Ashley Graham on Representation, Knowing Your Worth, and Her Media Empire

May 8, 2019
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If you only know Ashley Graham for her modeling work, it’s time to catch up. The activist, entrepreneur, and media mogul has been busy these past few years, and we were so excited to catch up with everything she’s been working on (including her amazing podcast, Pretty Big Deal) during her keynote conversation at our New York conference! Read on for Ashley’s wise words on inclusivity, internet trolls, and why she thinks we should be sharing our salaries with other women.

On body positivity…

“It’s really all about getting through the hurdles and building up your confidence, no matter what you’re doing.”

“It doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, you can be healthy.”

“My mom told me my body was going to change someone’s life. And here we are, with so many different women saying, ‘I am represented.’”

“Your body is yours. Nobody else has ownership over it. This is truly your own journey.”

“It’s not just about our size. It’s about our mind, our heart, our emotions. We get so wrapped up in this size conversation.”

On inclusion & representation…

“I’ve been modeling for 20 years and have seen how slow this has been—and now we’ve accelerated into the body positivity movement. Within the course of three years, we’ve got girls in movies, on magazines, in campaigns, on blogs—yes, this is what needed to happen, but we need to be careful, because things that happen so quickly can be brushed away so quickly.”

“Here I am, a white woman who has been given a platform for a body that’s now quote trendy. But here are so many women of color who have always had this body type and have been celebrating their own bodies for so long—it’s wild that we haven’t given women of color the same platform that I as a white woman have, and i really want to see more representation for women of color in this space.”

“We gotta talk about the word diversity. I’ll be on a campaign and it’ll be one black girl, one curvy girl, one Asian girl… The word diversity does not mean one—it means a group.”

On internet trolls…

“I make troll moments into teachable moments. I say, ‘You’re right, ma’am, my cellulite is hanging out of my pants…and I am sexy AF!’ Why are we gonna give so much room to trolls? I don’t have time for that.”

On knowing your worth…

“Talk to each other about how much you’re making and what your goals are. When I started talking to other models about what they made, we all started realizing we were making such a vastly different amount of money, and we knew we could build a portfolio on how much we each made and how the plus size industry was going to change. The agents we shared it with were so blown away.”

“Talk to your colleagues about how much you’re making. You need to know your worth in the workplace—there’s nothing wrong with building each other up, having these conversations, and taking it on together.”

On building confidence…

I’ll have moments when I leave the bathroom and look in the mirror and say to myself, “You are fine, you are beautiful, you are brilliant, and you are bold.”

On brand partnerships…

For me, everything I do is authentic—I know, I know, you keep hearing it everywhere—but this is really what authenticity is. If I’m posting what sports bra I love on Instagram, it’s because I really love it.

On how she designed her lines…

I don’t really have to switch hats because I am the customer for my lines. There were so many things I saw firsthand as a model that I got to go and change on my own. I couldn’t find a bra or a string bikini. Where i saw a hole, it was like, boom, I’m gonna go fill that up.

Her guilty IG follow…

“Dr. Pimple Popper!”

A woman she admires…

My mom! And Cindy Eckert—she created the female version of Viagra and sold it for a billion dollars. They did nothing with it and gave it right back to her. So now she’s helping women startups progress into bigger companies.

Face compliment to receive…

“You are kind.”

On what keeps her centered…

“Waking up and having 15 minutes of my own time. It’s not my agent’s time or my husband’s time, it’s my time.”

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