Body positive activist, designer, and model Ashley Graham has been proving for a while that healthy has nothing to do with numbers (case in point: 12 Times Ashley Graham Showed Us What Fitspo Was Really About).
Now, she's teamed up with NYDJ to debut their 2016 "Fit to Be" campaign (she's joined by Christie Brinkley, Lana Ogilvie, and Bridget Moynahan), which aims to highlight the 'beautiful confidence that comes from finding a truly perfect fitting pair of jeans'.
We sat down with the model to talk about the frustrations of shopping for jeans, her go-to butt workout for 'keeping her curves tight', and how she really feels about the whole 'plus-size' label.
Shape: Finding a pair of flattering jeans is a source of frustration and insecurity for a lot of women. Is that something you've experienced as well?
Ashley Graham (AG): One hundred percent. From as long as I can remember, I've never been able to find that perfect jean. So when I do, I have to buy at least three pairs in multiple colors. You might look like you're wearing the same thing but at least you know you look good and your clothes are clean! These NYDJ jeans are so awesome because they're for any age, and any size—they go from 00 to 24—and come in so many cuts and colors. There's a fit panel on the inside—it's thicker than a Spanx—and it just holds you in and lets you know you're secure. And the back is spandex-y, which is great because I like my butt to jiggle (I'm really into that!) When I walk, my stomach stays in and the back jiggles and I think it's sexy!
Shape: What are some of your go-to butt moves for "keeping your curves tight," as you like to say?
AG: Jumping squats and lunges for sure. I also have this booty band from one of my best friends, Courtney Paul—he was my very first trainer when I moved to New York. You get on all fours and use the booty brand to press up. And it creates the roundest, most lifted booty. I travel with it everywhere.
Shape: It's clear working out is a big part of your life, and it obviously goes beyond looks—why is it so important to you to make fitness a priority?
AG: My health. I'm traveling a lot and there's so much crap going into our bodies with the food we ingest—we don't know what it is all the time. But when I work out I feel my best and I get that release of endorphins in my brain. So I always make it a priority to work out at least three days a week. You just feel better all around—unless you're on your period. Then you're like ugh, just give me some fries!
Shape: What about mental health? You've talked a lot about having body-positive affirmations.
AG: I think affirmations are so important, especially for women who have been raised in a society of perfection and feel like there's a certain look they have to obtain. For me, dealing with my insecurities was about talking to myself; I came up with a list of things that I repeat to myself in front of the mirror. They are: You are bold, you are brilliant, and you are beautiful, and you will rule your world. This goes hand-in-hand with the vision board I do every year. If you put it out there, the things you want it'll happen. My big thing this year is I really want to have a hair or makeup campaign.
Shape: Tess Holliday made news this week saying she prefers the term 'plus-size' over 'euphemistic terms' like 'curvy' because it actually makes women feel like they have something to identify with and aren't alone, and it isn't a negative thing. What are your thoughts on the 'plus-size' vs 'curvy' label?
AG: I think social media has really created a community for curvy women to make them feel that they are wanted and accepted. I started the hashtag #beautybeyondsize and women are posting photos I don't think they ever would have shared—like of their cellulite rolls—because they have a community they can share it with.
When it comes to the word 'plus-size', I've been called a plus-size model for the past sixteen years. I hear it, sometimes I say it– it's a slip of the tongue. But at the end of the day, it's a label. You can say, 'Yes it's a negative thing' or 'maybe it's not a negative thing'...but why would we want to be labeled something? Why do we want to be put in a different category than all the other types of models? No one says 'skinny model', so am I wrong for not wanting a label? I don't think so. And you know what, this younger generation of girls that are bigger and curvier, do they want to be called plus-sized at age 13 when they go to school? No. You just want to be a girl. I think it's about getting with the times. (Up next, here's why Model Iskra Lawrence Wants You to Stop Calling Her 'Plus-Size'.)
Shape: You've done a ton to break the mold in the fashion industry, both through your modeling career and as a designer of your own lingerie line. There's been a ton of progress for sure, but what still needs to happen?
AG: We need to get more curvy girls on the cover of magazines and in editorials without the headline 'Ahead of the Curve'. How many times have we heard that?! I think once we stop having to talk about 'how do you feel about the word plus-size?' we've made it. And the biggest thing to me is not just one or two curvy girls making it, but so many that you can't keep up with it.