Top 10 things We Learned from Ashley Graham

On Sunday, March 31, our Her Campus chapter hosted a watch party sponsored by the New York Times with Ashley Graham, a world famous plus-size model. The New York Times fashion and style editor Joanna Nikas interviewed Graham, which we had the opportunity to watch on a live feed. Graham talked about body positivity, self-confidence, entrepreneurship and more. Everyone can learn a lesson (or ten) from this model turned businesswoman.

1. Tell your story.

Graham has her own podcast, “Pretty Big Deal.” She told us that it’s pretty easy to start your own if you want! “If you have something to say, then get a mic,” Graham said. You have a message and people want to hear it. Everyone has a platform (social media, the internet) so use it to your advantage!

2. Self-worth is key.

When negotiating contracts or salaries, make sure to understand that companies need you more than you need them. Graham said that she used to have a problem with understanding her own contracts, which caused her to get paid less than her service/product was worth. Her advice? Get a lawyer to help you negotiate contracts. Agencies and companies will be more likely to take you seriously!

3. Take rejection with a grain of salt.

Dealing with her own rejection from the cover of Italian Vogue, Graham has learned to cope with rejection and make it a learning experience. “This was not my job. This was not my success. If I don’t get it who cares. Keep it moving; something bigger or better will happen,” Graham said. She’s still waiting on her “bigger and better” but Graham knows that something good is coming her way.

4.  Don’t be afraid to be genuine.

On her Instagram and in her career, Ashley makes sure that none of her pictures are retouched. If she catches an agency photoshopping her pictures, she isn’t afraid to give them bad press for it. She hopes to keep an open conversation going with the fashion and beauty industry. “We need to have these emotional conversations. Be consistent and ground it in action,” Graham said.

5. Believe in yourself.

When Graham came up with the idea for her own lingerie line, her agency laughed in her face. Instead of listening to their discouraging words, Graham knew that she could do it. She called plenty of people until she found someone who was excited to work with her on her project. “Sometimes you can lie a little about having a prototype in the works. Technically you do- it’s just not done yet,” Graham said.

6. Know your subject and audience.

When working for (or with) other people, let them know that you’ve come prepared. Graham talks about this with her podcast. She studies people before interviewing them in order to prepare her questions. She says that this method helps her have meaningful conversations with her subjects. “Understand your subject matter and keep it consistent,” Graham said.

7. Learn the power of your words.

The power of a daily mantra is not to be underestimated. Graham’s own mantra is, “I am bold. I am brilliant. I am beautiful.” She recommends practicing this at least once daily. By practicing positive affirmations, your words can make a huge impact in your own life. Graham said, “I know your words have power.”

8. Your experiences (and mistakes) shape who you are.

When she was just 17 years old, Graham moved to New York City by herself to start her modeling career. Being on her own for the first time, she made plenty of mistakes. She spent all of her money, had the wrong groups of friends and “slept around.” However, she doesn’t regret these experiences at all. Because she made so many mistakes, she learned even more about herself than she would ever know before. She said that her mistakes shaped her into the person she is today.

9. Be financially literate.

After she moved to New York City, Graham had no clue how to properly spend her modeling paychecks. According to Graham, the modeling industry is one of the only industries that does not withhold taxes on paychecks. Graham said that she would spend all of her hard-earned money over the year and be scrounging for change when tax season came around- and this happened for three years! As a young adult, it’s very important to handle your money responsibly.

10. You are beautiful, even if you’re told otherwise.

As a supermodel, Graham was told plenty of times to lose weight. When she was first starting out, her agent told her, “Time to get serious. Lose the Snickers, Graham.” She said that this was a huge slap in the face as an up-and-coming model. Graham was worried that no one would take her seriously if she couldn’t fit into the same size as other models. Now, she knows better. “Beauty is personal, diverse, inclusive and within. Fashion is slowly catching up: we all come in different shapes, sizes and colors,” Graham said.

All women could use some extra confidence and listen to Graham's advice.