Lessons I've Learned from Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham is a role model every girl should know about. She is a plus-sized supermodel, a judge on America’s Next Top Model, and has launched several clothing lines, including lingerie and swimsuit lines designed for all body types. She recently released a book titled A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty and Power Really Look Like. It’s basically an autobiography of how Ashley Graham went from a young girl from Nebraska to a household name. Here are 5 lessons I have learned from her.

Stop trying to please everyone else and start trying to please yourself.

Whether from agency executives or social media bullies, Graham discusses the criticism she often receives. She was told she was too fat to land prestigious covers like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She has also been told that she is too thin to be an advocate for curvy and plus-sized women. Despite all the criticism, Graham rose above all of that and has become the most successful plus-sized model. Instead of listening to all the critics and haters, Graham taught me to start living my life for me and not for anyone else.

Don’t beat yourself up about food.

It’s important to eat healthy and to take care of yourself, but it’s also important to treat yourself every once in a while. The book opens with an anecdote about how Graham went out to dinner the night before her big fashion show in New York City. Instead of eating something light and healthy, she treated herself to a fabulous dinner for her friend’s birthday. While she said her self-esteem wasn’t that great the next morning, she didn’t let it stop her from rocking the runway. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to eat kale every meal of every day and food FOMO is real. But, it’s okay to indulge and treat yourself every once in a while.

“Every day is a new day and a new struggle,” (55).

Some days it’s easy to be nice to yourself and to eat healthy, and other days it feels almost impossible. Self-love and body positivity is a journey, one that often doesn’t come naturally. It takes a lot of hard work to get to the point of self-love. Even when you do get to that point, Graham admits that she still has days she doesn’t feel her sexiest or most beautiful. The moral of the story is to do our best and to take each day one at a time.

Chase your dreams.

If there’s one thing A New Model embodies, it’s don’t let society and the haters dictate how you live your life or keep you from chasing your dreams. Graham often did things on her own terms. She ignored pieces of advice and chased her own dreams by taking risks that took her career to new levels, like launching a lingerie line with Elle. She defied all odds by becoming a plus-sized, household name. If that doesn’t tell you that hard work and determination will pay off, I don’t know what will.

Be nice to yourself.

I think the biggest and most important lesson I got from Ashley Graham is how important it is to be nice to yourself. If you looked up the definition of self-love, I’m pretty sure it would be a picture of Ashley Graham. Just look at her Instagram - it bleeds self-love and body positivity. For instance, she posted a photo with the caption:

“I workout. I do my best to eat well. I love the skin I’m in. And I’m not ashamed of a few lumps, bumps, or cellulite... and you shouldn’t be either. #beautybeyondsize #lovetheskinyourein”

I do my best to workout and eat healthy, too, but we all know how college life and classes can get in the way of that. Cellulite is something I’ve always been embarrassed and very conscious of, even though it’s completely natural. But, if she can post a photo of her cellulite with 5.5 million followers, then I can accept and love my body, cellulite and all.

Ashley Graham has become one of the most outspoken advocates for body positivity and size inclusivity. She empowers women to love and embrace themselves, lumps, rolls and all.