Model Ashley Graham made waves this year after being the first “plus-sized” model to land a cover of the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. But Graham herself takes issue the term that is so often applied to her.
"I think the word plus-sized is totally outdated," Graham said at a SXSW Interactive panel she spoke on called “Acceptance Revolution: Fashion’s New Body.”
She acknowledged that the plus-sized fashion industry was instrumental in furthering her career, and that she even has friends who embrace and feel empowered byt referring to themselves as “plus-sized.” But it just isn’t for her.
“It shouldn't be about labels,” Graham said. “I don’t want to be called a label, I want to be called a model.”
In fact, Graham shared, the plus-sized category technically starts at a size eight, a tidbit that made women in the audience shudder. The average American woman is a size 14, the same size that Graham wears. She hopes her work will help women feel more confident in themselves.
“As a body activist, I want to tell women to not be totally subjected to the beauty standards around you,” she said.
Confidence is one trait Graham isn’t lacking, despite having been the target of some high-profile criticism since her Sports Illustrated cover came out. Fellow former Sports Illustrated cover girl Cheryl Tiegs was quoted as saying Graham’s cover promoted unhealthy eating habits.
“Of course I was hurt by hearing it,” she said. “But I just brushed it off. That’s exactly what you have to do with everything in your life.”
Graham said she has been moved by the support she has gotten since her cover came out. The positive feedback far outnumbered any hate she received, and she is now able to laugh about the rude things she hears.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” Graham said. “Your mama taught you that.”
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