5 Lessons on Career & Confidence from Model, Designer & Author Ashley Graham

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On Sunday night, the Her Campus UFL team was one of 10 schools around the nation to host a watch party for The New York Times' Get With The Times program, a live conversation series for college students.

The most recent session featured an inspiring conversation with body-positive activist, model, author and designer Ashley Graham, led by New York Times Fashion & Style Editor Joanna Nikas. Graham spoke about her life when she was a college-aged woman who had just moved to New York City to start her modeling career — as well as the lessons she's learned over the years about everything from self-love to money management. Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the empowering interview.

1. "Make boundaries for yourself — your romantic life, taking care of your body and mind, money."

Graham reflected on her 18-year-old self; Like many young people moving to a new place, she had just moved to New York City from Nebraska and had no idea how to manage the money she was earning. She said she would spend her entire income and her bank account would go to zero — multiple times. What she learned from her first years in the city was the importance of setting boundaries in all aspects of life. Maybe this means creating a budget and sticking to it, having conversations with financial planners or experts, or simply distancing oneself from negative romantic relationships and friendships — or all of the above.

2. "Never settle" — there's always room for personal growth.

Graham said one of the most powerful moments in her career was when she asked her agent for advice on how she could improve. Part of loving yourself is also being open to constructive criticism and knowing that you're *not* perfect and that there's always room to grow, she said.

3. "Harness the power of social media."

In the digital age, social media and platforms like podcasts and YouTube channels make it easy for this generation of college women to share their messages with the world. Graham, who hosts a podcast about beauty and business, Pretty Big Deal, encourages young women to use these tools to our advantage and to craft our personal brands with positive, unique messages on our own accounts. 

4. "Your words have power."

Graham believes in setting a mantra and reciting it daily as a reminder of inner-strength and self-love. Her personal mantra? "I am bold, I am brilliant, I am beautiful, I am worthy of all, I love you."

Words can inspire and motivate — but they can also tear people down. "Is the day where we stop saying 'plus-size' here?" she asked. "We don't describe our friends based on the number in their pants tag — so why do we do it for the big girls? And we don't do it for men!"

Graham, who is the first "curvy girl" to have a beauty contract with Revlon, loves that the brand emobdies the idea that being beautiful is not limited to a certain size or body type.

"Holy crap, did you guys know lipstick doesn't have a size!?" she said.

5. "Don't wait for someone to make a move for you. Ask yourself: What do you want?"

When her ad for Lane Bryant was banned (after the brand claimed it was "too risqué" for a woman of her size to be posing in lingerie), Graham did not let that stop her from inspiring others with her message of body positivity. Instead, the banned Lane Bryant ad campaign inspired her to create her swimwear line, Swimsuits for All. "People know me for this, so let me make [this line] for them, because we can't find it anywhere else," Graham said. "Tell people what you want to do."


Want to join our next Get With The Times watch party? Stay tuned for the NYT GWTT conversation featuring Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian — Wednesday, April 17 at 7 pm! Location TBA. Follow Her Campus UFL on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay updated!