in Graham’s size. Others more politely demurred: too busy, not enough time to make anything outside their sample range (for most brands, a British size 6–8). This, though the average woman in the UK wears a size 16 (while in the US, that figure is 18, the equivalent of a 22 here). Inclusivity? Hardly."
But even when designers do create custom outfits just for her — something for which she's grateful — she recognizes that not every curvy person in the world gets that opportunity. And it's another way that fashion needs to change.
"The fact that designers will make custom pieces for me now is a really big deal, because they never wanted to do that before. It was like, nope, here’s the sample and if you don’t fit into it then too bad – which is why in editorial I was so often naked. But when I do a shoot like this, the fans will ask, “Why aren’t those dresses available in the store?” That is still hard to explain."
Her advice to designers is simple. "I truly believe that if more luxury brands offered extended sizing, they’d see how revolutionary it would be for their business."
FYI, Christian Siriano says he saw his business TRIPLE after he began creating clothes for plus-sizes.
But it's not just fashion. Even though she's in an incredibly privileged position as a rich and famous model, Graham told Bazaar she still gets shit for being plus-size and fearless in public.
Speaking about her most recent Swimsuit For All campaign, Graham explains the blowback she got from the press for showing her un-retouched body on the beach.
"I was flicking through my tagged photos on Getty Images and the Daily Mail overnight, and let me tell you, people were freaking out: CELLULITE! And I was like, “God forbid, cellulite! Never not had it. And back fat! Get her off the beach!”
That public dragging over her (very normal) cellulite led to her awesome decision to use 100% un-Photoshopped paparazzi images for her size-inclusive Swimsuits For All campaign.
"If you want to do something meaningful then you show what a woman actually looks like," she said. "It isn’t just about body shape. It’s about being OK inside. And it’s really about being able to love who you are."
A big part of Graham's power in the body-positive community comes from her active presence on social media — and, for the most part, she loves interacting with her fans.
"Women take to social media and tell me, “I never loved the skin that I was in until I heard your journey.'” [...] It has given so many the opportunity to speak up and make their voices known – and I listen."
But it's not always a positive experience, though even when Ashley responds to fat-shaming trolls, it's with a bigger, more inspirational goal in mind.
"I think it’s important to reply to them, because it shows that I’m not afraid to stand up to the bullies. Women are being bullied at school, in the workplace and in relationships – I’m being bullied too, it’s just that it’s out in the open. Of course I’m going to address it."
And at the end of the day, that's what's REALLY important — changing the conversation and expanding our outdated ideas of beauty.
"I’m always going to be me," Graham says. "But this isn’t only about standing up and saying, “Hey, I am who I am.”
THIS is the kind of uplifting, positive message the world needs to see in major fashion magazines! Ashley deserves a standing ovation for using her powerful platform to create change in the industry.
When fashion excludes or marginalizes certain body sizes or types, it's like a huge neon sign that says "Plus-sized people not wanted." By advocating for greater representation, Ashley is helping to ensure that EVERYONE can see themselves reflected in the media they consume.
To read the entire story — and see Ashley's beyond stunning high fashion editorial — check out Harper's Bazaar UK.
It's destined to be iconic.