Ashley Graham Is an Icon for Body Positivity

The new mom continues to lead by example at every stage of life.

hero imagery-07

Ashley Graham isn’t just the face of numerous ad campaigns and magazine covers; she's the leading personality for body positivity and inclusion. But it didn’t happen overnight.

The model first started in the industry at age 12, appearing in magazines like YM as a fresh face. However, it wasn’t until 10 years later that Graham began to advocate for better body-type representation, appearing in the October 2009 Glamour feature "These Bodies are Beautiful at Every Size." The following year, she appeared in a body-positive lingerie commercial for Lane Bryant that was banned by major networks, who claimed the ad was too risqué to air. That controversy only drummed up more publicity—and work—for the outspoken model. By 2012, Graham was named the Full Figured Fashion Week’s Model of the Year. But that was still just the beginning.

The Nebraska native started her own lingerie and swimwear line and appeared as the first size 16 model to appear on the cover of SI Swimsuit cover, in 2016. The next year she became the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of Vogue and wrote her first book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like.

Today, Graham’s voice in the body positivity movement continues to grow stronger. She has given a TED Talk about self-acceptance and body image, hosted a podcast titled Pretty Big Deal about owning who you are, and regularly posts photos on Instagram to her 16.8 million followers celebrating her cellulite and stretch marks. Graham is the epitome of proving beauty is beyond size. 

Graham has reminded her followers, "This confidence is not something that happens overnight. I have been working on it for a long time. I look in the mirror and do affirmations: 'You are bold. You are brilliant. You are beautiful.' If my lower pooch is really popping out that day, I look at it and say, 'Pooch, you are cute!'"

Beginning on International Women’s Day (March 8), the Pay With Change initiative will be front and center on SI Swim channels through daily spotlights on the women, brands and properties making a concerted effort to fight for women’s equality. 

Jordi Lippe-McGraw


Jordi Lippe-McGraw is a Contributing Editor for SI Swimsuit covering all things lifestyle from travel and beauty to entertainment and wellness. Over her nearly 15-year-long journalism career, her work has appeared in the New York Times, WSJ Magazine, Forbes, and more. Plus, she’s appeared on TV shows such as Wendy Williams, TODAY, E!, and MSNBC for her expertise. Jordi's personal passion for travel has brought her to over 50 countries on all 7 continents, including Antarctica at 5 months pregnant. She's also an avid penguin and truffle lover.