"There's a myth that curvy women feel more confident when they have full coverage with their swimsuits. I say, the smaller the better!"
There's a lot we admire about model and body activist Ashley Graham, but topping the list is definitely her unapologetic love for her curves and confidence in showing them off. (And no, don't call her "brave" for doing it.) In fact, she recently shared all of her self-confidence secrets in her new autobiography, A New Model, and opened up about how she learned to accept her size (despite the haters) to become the badass supermodel that we know and love today.
Read on to hear more from Graham about everything from body shaming to swimsuit shopping to staying motivated to work out in the summer. (I mean, girl is fit as hell.)
Shape: Your book mentions your experience with body shaming, particularly by members of your family and social media trolls. What helps you turn off "the noise" from negativity, especially when it's so close to home?
Ashley Graham (AG): "I always tell parents that your words have power. My mother never looked in the mirror and said negative things like 'I look so fat today,' which helped me develop a healthy personal body image as a young girl. It's important to set an example for young boys as well. I once had a high school boyfriend break up with me because he was afraid that I would grow up to be 'as fat as his mom.' Parents need to remember that their children are listening to and absorbing everything they say. In my book, I talk about how our parents are our first role models, and I think that if there was more family talk about body image, young children would grow up more confident in their own skin. As for the social media trolls, I've learned to ignore the people who think they are 'experts' on my body. I'm the only person who can measure my own health and wellness. If I'm happy with the way I look and my doctor says I'm healthy, that's all that matters." (Related: The Empowering Mantra Ashley Graham Uses to Feel Like a Badass)
Shape: Speaking of health, let's talk workouts. You're a big fan of Dogpound and as of recently rollerblading—both fun, high-intensity workouts. What keeps you motivated and focused on getting in those sweat sessions despite your insane schedule?
AG: "I'd be lying if I said it was easy to fit my favorite workouts into my schedule! I didn't go the gym once during my book tour, but I don't let that discourage me or make me feel bad about myself. When I got home I scheduled a few workouts and got back on track. Once scheduling workouts becomes stressful, you lose the fun and enjoyment of it."
Shape: You've been rocking some gorgeous swimsuits on Instagram lately. Any tips for finding the best suit for you?
AG: "There's a myth that curvy women feel more confident when they have full coverage with their swimsuits. I say, the smaller the better! I have my own line with Swimsuits for All and together we design suits that are both sexy and comfortable. I like to include special 'wow' factors like mesh cut-outs, deep V-necks, bright patterns, and string bikinis. I recently threw a pool party in the Hamptons and all of the women were wearing my swimsuits. It was empowering to watch them walk around confidently in their own skin without feeling the need to wear a cover-up."
Shape: You also just celebrated 15 years of modeling with Lane Bryant, a brand that opened the door to so many brands embracing real bodies. How has working with the company inspired you to use your platform to promote body acceptance and self-love?
AG: "Lane Bryant has always been at the forefront of body positivity and size inclusivity. Years ago, when I shot a campaign commercial that was banned from certain TV networks, it opened my eyes to the fact that women are valued differently because of their size. Apparently, my curves were too much to handle, but showing smaller women in their lingerie was okay. From then on out I was determined to prove that beauty is beyond size. I'm proud to work with a company like Lane Bryant who's always thinking of ways to break down barriers in the fashion industry."
Shape: Why do you love your shape?
AG: "I love my shape—curves, rolls, cellulite and all—because it represents my strength and womanhood."