March 8, 2017


Future Women's History Month: Ashley Graham's Unapologetic Confidence

Michael Stewart/Getty Images
Michael Stewart/Getty Images

Fuse is celebrating Women's History Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Women's History before our eyes. Today we are honoring Ashley Graham, who is way more than just her curves and pretty face.

Yes, the Nebraska native is no doubt one of the most famous models in the world. But she is creating her own important lane by placing plus-size women at the forefront of an industry who once shunned others for not having a stick figure frame. Graham began modeling when she was discovered by an agency while walking through her hometown mall in 2000 at age 12. A year after that, she was signed to Wilhelmina Models and later Ford Models

Since then, the model has been featured in dozens of fashion campaigns including Levi's, Hanes, Target, Nordstrom, Marina Rinaldi and Lane Bryant. She also made history last year by becoming the first plus-size model to grace the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover. Yet Graham's barrier-breaking figure didn't come without controversy. 

Last March, a representative for Lane Bryant stated that multiple TV networks including NBC and ABC banned their body positive commercial that featured Graham. NBC reportedly asked the company to make a "minor edit to comply with broadcast indecency guidelines." ABC did not comment. But this wasn't the first time. In 2010, ABC and FOX refused to air Lane Bryant's lingerie commercial during Dancing with the Stars and American Idol. They explained the ad was too racy for primetime TV.

Graham later commented on CBS This Morning:

"I know there's plenty of women my size watching 'American Idol,' watching 'Dancing with the Stars' who would love to see what they look like on the television screen. And I feel bad for the plus-women out there who can't see that, and that has to be, like, part of a discrimination. Victoria's Secret commercials are airing all throughout the day, but when it comes to a Lane Bryant commercial, we have a little bit of extra, you know, overflowing, and then everybody freaks out."

Despite the various and unnecessary obstacles the model faced, they never hindered her passion. The model scored two huge fashion covers in only three months: last December's Vogue UK and March's US Vogue. Graham has also blossomed into a businesswoman, collaborating with Canadian brand Addition Elle on her own high-end line of seductive yet size conscious lingerie.

Graham is prepping the May 9 release of her first bookA NEW MODEL: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like. It is a "collection of insightful, provocative essays illustrated with a dozen photos" where the model shares her "perspective on how ideas around body image are evolving—and how we still have work to do." Her journey both on and off the runway is an inspiration for women who are continuing to find their self-confidence, which definitely solidifies Graham's place in future women's history.

We're celebrating Future Women's History all month long! Tune in to Fuse and come back to every day for profiles, videos and more. Find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.